If you’re thinking about selling everything, packing up and moving your life abroad, please do allow me to be the first to say CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve already made the hardest decision and let me just say now how amazing of an opportunity it is!
At some point in life, we all want to move away either to a new city, new state or even out of the country. Some plan years in advance and research where they want to move, some move after visiting a country and falling in love with it and others move impulsively. But there are always questions you should stop and think about before jumping the gun.
1. Are you running away from something or moving for the sake of moving?
Some people simply move to run away from their problems. You know, outta sight, outta mind? Well, eventually we all return home and those problems are still going to be there, waiting for you to face them. So, before you move, make sure you’re not running and hiding from the elephant in the room. Move with a clear conscience.
Other people move for the sake of moving. I have had 3 big moves in my life and all of them were the sake for the of experience and desire to live somewhere new.
2. What is the time difference?
How far away do you plan on moving? Within a few hours drive or do you plan to cross the Atlantic? You might be wondering why should I care about the time difference, but this question will help you to remember that the further away you move, the harder to call home.
Thanks to Skype, E-mail, Facebook and iPhone Messaging it’s easier than ever to stay in contact, but you will have to count the hours. I’m from California, living in Germany. That’s a 9 hour difference. When I am getting up in the morning, my family is going to sleep. This makes it difficult to Skype and, therefore, calling home is mostly on the weekends.
3. Can I find a job there?
Can you just up and move to another country and hope to find a job when you get there? Maybe. But it’s a chance I wouldn’t take a bet on. Plan in advance. What kind of job do you want to do when you get there? Do you want to teach English as a foreign language? Do you want to work in a cafe or as a tour guide? Do you want an office job? For each of these the hiring process is different, especially for a foreigner.
Some jobs won’t even interview you until you are physically in the country. None of this over-Skype-interview stuff. Some jobs won’t give you a work visa. They expect you to have that before getting the job, but you can’t get a work visa until you have a job. So dealing with the bureaucracy can be difficult.
4. Do you have a plan B, C, D in case A doesn’t work out?
Do you have a back-up plan in case things don’t work out the way you expected them to? What if you decide you don’t like the job or the culture? Or worst, what if you suffer from severe homesickness?
Sometimes, things just don’t work out the way you expected, no matter how much you plan. Other times, you won’t need a back up plan because fate magically made everything work out perfect for you. This way my case, and doesn’t always happen for people.
5. Will you blend in?
What are the cultural norms there? How should you dress before visiting or moving to this country? Well, hopefully you have already researched that prior to making the decision to move.
But don’t worry, your style will likely change to fit in better nonetheless. This was particularly true with me. I was a California girl living in Montana. I went from flip-flips to boots and jeans. Then I moved from Montana to Germany and I went to leggings and boots. After all, you don’t want to look like a tourist in your new home base.
6. What is it you really want from this experience?
It is a really great feeling to say, “Ya, I live in this far off country”, but you need to know what you want out of this experience. Are you doing it so you can have a sense of freedom and independence? Are you doing it for the sake of living outside your home country and want to understand more about your country and others? Are you doing it to learn a new language?
Whatever the reason, know the reason behind uprooting your entire life.
7. How much holiday time off will you have?
Each country has a certain number of paid time off as well as paid holidays, but will you be getting in on all that holiday time? So, how much time will you have off? Will you get to travel a lot? Will you be able to afford to travel? After all, you don’t want to move abroad just to be poor and stay home do you?
Here in Bavaria, we are lucky to have more public holidays than the rest of Germany, plus 24 days of PTO. That’s more then enough time to travel around Europe!
8. How Will You Make Friends? What About My Old Friends?
When you first move abroad, your friends from home will be your life line. You will stay up late or get up early in order to Skype with them. But this can only last for so long before it starts to wear off. Your friends will likely get tired of hearing about all the amazing experiences you are having and soon the conversation will dwindle.
At the same time, you’ll have started to make more and more friends and make a routine for yourself and soon Skyping will become a well planned event for Saturday at 2 p.m next month.
But where will you meet them?
Work – The best place is usually work, but be careful because in some countries, coworkers don’t mingle with coworkers outside of work. This is especially true for Germans.
Facebook Groups – You can always find a nice Facebook group to join where other people living in your town might want to get together. Here in Regensburg, we have an English Stammtisch group who likes to get together every other Thursday night for drinks.
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Hostels – As you travel, you will likely stay in cheap hostels and here you will meet a plethora of other friendly travelers looking to make a friend to visit one day. My greatest experience was in Barcelona for Christmas. My friend and I started out as 2 and by the end of our trip we were 20 strong.
9. Are you prepared to stay forever or will you return home?
This is probably the toughest question of them all. How long do you plan to live abroad? After all, you spent all that money getting here and settling in. Is it really worth it to only move abroad for a year? Why not stay longer and get the most out of the experience?
Will you love it so much you won’t ever want to return home? Can you imagine your entire future here? Maybe these aren’t questions for answering right now, but you damn well better think of what it is you want before something keeps you here longer than you intended.
Who knows, you might fall in love and stay. In that case, all of your plans will change. Do you really still want to be making pennies at a dumpy English teaching job? Or do you want to find a more stable job to build a family with?
10. Are you ready to find the person you were meant to become?
You might not realize this now, but this move will change you forever. Not only will you become more independent and travel savvy, but you mentality will also change as the years go by.
I certainly found the woman I was always supposed to be. I am more fearless than ever and I am not some dumb American anymore. I am wiser because my eyes have been opened to so much.
You won’t even begin to recognize the person you are today years down the road.
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