For a worry-free adventure abroad, take some time to research where you want to go, what you'll need and where to make friends.
Two years ago, my wife and I put our things in storage, applied for a work-travel visa and moved abroad for six months, dividing our time between the arrondissements of Paris and the idyllic coastal community of Biarritz.
It was one of the best decisions we’d ever made: a time of our life filled with ceaseless adventure and new experiences. But it wasn’t as spontaneous as it sounds. The decision to uproot, even for six months, took nearly a year of planning .
Embracing the expat life, whether you’re getting transferred overseas, chasing a dream job or flexing your freelancing muscles, has never been easier. But here are some issues to consider before moving abroad:
If you’re transferring overseas but sticking within your current employers’ ranks, chances are you already know where you’re going. But if you’re chasing a dream posting or looking to work for yourself, InterNations – a community for expats – is a good place to start. The organization pulls together a yearly listing of some of the best countries for expats based on leisure options, personal happiness, travel and transport, health and well-being, and safety. Once you have a country in mind, search for discussions and first-hand accounts other expats have of their experience in that country and make an effort to learn local customs so you’ll have an easier time navigating social settings once you’ve arrived.
Ensure You’re Insured
Living in Canada, it’s easy to take health coverage for granted. But overseas, don’t expect your provincial or territorial plan to foot the often steep bills if something happens elsewhere. Unless your new job has taken care of your insurance, you’re going to need to research it for yourself.
In addition to travel and health insurance, when we moved to France our visa required us to have personal liability insurance covering us if we injured someone else or their property. We’d never heard of it, unsurprising given that in Canada, it’s typically included as part of home insurance. But France has a different system.
These are the sort of disconnects that will crop up when you’re planning an overseas move, but most foreign governments have information for work visas right on their site outlining your obligations. Take some time to research these sites and third party expat forums for the country before you arrive.
On the Ground
Most countries require you to have an address before you can open a bank account. Before you do so, check to see if your bank has a branch in your prospective country. You can find short-term accommodations through communities like Airbnb and VRBO, but if you’re looking for something more stable you’ll need to scroll through community listings to find a house for rent. Although many landlords will require a credit history before renting, some will allow supplementary documents such as proof of income, a letter of employment or references in that country. Once you have an apartment, you’ll have an easier time opening a bank account and setting up a phone plan – just visit a local phone company and bank branch to see what you need.
Get Social Before You Go
In the same way forums can open you up to expats, they can also be a vessel for finding meet-ups in your new city. Consider joining social media groups for expats in your soon-to-be new home. Using social media to research local expat hangouts and events can help you create a network in your new home before you even touch down.
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