People often write to us who say they have been inspired by our story. They often tell us of their own secret dreams of living abroad, and ask questions regarding how we finally made the move.
So, as someone who has lived abroad for over a decade now, I have come up with the following tips to help others who would like to try living in country other than the one they were born in. Part I are tips concerning making the actual move. Part II are tips for those who wish to start a business in a foreign environment. Whatever you decide to do, I hope these tips will make the transition a little easier.
Part I: Making Your Move
1. Do your homework before making a move. Explore ex-pat websites and read the blogs of others who live in the country and especially the city you are thinking about moving to. Find out the best way to emigrate legally, for it will save you time and money and greatly increase your job prospects abroad.
2. If you can, make a trip there before your move and secure an apartment. Having a signed contract will help you get the proper visas you need from a given country, and save you money because you will have a place waiting for you when you make your move.
3. Sell or give away what you can before leaving. Storage fees add up and become a burden as time goes on. In Europe it is very easy to find furnished apartments, and you can add pieces little by little as you need to.
4. If possible, have enough savings to pay your bills for at least one year. If you can work freelance via the internet or by other means while you are making the transition abroad this will help keep you afloat, and give you something constructive to do while you are settling in. It is important to have a safety net in case of the inevitable unforeseen problems and obstacles that will surely crop up from time to time.
5. Connect with others who speak your language who have already made the move to your desired destination. This is essential. Not only will it shorten your learning curve, but you will find an instant camaraderie with others who are in a similar circumstance. The information you can learn from those who have already gone through the stages you are going through are invaluable. Not to mention the networking possibilities for jobs, apartments, useful information, etc. that will become available to you once you connect with others in “the same boat”.
6. Make a commitment to being in your new location and do what you can to make it feel like “home”. Those who are constantly running back to their native country find it harder to really settle in than those who go back less frequently. You can only live in one place at a time.
7. Learn the language from locals if possible. Many communities offer free or low-cost language classes to foreigners who have residency in a given place. This is especially true in Italy. It is better than enrolling in expensive language schools who offer crash courses at high prices which will prove to be unsustainable in the long run. Also, if you take a class offered by your local community often the only language you will have in common with the other students is the language you are learning, so you will not be able to resort to speaking your mother-tongue, and thus you will learn the local language that much faster.
8. Learn the public transportation system as soon as you can. Once you know how to get around effectively it will make all of the activities which you need to engage in that much easier.
9. Develop a realistic view of the country you have chose to live in. No place is perfect. You will most likely find that some of the same things you didn’t like about the country you left, for example the political situation, is just as bad (or worse) in the country you have moved to. Be wary of the “crush” you may have on your new country and try and keep your expectations real and in check.
10. Try and maintain a sense of humor and perspective as you make what will inevitably be a challenging transition. Cut yourself some slack. Most importantly learn to slow down. Things tend to go slower in countries outside the US. Remember the reasons you wanted to move in the first place…and most of all relax and get out and explore. The more familiar you become with your new surroundings the better you will feel.
Next installment: Starting A Business Abroad