If you’re a fence-sitter right now and can’t decide if a move abroad is right for you, then you’re likely scouring the internet looking for inspiration. Advice. Someone to explain the ins and outs of life as an expatriot and assure you it’s all going to work out all right.
Let me be that person. It will work out. Becoming an expat, deciding to leave your comfortable homebase is daunting, scary at times, and takes a good deal of moxie and determination. There will be naysayers, fear, a perceived lack of money/time/ability. But most of those things can be easily overcome with proper research, several years spent preparing and saving, and the right connections.
As you’re planning your expat trip abroad, here are four quick considerations…the only four that really matter!
- Where will you live? Is there one country that has always fascinated you? If so, consider that your first step, you’ll be more motivated to plan and pack your life up if it’s to fulfill a dream. Also, consider large and medium sized cities as first stops, it’s very likely these cities already have an established expat community.
- Do you have savings, passive income, or internationally useful skills? If you’re considering retirement, then know that many countries will require you to prove you have enough funds to completely support your life in the country. If you’re working from savings, check the expat forums for a cost of living analysis so you can assess if you’re on target. And if you’re still working, look into the job market abroad and find a place where your skills are in demand–they may even pay for your moving expenses!
- Are you moving the whole family? Understandably more daunting is the prospect of moving your entire family abroad, finding international schools for your children, and helping them adjust. Kids are quite resilient though, and nearly all medium and large (and even a few small) cities have fantastic international schools. Check the annual price (they can be high) and factor this into your expat costs.
- What’s the visa situation like? If you plan to secure a job in your new expat home, your employer will often help you secure a long-term work visa for you and for your entire family (they will also have school recommendations!). If you’re freelancing then the situation is trickier and you may have to do frequent border-runs, or consider studying the local language (part-time study will often secure you a student visa no matter your age). Retirement visas are a whole different beast and have separate requirements in each place.
Those are your main considerations…there are other things: insurance, community, leaving family behind, selling your house, etc., but all of those really boil down to aligning the right pieces of your life and simply deciding to leave.