This post was written for Tiny Expats by a fellow expat blogger Amanda Afield – visit her blog to read more about her expat journey!
On a recent trip back to England after visiting the US, I happened to be seated next to someone who was going through exactly what I had been going through a year and a half ago. She was on an investigative trip to determine if she should take an offer she’d been given to move herself and her family to Manchester for a PhD program. She was freaking out a bit ( as I had been during my trip) about making such a big decision, and asked if I was glad I had taken the plunge. I told her I had no regrets, and would gladly stay longer if we were given the chance. We chatted about expat life a bit and how to make the big move. After thinking about our conversation a bit, I put together a list of things it seems most future expats need to think about before making the decision.
What will you do with your possessions while you are gone? Is a mover going to ship them for you? We had a mover for personal goods, but I had to sell my car, which I probably took a bit of a loss on. It would have been more stressful if we had a house that needed to be maintained or rented out, so be sure to have a plan for that. Schools and child care are another area that requires research, will your children be happy and able to receive a good education? It’s important not to let these issues go undiscussed, as they can cause big problems if you wait until the last minute (speaking from experience here!)
This is one of the biggest benefits of expat life. Not only do you get to explore a new culture and immerse yourself in it, you get a new jumping off point to see the world. From America, it was difficult and expensive to get to most of Europe. Now, thanks to discount airlines and a British address, I can be almost anywhere in Europe within a few hours and for a reasonable price. I’ll admit, we travel at a breakneck pace sometimes and it can be exhausting, but it is overall very enjoyable and has made our move worth it.
Often, expat relocation packages are a great deal, but if (even temporarily) you’re moving from a two income family to one, or are footing the cost of moving yourself, make sure you plan ahead for expenses. Know what your employer will and won’t pay for (we had to dish out to have our cats sent over and for some new kitchen appliances).
You will learn many skills during the transition process, such as how to file taxes in different currencies, slang from another country and how their bureaucratic process works. It can be frustrating and feel like you are starting over, but learning how to make new friends in a new country and how to tackle what used to be basic chores such as grocery store trips have been very good for me. I may never use some things I’ve learned again, but being able to overcome adversity has been a good lesson.
Quality of Life
The most important thing to consider before you make the move is what your quality of life will be. Will you be able to live in a desirable area? Will it be easy to meet new people and travel? I didn’t know much about the area I was moving to before I flew over to find a house, and that was definitely a mistake. Thorough research is important and would have eased my fears a lot!