As exciting as it seems, moving abroad is not always a pleasant experience.
There are a lot of factors involved besides picking the right place to live, or making sure that your papers are in order. Migration is as old as the inception of time, and migrating for better opportunities is not exactly a novel idea.
People follow their dreams, but most of the time they don’t know what lies ahead.
There are thousands of reasons for choosing to live abroad. Some are better than others but all make sense for their proponents. By far, the most frequent reason is economic opportunities. A recent growing trend places expatriates on opposite lanes. Historically, people have moved from east to west, or in other words from the less fortunate economies to the more developed countries. For the past decade or so, westerns have had their eyes set on upcoming countries, places where they enjoy a laid back lifestyle, and get the biggest bang for their buck. Moving one way or another is still a dramatic change and should be carefully planned.
In my experience, the best way to handle such a transition is by taking a step at the time. Conduct an extensive research prior to the actual move. Have a safe net in place. Expect the best and plan for the worst.
First and foremost, ask yourself: what do you want to accomplish by moving abroad?
Are you looking for a new life in a new country? Are you looking for a way to support your living? Are you interested in building an international career? Do you want to have access to better education? Are the laid back lifestyle and warm climate luring you?
Try to come up with your own answers/reasons, and stay away from other people’s success stories. There is no easy answer and a universal recipe for success.
What are your options?
What do you need to do in order to move? Do you need to find a job ahead of time (which by the way is extremely advisable, in case you don’t have other means of living)? Do you need to come up with a big sum of money? Do you need to learn new skills? What about a new language? Do you need to leave your loved ones behind, at least temporarily? Do you have to plan ahead for being the solely provider?
Identify potential obstacles. Do you anticipate a smooth transition from a legal standpoint? Gaining resident status could be challenging regardless of your nationality. Are there any restrictions regarding age, financial status, education? Is moving abroad a split decision? Is your spouse or loved ones fully aware of emotional strain and hardship? Do you have a rebellious teenager in your household? What about a newborn baby? Is your health in good condition?
Survey the country of choice.Use the CIA fact book, international and local newspapers, magazines, specialty websites, free literature, and some folk insight. Find information on climate, official language, tax law, jobs, business environment, real estate, transportation, health, education, banking, retirement, food, and people. Last but not least, try to get an idea on how cosmopolite is the chosen place. Are the locals friendly? Are they open to foreigners? The answer could spell the difference between feeling like an outcast and getting all warm and fuzzy with your new co-nationals.
Get a preview of your future. Although not always possible, it is highly advisable to live for a short period of time in the country of choice. People, cultural differences, food, shopping, transportation and economic opportunities are differently spotted when you leave amongst the locals. Try to loose the tourist mentality and get a close look to real life situations. What may seem as a bohemian life could turn into a nightmare few months down the road.
Have your first months of living abroad planned to the last dime.
Things are never that easy as they look on TV. People who emigrate with 20 bucks in their pocket and a bag full of dreams make for a succulent movie topic, but not for a real life scenario. You wouldn’t leave your parents house, or you own for that matter, and go to a different town to start from scratch, would you? As crazy as it sounds people do that all the time, out of desperation or out of ignorance, of course. Having stacks of money is a different ball game, but unless you are financial independent, a beneficiary of residual income, you shouldn’t give up on having a financial plan for the immediate future.
Prepare yourself to make the most out of your education and work experience.
Master the language, gather all your academic transcripts, and use an international accreditation service to recognize your diploma. Start searching for a job, network with international headhunters, or take into consideration a different career path. Don’t neglect the financial factor. School and work are common in most competitive work markets. Develop your entrepreneurial self. Expatriates have been historically pushed into business endeavors, out of inadequacy on the work market.
Get mentally fit for emotional turmoil.
Although impossible to predict the whole range of emotions secondary to a societal transplant don’t allow stress, anxiety, and outburst of frustration to control your life and alienate your relationships with friends and family. Look out for your partner and children well-being, and if necessary, reach out for expatriate community support.