Preparing for your upcoming summer vacation is plenty of fun as long as you don’t start packing three hours before your plane takes off; preparing for your upcoming move, especially an international one, just makes you long for a summer vacation to put up your feet.
Right now, I’m sympathizing intensely with all expats-to-be, as well as those heading for their next destination. Granted, my own plans for moving allow me to stay in the same country — the same city, even. According to Google Maps, merely twelve kilometers separate my old apartment and my new.
Still, the to-do lists seem never-ending, and the past few weeks have taught me a lot about organizing a move smoothly. Some lessons I have learned the hard way are easy to apply to moving not just to another neighborhood, but to another country. Perhaps those facing a distance of 1,200 kilometers from their old home can learn a little from my mistakes.
Don’t do what I did, expats on the move, and save yourself plenty of hassle with these five foolproof tips!
Don’t be afraid of paperwork, “legalese”, and the “fine print”!
If you are planning to relocate to another country, you need more even more in-depth knowledge than a crash course in tenancy law, brokerage agreements, or mortgage redemption.
Your amazing adventures abroad usually start with some good old-fashioned bureaucracy. Is your passport or travel document still valid? Can you use the driving license from your home country to rent a car in your new destination?
Does that destination require a visa? Which one? What kind of documentation do you need for the application process? And what on earth is an apostille? I’m afraid that there is no way around doing your homework and researching the legal framework for your move.
Never ever underestimate how much stuff you own.
If I were to move internationally next month, instead of locally, I would have started a yard sale sooner rather than later. Even so, the fate of my well-stocked bookshelves has already kept me awake at night.
If you are preparing to relocate to another continent, your nightmares might as well be worse. Just be honest with yourself: could you afford shipping even part of your belongings? Or are you fortunate enough to have an employer who funds your relocation costs? If your answer to both questions is no, be merciless.
Just keep those things with sentimental value or that can easily go into low-cost self-storage. Most of the rest needs to go.
Maybe you can raise some money for your moving budget by selling your best furniture, newish dishwasher, or designer handbags. When time starts running out, the magic words “just stop by and pick it up for free” never fail to work wonders. Remember: it’s not only shipping that’s expensive; so are professional removal companies.
(And don’t forget about the basement. It probably contains a hidden parallel dimension for all your broken desk chairs, defunct appliances, and worn mattresses.)
You will also be surprised by how many people have your contact information — and who needs to be notified.
In some countries, like Germany, you have to officially inform the local authorities upon moving abroad. Most people remember to take this into consideration, just like notifying your utility company and internet provider. Insurance firms also come to mind.
Once you sit down, however, and draw up a list of everyone who keeps sending you mail and charging you money, there will probably be many more than just the usual suspects. Do you subscribe to the local paper? Do you have a gym membership? Have you recently bought anything online or via mail order catalog? Can you even use Netflix where you’re moving to?
It may take you some time to contact all these places and cancel your subscriptions. The local registry office might want you to come by, too, so don’t wait till the last minute. Believe me: you’ll have better things to do when you actually relocate.
The tax office is always going to be involved somehow.
Lucky me: as I’m just moving from one end of Munich to the other, I will at least be spared from dealing with fiscal matters. I just need to notify the revenue service of my change of address, and that’s that.
Do you know where your new fiscal residency is? How will this impact the administrative or financial burden of doing your taxes?
Even if you might shy away from the expense of hiring a good tax advisor, this could be a reasonable investment to add to your relocation costs. Not only should a tax accountant keep you from getting in trouble with the tax authorities, but they might also help you minimize the effects of international taxation.
Take good care of your health.
Unless the stress of organizing a move all on my own gives me a stomach ulcer, relocating domestically will save me a lot of hassle in that regard, too. I’m not looking forward to finding a more conveniently located replacement for my amazing family doctor and my fantastic dentist, though.
If you move abroad, you might be lucky to even find a doctor you can talk to without the language barrier causing trouble. Thus, you should seize the opportunity to make appointments for various health check-ups and address all medical issues before leaving.
Moreover, make sure to take out health insurance coverage for your destination. For short-term stays, a travel insurance policy might suffice; for long-term stays, you have to read up on the local healthcare system and potential alternatives offered by private insurance companies. Which probably brings us right back to point one: don’t be afraid of the paperwork…
If you start planning ahead, everything will work out just fine and you will be able to focus on settling in in your destination. Best of luck for your move!
Which tips would you like to share with someone planning an international move? Did you ever encounter any particular pitfalls to avoid?
(Image credit: iStockphoto)