Yesterday I began a list of 10 things you’ll need to think about when you’re planning for a move overseas.
Today, we continue, picking up with point number 6…
6. Get Your Affairs In Order
Go paperless on all accounts and make sure you know how to use online banking.
Don’t close any bank accounts, but change your address on file to that of a close family member or trusted friend who can receive mail on your behalf. Consider applying for new credit cards that come with benefits for overseas travelers (like no foreign transaction fees, reimbursed ATM fees, or airline cards that give you miles per purchase).
You’ll also need to open at least one bank account in your new country (preferably more than one if you can), though you might have to do this after you’ve settled into your new home. Local credit cards may also be a boon to you in your new life—in Europe, it’s sometimes hard or impossible to make online purchases at local stores using foreign cards. Plus, local debit cards allow you to avoid ATM fees and local credit cards won’t charge foreign transaction fees.
Before you leave home, make sure your passport isn’t due to expire anytime soon. It should be valid for at least six months, but you really want to have at least a year before you need to renew, especially if you’re seeking residency in your new country.
Make copies of all your important documents and bring them with you (birth and marriage certificates, etc.).
7. Get Tech Savvy
Make sure your cell phone is unlocked before moving, which will allow you to buy a local SIM card and pop it into your existing phone.
Download communication apps like Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and a host of others that are used globally and make sure both you and your loved ones know how to use them effectively. They’ll not just help you keep in touch with those back home, they’ll save you tons of money on communication both international and local.
Consider investing in a VPN or DNS system that will allow you to use American media. Netflix is international, but what it offers changes from country to country. You won’t be able to use HBO, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or most other online TV services in your new home without an IP cloaking service of some sort.
8. Get Connected
Scout around for local social groups to join, be they local or expat. Making some contacts before you move can be hugely valuable, not just socially but also practically. These new friends can help you get settled into your new home more easily than you might have on your own.
You can do this online or in person, so don’t be shy. Even if you’re not in town yet, you can do plenty of preliminary work on this front from the comfort of home. Use Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, local sites and blogs, and anything else you can think of to get the scoop and make some friends. Chances are there are plenty of options, so join some clubs and dive right in.
9. Learn The Lingo
If you’re moving to a country that’s official language isn’t English, you should learn at least a bit of the local tongue. You don’t necessarily need to become fluent, but even if you’re in a place where most locals speak English, it’s only smart (and polite) to know a few basics.
At the absolute least, the five magic words that you should know how to say locally are: hello, goodbye, please, thank you, and excuse me. I recommend learning these even if you’re only passing through someplace as a tourist. Some basic conversational skills are always good to have, too—like “how are you,” “my name is,” etc.
Make sure you have a translation app on your phone (or carry a pocket dictionary). You’ll likely use these several times a day once you get out and about in your new home.
There are plenty of language learning software options out there, but I highly recommend Duolingo as a starting point for language learning—download it now and get started from home. It’s free to begin, and if you like the format, the annual subscription is a good value. You can also take classes from home (either in person or online), buy some kids’ books in Spanish, turn on the French subtitles, or find some musical artists singing in Italian, for example. These are all great ways to begin learning.
Once you get to your new home, you’ll be glad you have some foundation already, and once you’re immersed in the language, learning it will come much easier. Joining a class is not just a way to learn but an easy way to make friends.
10. Realize That, No Matter How Much You Prepare, Murphy Will Have The Last Laugh…
Sad but true. No matter how well you prepare, something will inevitably go wrong. Although you can’t avoid bumps in the road, you can prepare yourself for them mentally. Know that with the good days come the bad and that patience is key when it comes to dealing with the unexpected overseas.
Moving overseas can be a series of dizzying highs in the early stages, and something going wrong can be a major crash. By reminding yourself there will be tough times, you’ll be better equipped to deal with them.