David Mitchell’s novel Cloud Atlas proudly and whimsically states: “travel far enough, you meet yourself.”
Moving overseas, or to a new country and cultural society means you’ll inevitably need to embrace your situation and gauge it for what it really is – a clean slate with the potential for creating your own self-identity, the ability to adapt, and the chance to start anew.
Moving overseas for school, a career, retirement, or a simple change of pace can be a truly earth-shattering experience – in terms of what you’ll meet, who you become, and where you lay your head. But first, there are a few questions you’ll need to consider before checking that boarding pass. In this post, we’ll investigate the top 7 questions you should ask yourself, plan for, and consider before moving internationally:
Where Are You Moving To/From?
Before you up and leave, stop and consider where you’re living now, and some of the potential documents, applications and procedures you’ll need to go through to either become an expatriate, apply for a work visa, or dual citizenship.
Consider where you’re moving as well, and contact the applicable international embassy to ask about immigration policies, specific rules to working or studying abroad, and even current political situations that may affect your move.
How Involved Are You In Family Issues?
The life of an expat may be exciting and a great opportunity, but leaving your family and friends behind can be difficult to say the least.
If you have grandchildren, nieces and nephews, or children of your own, it may be a wise choice to wait until you can celebrate a new important holidays, personal achievements, or milestones with them before moving to another country. Waiting until your own children have finished a milestone in school can be a wise choice as well. Uprooting them in the midst of an important school year and transplanting them into a new school environment – albeit an international one – can be a shocking transition and should be carefully planned.
If you have older relatives that you may never see again, be sure that you’re comfortable with the potential you may not get to see them again, and make yourself available to spend as much time with them as possible before you go. Plan to keep in touch via video chat or some other applicable means.
How Will You Fund Your New Life?
Moving to a beachside town in Tuscany or the Caribbean sounds great – we agree – but remember it’s only as glamorous as your bank account will allow. Moving internationally means having a very accurate pulse on your financial situation at all times. You’ll need to be synced with your investments, insurance policies, accounts, credit cards, health and medical insurance, assets, title deeds, etc.
If you plan to fund your life through working, ensuring that you’re eligible for a work visa is critical to your new career. If you plan of funding your life through investments, reviewing and restructuring your financial portfolio to international markets is a beyond wise choice. Consult with an accountant or trusted financial advisor to ensure that you can avoid unnecessary taxation.
Nevertheless, it’s time to become as financially organized as humanly possible – nothing could be worse than being in a new country without access to your most important source of financial resources.
When you’re moving away from a country like Canada, it may be hard to imagine that your universal government healthcare plan isn’t the norm everywhere.
Investigate international health insurance plans online before you go to see what you qualify for as a Canadian expat. If you’re lucky, your new employer may provide you with a domestic policy under their company policy. If you’re relocating for your existing position and employer, ask about being placed under their global health plan.
What Do You Do With Your Possessions/Pets/Vehicles?
You’ll have to ask yourself what you’re planning on taking with you, and what you can afford to leave. This will depend massively on the lifestyle you’re aiming to lead, and whether or not you’ll be returning home in 6 months, 1 year, or not at all.
First is getting quotes from a number of international shipping companies if you have plans to take your possessions with you. Investigate each carefully to understand fully what is included in the fees – further, prepare to live without whatever you ship over for a good month or so.
If you’re leaving it behind with the intention of coming home to it later, consider asking your parents or roommates to keep it around. Consider posting a furnished sublet as an alternative to renting a storage facility. If you choose to store your stuff, ensure that it’s a weatherproof facility, dry, and well protected – and have someone you trust check up on your stored stuff every few months for damage, etc.
Pets are a big deal. Shipping your dog or cat across the globe can be hugely stressful for the both of you. It can be done, so consult with your vet about ways to help calm your animal prior to the flight. Taking them for a few drives in their travel crate may also help them to become familiar with being inside of it for a couple of hours at a time. If there’s no way you can bring them with you, consider gifting them to a friend, your family, or a good family forever home where you know they’ll live out their years happy and healthy.
Are You Moving Alone?
Moving internationally can be a lonely experience, especially if you don’t know anyone in the new country you’re moving to. Provided you’re moving by yourself, reach out prior to leaving and check out some social groups, sports leagues, a language class, anything that can help you to get out and about, outside of work. This will help you bridge the isolation gap and begin to meet some new people.
If you’re moving with a friend, colleague, spouse, or your family – you’ll be in good company. Their companionship will be great for helping to address issues of homesickness. Further, they’re a good emotional crutch and can be helpful through a number of situations in a new place. However, having familiar faces around all the time can prove to be a bit of a negative crutch, wherein you end up depending on them for everything – explore your surroundings as well, meet some new people and begin to build a life of your own outside of the people you’ve moved with.
Can You Communicate?
If you’re moving to another country where they speak a different language, make sure you’re dedicated to becoming fluent in that language before considering moving there at all. Both as a gesture of respect for your new home country, and as a benefit to yourself. What could be worse than living in perpetual linguistic isolation for years on end?
As a first step, find out what the english speaking percentage of the country is, and consider finding out about a few small communities, social groups, outreach programs, etc., within certain cities you’ve got your eye on for a bit of confidence inspiring motivation. This will also give you a chance to meet others in the community and help to create a sense of home.
And, dive into the local culture. Attend a big sporting event, celebrate local and regional holidays, immerse yourself in the local customs and entertainment, try the food, drink and social aspects of a new country – you’ll need to develop a taste for this potentially big change sooner or later – might as well go for it right out of the gate.