Moving abroad is a big decision and there’s a lot to organise, but it’s been one of my best life decisions. It probably shows since I’ve moved to so many times, and if you’re thinking about it, the time is now! You should never be afraid to move abroad, but there are definitely some better ways to do it than others.
I might have moved abroad 6 times, but it hasn’t been without my fair share of mistakes. Some mistakes I made moving abroad were the result of not being prepared enough, or making not so smart decisions after I arrived in my new home country.
I figured I couldn’t be the only one, (or hoped at least!) so I reached out to travel bloggers to help me compile some of the things that can go wrong when you decide to make the leap to moving abroad.
Table of Contents
Mistake: Going for the cheapest option isn’t always the best
When you move abroad it’s tempting to save money on the cheapest flights possible, but sometimes cheap isn’t necessarily best!
Taya from My Trip Hack tells us about how booking the cheapest flights can go wrong…
“It was spring 2015, after enjoying winters in India it was time to fly to Eastern Europe. I landed a great flight deal for $300USD with 2 interchanges, 2 different airlines and only 14 hours all together. Awesome offer, right? Another deal was from Aeroflot with 1 interchange, but it was $100USD more expensive. Considering there are no low-cost offers in Asia like WizzAir or Ryanair, I booked the $300USD flight immediately. When I reached Delhi airport PegasusAir announced that the flight will be delayed by couple of hours. Unfortunately these couple of hours lasted for 3 days. In the end, the company shifted all the passengers to another flight 3 days later at the airlines expense. My connecting flights were long gone as they were bought from a different airline.
With a hope to save $100USD, my risk taking cost me $350USD extra.
The lesson learned: try to buy interconnected flights from the same air company even if it’s a bit more expensive. In case of delays, they will send you to the final destination with alternative flights on their cost. I am still getting frightening dreams of again losing $350USD whenever I think of flying to or from India!”
Read more on My Trip Hack
Finances when moving abroad
Mistake: Losing your wallet the day before moving
That one time that I temporarily lost my wallet the day before I moved abroad, just long enough to cancel all of my cards, and then have the banks refuse to reverse the cancellations…
While this isn’t necessarily a mistake you can avoid, the nightmare that ensued once I got to Canada and had to try and get a replacement card sent to me was definitely not ideal. If you ever need a replacement card sent to you overseas be super clear about exactly who it should be addressed to and where it should be sent, and have them notify you as soon as they receive it. My bank would only send to another bank, who then destroyed the card claiming they didn’t know who it was for even though I’d cleared it with them first. I had to wait almost 2 months to get a card!
Mistake: Only having one way to a access cash, and losing it
Similar to my story above, Stephen from Monk Bought Lunch tells about his experience with finances and moving abroad.
“Why would you ever need to take US dollars on a move abroad, right? And so it was that, young and naive and a touch inattentive, I excitedly withdrew my first Chinese yuan from an ATM near my new apartment… and left the card to the mercy of the machine.
I know what you’re gonna say, because it’s what older wiser me would also say: “Why didn’t you just call the bank and get it back?” Frankly, it never crossed my mind. A replacement debit card from the States? Maddeningly slow delivery. My first month in China I walked and wandered and ate cheap and skipped out on socialising; stretching every last jiao far as I could. Nine yuan each way for a Metro ride to Mandarin lessons? Or ten for a dumpling dinner? 饺子！They were delicious, too.
So it went for a month until that sweet sweet paycheck, and a return to the realms of sociability and continuing education and adventures beyond the confines of my small but delightful neighborhood. Of course, now I travel with two debit cards.”
Read more on Monk Bought Lunch
Finding a place to live when you move abroad
When I moved to the United Kingdom it was the first time I needed to source a place to live, since previously I’d stayed with family and at the university where I studied abroad.
A friend of mine was living in Edinburgh at the time and originally I was going to stay with her until I got a job, but then circumstances changed and we decided to get a flat together straight away. A nightmare ensued with renovations taking place in the flat, but the main problem was that I didn’t start a secure job for FIVE MONTHS. Signing up for a flat from day one was a mistake because I used all of my savings on rent and living expenses, when I could have travelled in that time or saved my money by doing HelpX or work exchange when I first moved.
Mistake: Rushing into a place to live
Sally from Passport and Plates made a similar mistake (hurrah for not being the only one!).
“A few years ago I had the opportunity to intern in Jakarta, Indonesia. I didn’t know much about the city, but when I received an email from a coworker with some written descriptions of housing options, I chose the one that sounded like the best bet. Everyone else in the internship program was busy arranging housing with their respective companies, so I didn’t think much of it. When I arrived the apartment was a little dusty but seemed otherwise livable. I didn’t really have another option to look at, so I accepted it and paid two months rent.
I had a few hours to kill before I could sleep at a reasonable time, so I decided to clean. I noticed a cockroach in the kitchen, so I made sure to buy a can of repellant along with the cleaning supplies.
When I returned to my apartment, I tentatively sprayed the cockroach, and to my horror hundreds of cockroaches came crawling out of every corner of the kitchen. I am absolutely terrified of bugs, so I was actually living my worst nightmare. Needless to say, I spent the entire evening spraying the kitchen (I bought an additional spray can) and trying not to have a full-blown meltdown.
I eventually caved and called a cleaning service because there was no way I could get close to the cockroaches. I moved out at the end of the month due to continual bug and reptile issues, as well as some broken appliances.
The next time I move to a new place, I’m going to inspect it well before agreeing to any sort of lease, even if it means staying at a hostel for a week or two!”
Read more on Passport and Plates
Packing to move abroad
Mistake: Pack way too much… and post yourself even more!
When I moved from Australia to the UK I backpacked through South East Asia on the way, so I couldn’t take too much stuff to begin with. I panicked about ditching everything and posted a couple of boxes to a friend in advance, and when I packed at the last minute and it just wasn’t working I panicked even more and had my parents post me more boxes after I left. So. Much. Money. And such a waste!
The problem when you move from Australia to the United Kingdom or vice versa is you have no idea what to expect clothing wise. Sure you know Australia is hotter, or the United Kingdom is colder, but what does that mean?Half of the things were totally unsuitable for life in the UK and I never wore them again. Some of them I did but I really could have done without them. I ended up buying what I needed there that was suitable, and I’d recommend that’s what you do too!
Mistake: Pack at the very last minute
The reason I was so bad at packing when I moved to the UK was I didn’t sort enough out in advance. I should have slowly started to get rid of things in the months before! It takes me at least three times of going through all of my stuff to be really ruthless. When I returned from the UK to Australia I moved to 3 different houses before I finally left, and each time I downsized. Start packing in advance, even if that just means going through everything to get rid of stuff at different times so that you can think about it and decide if you REALLY need it.
Travel solo or with friends?
Mistake: Moving with friends with different ideas
Travelling or moving with friends can be great, but you also need to be prepared to go out solo and do what it is you want to do. Sometimes you only get one chance in a place, so make sure it’s what you want!
Mel from A Broken Backpack tried moving with friends, but found out when she got there that they had different ideas of what they wanted from expat life.
“Let’s go back in time! Let’s say November 2014. Or even, a few months before then. I was in Western Canada and a good friend was in Australia. The plan was to join her in Australia in November. We spent hours on Skype planning our life down there. We would be 3 people by the time I got there, but it sounded reasonable to me. I was on my way, confident that this time I wouldn’t leave my new travel buddies behind. We had rules. We had plans. We had the same goals. Well, that’s what I thought.
They simply decided to change their plans without telling me I guess. Anyway, it was a nightmare from Day 1. I’m an adult, so I thought I’d put more effort into it despite all my doubts. So, we found the worse job ever (tomato packing) and the worst boss ever. We had a rule; if one of us can’t handle it, we will all quit. On Day 3, Friend A wanted to quit, but she managed to finish the day and then, she was fine. On Day 4, Friend B wanted to quit, but she handled it too. On Day 5, it was my turn. I was fed up with being a slave as I didn’t decide to travel all the way to Australia for that kind of job. As I decided to quit, they decided to keep their job. I was devastated. I booked a flight to Sydney and I decided that moving abroad would be a solo thing for me.”
Read more on A Broken Backpack
Researching where you want to live abroad
Mistake: Moving to a place that doesn’t suit you
It’s nice to move somewhere on a whim because you like the idea, but if you’re serious about living there for awhile you should probably do some research beforehand to make sure it’s the kind of the place that suits you. Not everywhere is for everyone! There’s having an adventure and experiencing the general ups and downs with moving abroad, but then there’s not sacrificing your overall happiness either.
Taylor from Taylor’s Tracks shares her moving abroad experience, and how she wishes she had researched a bit more about the place she wanted to go.
“I definitely thought moving abroad was going to be easier than it was. I hadn’t read any horror stories and I really had no idea how difficult homesickness would be. But the biggest mistake I made was picking the wrong city. I wasn’t placed anywhere by a company, I, on my own free will decided to move to the small city of Phitsanulok in lower northern Thailand. I never heard or read anything about anyone disliking Thailand, and I wanted to move to a smallish city (definitely not Bangkok) that was close to nature. This city seemed to suit my wishes so I went for it. Clearly I didn’t do enough research.
Phitsanulok had nothing to do in the city. Going to the mall was an activity because it had air conditioning, and to get to the national park or any of the pretty hikes I read about were all an hour or more away with little access to transportation to get there. Very few people spoke English which made daily chores (like getting food) frustrating or a hassle. With no activities really in the city it made meeting people extremely difficult (I didn’t exactly feel like sitting at a bar every night by myself), so I became lonely and bored very quickly. In the end I left early, now with the knowledge of how not to make the biggest mistake moving abroad.”
Read more on Taylor’s Tracks
Mistake: Not being aware of the living costs of your expat home
Sil from Tripovo didn’t quite do enough research about living costs in his expat country of choice, and ended up short!
“It is essential to hear out the opinions of other expats in your next country of residence. It is in everyone’s knowledge that forums have insider information about that country.
When it comes to renting agreements in Malaysia, they follow the 2 1/2 + 1 rule (1.5 months rent for deposit + one month rent in advance). I didn’t know such a rule exists. I got to know later on that most countries practice this. I thought of bringing an okay amount that would cover for my preliminary expenses like two-three months. I don’t really have credit cards and most of my finances are still left at home. So after all the fiasco, I ended up staying at a colleague’s place (we are not even that well acquainted yet) for a week until I was able to get some money to pay for my rent deposit. When not well informed, stack up on the cash.”
Read more on Tripovo
Looking for work when you move abroad
Mistake: Not going to temp agencies straight away
I’ve made the mistake of applying for all sorts of jobs when I got to a new country, but not trying to get work in the meantime. I should have gone into temp agencies straight away and tried to get work, rather than waiting until I realised it would take awhile to secure something more permanent. Sometimes the application and interview process can take months. In the United Kingdom I secured a job within 6 weeks, but I couldn’t start until a police clearance came through, which took 3 months!
Another great way to get work when you first arrive is through HelpX or Workaway. See if you can work in exchange for your accommodation which could lead to other opportunities!
So that’s a few of the mistakes you can make when you move abroad, have you made any of these, or would you have done anything differently? If you’re looking to move abroad did you find this useful? Tell me below!
If you’re looking for places to move abroad, check out The Best Expat Cities.
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