Living abroad is something that the vast majority of us Brits have considered at least once in our lives. For some of us the consideration is a fleeting dream of a better life abroad away from the mundane of the day-to-day commuter lifestyle, while for others the consideration is the first step on their long and amazing journey to become expatriates.
If you’re quite actively and seriously thinking about maybe one day moving abroad in search of a new and better life, here follows the top 10 things that you need to consider before emigrating and expatriating.
Once you have gone over the ground that these top 10 considerations will raise in your mind, you will be far more ready and probably willing and able to make a very real go of a new life abroad.
1) Distance and Remoteness from Familiarity
There’s a saying that familiarity breeds contempt, however, when you’re moving abroad and starting a brand new life in unfamiliar surroundings, you may well find that you really miss the support that you had in the UK from your friends, family and just the familiarity of day-to-day life. Think carefully about how you may cope without seeing your friends and family for long periods and how you would survive without certain aspects of your life in the UK. For those for whom the thought of leaving everything that is familiar behind is exciting and thrilling, perhaps a long-haul destination will suit you. For others, it may well be that you need to keep close links to the UK and therefore you need to think carefully about your overseas location so that you can get to and from the UK easily. What’s more, for those who like to see friends and family often, a closer location will mean that they can of course come and visit more frequently.
2) Weathering the Weather
In many surveys that question people about their reasons for contemplating leaving the UK, there are always a high number of individuals who cite the weather as one of the main reasons for seeking out a new life overseas. If the thought of long hot summer days and long hot summers thrill you, then you’ll really relate to this! However, even in countries such as Cyprus where the summer starts in April and extends to October, the winter months can be a bit grim! Think seriously about this and make note of this fact, you don’t want to have your false expectations of a nation’s perfect climate quashed the moment a drop of rain falls. In addition to this, the hot climates in many nations are difficult to cope with at least initially. You need to prepare yourself for coping with extremes of temperature – and also think about the fact that hot climates breed the likes of snakes and other beasties! If you can cope with all of this, fine, but do think about the reality of a nation’s climate as well as the dream!
3) The Lingo
Your chances of making a success of your relocation, of finding and securing a good job, a decent place to live and of making friends rides on your learning the language. If you’re moving to Canada, America, Australia or New Zealand you shouldn’t struggle too much! But elsewhere where English is not the main language you need to take an intensive course in the language before you relocate and then enrol in lessons as soon as you arrive. Get a good basis in a language before you go, and chances are your transition abroad will be smooth, pain free and very successful.
4) Affording to Stay Healthy
You need to know everything there is to know about healthcare in the country you’re moving to. So, are there state facilities as well as private ones, what are the costs like, what level of free care are you entitled to, will you need to take out health insurance, how much will this cost and what are the standards like? If you’re moving to another EU nation you may have limited free healthcare entitlement if you’re there temporarily, you’re retired or you’re going there to work. If you’re moving elsewhere you will most likely need health insurance. If you’re over retirement age when you start your new life abroad you may not find an insurer willing to cover you and remember an EHIC, (European Health Insurance Card), does not entitle you to repatriation to the UK in the event that you need to return to your home nation for care.
5) Affording to Get Wise
You need to have a similar amount of consideration when it comes to education abroad if you have children. Are there free state schools, is your child entitled to a place, what are the language restrictions and issues they will face and how will these impact on their development. What are the private alternatives, how much do they cost and how best can you manage your child’s education?
6) Getting a Job Abroad
Depending on where you’re going to be moving to you may or may not need a work permit. This is the first thing to find out. Now you need to examine the jobs market and how likely it is that you will find gainful employment when you move abroad. Look at availability of jobs so that you will know whether you’ll ever be able to change jobs if you hate your first role! And also think about pay levels and how they relate to the cost of living. Find out about language requirements and also whether you need to have your qualifications translated. Get as good an idea of the labour market as possible so that you can be realistic about finding a job – you may also want to actively explore the jobs market before you go and apply for positions so that you can ideally move abroad and be going to start a job.
7) Permission to Move Abroad
As holders of EU passports us Brits are a privileged few, we can move to live and work in any other EU country without special permission – however, even then we have to register our presence and apply for various types of residency or work visa. The good news is that in the vast majority of cases we are guaranteed to receive these permissions, but if we want to move almost anywhere else in the world we will need visas or permits. It is absolutely critical that you identify the type of permission you will need before you even think about moving abroad! For nations like the US, Canada and Australia it can take months and sometimes even years to get the right type of permit, and so you have to apply well in advance of your preferred move date. The best place to find out about how you can move to a given nation is by contacting that nation’s embassy in the UK. They will have all the information you need.
8) Property and Accommodation at Home and Abroad
Have a think about where you’d like to live – i.e., in a villa or an apartment, in a rented property or in a bought home. You will also need to think about what you’re going to do with your UK home if you move abroad as well. The ‘safest’ way to go about things for most people is to rent out their home in the UK whilst renting a new property overseas, this gives them all the time they need to determine whether the new life and the new lifestyle suits them. If and when it does they can sell up in the UK and buy abroad. If you have other ideas about how to go about it look into the viability of your plans – for example, not every country in the world has the same rules about freehold ownership of real estate by foreigners as we do in the UK.
9) Money Matters
One of the number one reasons given by those moving abroad at the moment is a financial one – i.e., the UK has become so prohibitively expensive thanks to rising inflation, people want to leave Britain and find a more affordable location overseas where they can live well. If you’re in agreement and also want to find a more affordable country abroad to live in, you need to know that there are actually countries that are more expensive than the UK! What’s more, even in nations where the cost of living is far less, wages can be far lower too so it all becomes relative and evens out. You need to look at the cost of living abroad as well as what you might be able to earn before you can decide whether you really will be better off. Remember the grass can be greener – of course it can – but it isn’t in every case, so do your homework.
10) Shipping Out
Can you afford to take your worldly goods with you, are you allowed to take your spouse and children, will you be able to export your pets and how much is all this going to cost you anyway. Look at the practicality as well as the reality of moving abroad, think about buying new ‘stuff’ abroad as this can sometimes be cheaper and finally, shop around for quotes from removal companies.