There are many reasons why families uproot and move overseas. Job opportunities for ourselves or our partners, greater opportunities for their children, an urge to immerse themselves in different cultures or perhaps to provide closure on a previous trauma at home.
Whatever the reason, nearly 36 million Americans relocate outside of the US every year to pursue a fresh start amidst new surroundings. It’s an incredibly exciting and liberating prospect but, for obvious reasons, it can be extremely intimidating.
The logistical difficulties, the emotional strain of severing ties with family and friends at home and, that most basic of human impulses, fear of the unknown can lead to some serious cold feet and in, some cases, the wholesale cancellation of plans.
There’s no denying that relocating can be an extremely disruptive and stressful experience but the benefits of taking this dramatic but potentially fulfilling step in your life’s journey are not to be overshadowed by fear and doubt.
This guide is designed to help you embrace this change and face it with a serenity that will calm your friends, family and loved ones and help everyone to smile through the inevitable tears.
Know and embrace your reasons
Through moments of worry, stress and doubt it’s important to remind yourself regularly why you are making this dramatic change. These reasons might be circumstantial (e.g. the move has been dictated by your job / career), or they might be much more personal.
The reasons why people relocate are varied and numerous. They include:
- Better job opportunities.
- Healthier lifestyle.
- Better work / life balance.
- Desire to embrace a new culture.
- Lower tax.
- Better rates of pay.
- Lower cost of living.
- Friendlier people.
- A more liberal political landscape.
Whatever your reasons, they should be your talisman. Clutch them tightly in moments of worry and doubt and try and look beyond your current circumstances to the life and opportunities that await you in your new home.
Find the right country
If your moving for work the decision of where to move will probably be made for you but if not then the world is very much your oyster. Choosing the right country is the best way to ensure that the reality of relocating lives up to the ideal.
Of course, this decision will be inextricably linked to your reasons for moving as well as your personal values and those you wish to uphold for your family. Vegan parents, for example, may struggle to raise their children on an entirely plant based diet in the meat and dairy dependent food culture of Italy. Gay parents will likewise want to relocate to ensure that the political climate is supportive and appreciative of their contribution to their society.
Hopefully, the more research you do, the more affirmed you’ll feel that you’re making the right decision and therefore less plagued by doubt.
Finding the right home
Needless to say, this will one of the greatest logistical hurdles you will have to overcome in your journey. We recommend that you begin seriously looking at overseas properties at least a year before your proposed moving date. If you own your own home then putting it on the market as soon as possible is imperative to ensure that your plans aren’t dashed by an inability to sell your property.
You should research property in your new home tirelessly and keep an eye on new property on a regular basis. Despite the logistical difficulties it is highly recommended that you not move into a new place without inspecting it in person.
While many expats purchase property abroad prior to moving, many prefer the flexibility and freedom of renting at least until the family is completely settled in your new life.
Your whole family should be involved in every stage of the research and planning period so that hopefully you should all be buzzing with excitement at the prospect of moving into your new home.
Whether you have a lot or a little, managing your financial affairs is also a critical part of ensuring a serene relocation.
Tracking the currency rates is extremely important as factors way out of control could cause fluctuations that could have make-or-break consequences for your finances. It may be worth seeing if you can arrange a fixed exchange rate in advance so you know exactly what you’ll be paying.
Your tax contributions will vary wildly depending on where you move, as different countries have different income tax brackets.
Banks are fortunately increasingly multinational so it’s worth seeing if your existing bank has a strong presence in your new home. Talking to someone in your local branch can help demystify the process of moving your money overseas.
Work and schools
Again, your existing job and career may be what necessitates the move but if not, it’s vitally important to secure employment when you move (or ideally before) otherwise, in some countries you may not be allowed to stay. Canadian authorities, for example, won’t even allow you to relocate without having already secured a job to move to.
Job hunting in another country remotely might seem like a daunting prospect, but it’s really no different from any other form of online job search. There are online tools to help you search for job and career opportunities all over the world and many employers will consider interviews via video conferencing, although you should factor in the cost of travel for job interviews alongside travelling to inspect property.
Finding the right schools for your children is also a hugely important factor. Fortunately there are also lots of helpful online tools to help you research and apply for schools way in advance of the move.
Ideally, you will have work for yourself (and your partner if applicable) secured, or at least some promising leads, as well as securing school placement for your kids months prior to the move. Completing these two huge pieces of the puzzle will be a huge weight off your mind so that you and your family can focus on looking forward to the move.
Now that all these elements have been addressed there’s only one thing you need to do…
Smile, it’s going to be okay!