Are you contemplating packing your bags, boarding the next plane, and starting a new life abroad? Splendid idea ─ but no so hasty! Our guest blogger Ben provides a handy checklist that all expats-to-be should consider.
A few weeks ago, I wrote Preparing for Your Move (Part I) about the mental preparedness required for moving abroad. Once you’ve thought about the psychological aspect of your move, it’s time to consider the practical aspect because this is just as important.
Here are some of the questions that came up during the conversation with my friend:
1) How long do you plan on staying?
Have in mind a time frame and game plan for what you will do. Are you going to just travel, enjoy yourself, and contemplate the meaning of life for a while?
2) Do you know the travel visa rules and working visa regulations?
Getting in trouble with the authorities in a foreign country is the last thing you want. If you plan to travel and hang out, do you need any special paperwork, and how long can you stay? If you need to extend your visa, how can you go about it?
What if you need to work ─ what is the country’s legal framework for working as a foreigner? And what if you do get in trouble with the law ─ what are your rights and what kind of protection does your home country offer you?
3) How well do you know the country?
Knowing the country’s history and culture is incredibly important. This will give you some insight into how the people behave.
What gives them pride as a nation or people? How are their relationships with their neighbors? What are some potential lightening rod or taboo topics? What is the current political and/or economic situation like?
By demonstrating some knowledge about the country, you also show a certain level of respect, and it’s a great way to make friends. So do your homework before you go.
4) Will you be able to communicate in a language you know, and do you know enough of the local language to survive?
What percentage of people can communicate in English or another language that you know? Do you know enough of the local language to get by at first?
5) What is the most likely worst-case scenario that could happen?
While I don’t believe in worrying needlessly and scaring yourself to death, I do believe in being realistic.
This is another area where your research will come in handy. Look at the recent history and current situation in the country.
What are the issues, moods, and problems affecting the people? Based on this, what’s the worst thing that might happen to you, and what would you do in that scenario?
6) How long will your finances last if things don’t go according to plan?
As I was advising my friend, I recommend having enough funds for six months to live the way you want, assuming you will have no other income. I also suggest buying a good travel/health insurance policy.
7) What is your exit strategy if you decide you want to return home?
Developing an exit plan is always a good idea for any endeavor, and moving abroad is no different. If you need or want to leave, how will do you it? What will you do about your finances and with all your stuff?
Of course, it’s impossible to know all the answers or predict the future, and your questions (and answers) will change as your experience takes hold, but these are a good start.
I believe that most people are in the best position to make important decisions about their own lives because they know themselves best. However, sometimes you have to ask some difficult questions before you even get started.
But once you have found some satisfactory answers, all that’s left is to pack your bags and hold on because it’s going to be a crazy ride!
If you want to know more about the psychological side of preparing for an international move, have a look at Ben’s first article on that topic.
(Image credit: iStockphoto.com)