Tips for Moving Abroad

One of the biggest questions of baseball’s offseason was answered when the New York Yankees reached an agreement on a 7-year, $155 million contract with Japanese free agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.  While few, if any, of us will ever be presented with an opportunity quite like Tanaka’s, moving abroad has become more and more common.  Here are some tips for making an international move as efficient as possible.

Once you’ve identified a country you’d like to move to, the first thing you’ll need to research are the legal requirements of the country in which you’d like to live.  Most nations require a visa for foreign nationals wishing to move there.  Contact the immigration department of the country for their specific laws and regulations.  If you’re being transferred by the company you work for, they will probably handle most of paperwork on your behalf.  If your intent is to search for a job once you enter the country, you’ll likely have to enter the country on a tourist visa initially and apply for more permanent worker status once you’ve found employment.

If you are going to be receiving pay in your new home country, you’ll need to open a local bank account.  Before moving, check with your bank here to ensure your debit card will work overseas.  This will also make them aware you intend to travel and live abroad and prevent any freezes to your account for unusual purchasing activity.

Consider your packing carefully.  If the plan is to live abroad for a longer time period, you’ll want to pack more items and have them shipped.  If your stay is shorter term, pack lighter.  Necessities can be purchased anywhere, and the less you pack ahead of time will be the less you’ll have to deal with during your travels.  If you know you will only be living abroad for a specific length of time it will likely be worth your time, effort and expense to rent a self-storage unit in your current home city for furnishings, extra clothing, books and personal items which aren’t convenient for travel but you can’t imagine ever being rid of either.

Most of us can’t get through a day without using a variety of electronic devices.  This is something you’ll have to consider when moving abroad as voltage and plugs can vary greatly from one nation to the next.  Do some research ahead of time to find out what the voltage is in your destination country and whether or not your electronics can support that level of power.  You’ll also need to find out what type of electric sockets (there are least 13 different types used worldwide) are most common in the country you’re moving to and purchase adapters accordingly.

Do your homework regarding healthcare!  Are you moving to work with a new company?  Find out if they over health care and if there is a waiting period before you’re covered.  If there is, you’ll need to check with your current health insurance provider to see if you are covered while in another country.  Many nations have some form of socialized medicine.  Find out if this coverage will apply to you and your family.  Before moving, you should also check the World Health Organization’s International Travel and Health Guide for advice on any vaccinations you might need before entering a particular nation.

If you’re moving to a large city, you can likely get by on public transportation and never find yourself behind the wheel of a car, but it’s still not a bad idea to obtain an international driving permit.  At the very least it will provide you with an extra piece of identification.  You can get more information on obtaining an IDP at your local AAA or CAA office.  If you’re moving away for a longer period of time know you’ll be driving with regularity, contact the consulate of your new home country for information on obtaining a driver’s license, auto insurance and their rules of the road.

These are some of the basics you’ll have to deal with before an international move, but the largest issue facing you and your family when living abroad is culture shock.  If you’re even considering an international move, begin the process of acclimating yourself to your new country.  Begin to learn the language.  Many larger cities in the U.S. and Canada will host international festivals throughout the year.  Attend any and all festivals featuring the country you’re planning on moving to.  Visit international communities (e.g. Chinatown, Little Italy, Little Odessa, Greektown, etc.).  Above all else, read anything you can get your hands on regarding life in your prospective new home country.  Travel guides and magazines are excellent resources and you should make it a point to read travel diaries.  These are personal experiences from people who have already made the move you’re planning.  Their advice on what to do (and perhaps more importantly, what not to do) will prove invaluable in helping you adapt to your new homeland.

Moving is never easy and the further you’re moving the less easy it gets.  Add in the variable of moving to a place which is, literally, foreign to you and it can be terrifying.  The best way to facilitate a foreign move is preparation.  Do your homework ahead of time and in full and you’ll likely be left with a rich experience you’ll treasure for the rest of your life.