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How To Choose A Country To Move To

Did you know you could choose a new country to move to get your travel fix? Instead of just travelling, if you have the opportunity, why not try living in another country for a while?

You’ve likely stumbled across this article because you’re looking to move to another country. But are you struggling to decide how to choose a country to move to? I’ve been there and can help! 

I’ve moved country seven times, not including two times moving back to New Zealand. It’s completely changed my life! And I always encourage people to give living abroad a go if they have the opportunity.

But it has to be approached from a practical point of view, which is where the below checklist comes in.

How to choose a country to move to - walking across a bridge in Spain

Moving countries is an awesome way to travel.

As an expat, you can base yourself in another part of the world where you’ll be able to continue to earn money to help you continue to travel, get explore another culture from within, and travel in another region without having to save as much money before you go.

Most people make the decision to travel or move overseas with a destination in mind, like when I moved to Spain to teach English.

But sometimes you just know you want to explore the world but may not know where to start.

In case you’re having a hard time narrowing down your choices, or you’re just not sure where to start, then let’s look at some crucial points that can help you choose the best expat country for you.

Of course, there are many obstacles to moving abroad and it’s not always that easy, but there are certainly some things you can control.

Moving Overseas Alone - Standing at fence at Loch Ness

Let’s start with the biggest question.

Visa Requirements – But am I allowed to live there?

This is the big question when you’re choosing where in the world you want to live.

Unfortunately, you can’t always live where you want to, so be flexible and realise anywhere is a great new experience.

There’s no point getting really excited about the idea of moving overseas only to find that the place you have your heart set on isn’t possible for you. I see so many people who want to move to Scotland fall into this trap!

The biggest question is: Can you get a visa to live in that country?

Do you need a work visa to live abroad or can you work without one? 

If you’re younger than 30, or sometimes 35, and depending on where you’re from, there are a wealth of working holiday visa opportunities.

For Kiwis and Aussies, the UK Youth Mobility Visa is almost a right of passage. Similarly, many people from Ireland and the UK plan a working holiday in Australia or New Zealand.

If you’re older than 30 and working holidays aren’t an option, it doesn’t mean you’re out of luck! You just need to be a little more creative about your expat country of choice.

Can you get a visa somewhere to teach English? Do you have skills that would mean a company might sponsor you for a working visa? There are always some countries, like Germany, where you can apply for a freelance visa if you have your own business and income.

If you can’t get a visa, but you want to travel long-term, then consider volunteering across several countries in exchange for your accommodation and food with an organisation like HelpX. Be aware some countries (including the UK) still consider this type of “volunteer” work, working, and you will not be allowed in on a tourist visa if this is your intention.

Alsobe aware of how long you can stay in a country as a tourist. Overstaying on a visa can cause problems if you want to return at a later date.

If you can work remotely or run your own remote business, then you could consider a digital nomad visa as well. These weren’t even a thing when I started moving abroad, and now they’re super popular, and lots of countries have this as an option!

Read More: Teaching English in Spain with the Auxiliar de Conversacion Program

New Zealand South Island View of Mount Cook

Pick a climate

If you have investigated some visa options for countries you’re thinking about moving to, and have a few possibilities, then now you can do some of the fun stuff!

Are you a beach bum or a snow bunny?

Prefer urban scrawl or rolling hills?

Do you live in a tropical country and want to experience life in a cold one, or maybe you want something similar to what you know?

Choosing where you want to live abroad can mean making a complete change or sticking to what you know and like.

It can also save you money if you move to a similar climate because you’ll have a suitable wardrobe! 

However, I don’t think the climate should affect your choice when moving country too much because you can make the most of any place.

When I studied abroad in southwest Canada it rained pretty much nonstop for four months and I still fell in love with Canada.

And now I live in Scotland. Which is beautiful but can be fairly rainy and definitely isn’t as warm as I’d love.

If we waited for the weather to be better before we went exploring, I’d still be sitting there five years later! The weather becomes a part of the experience; you just need the right clothes.

Read More: 10 Favourite City Breaks During Winter in Europe

How To Choose A Country To Move To
Iceland – You don’t have to move somewhere warm to have an amazing time!

What’s nearby?

Sometimes choosing which country you want to live in as an expat is also about what’s nearby.

If you base yourself in South America, you’ll find it easiest to explore the countries in that area; similarly, if you base yourself in Europe, you can be in several other countries within an hour or two flight.

If you want to live in Australia, then it’s big enough to keep you occupied for a while, and New Zealand is just a hop across the ditch!

Obviously, where you want to live abroad depends on where you’re from, but coming from New Zealand means anywhere I move abroad gives me so many more opportunities for travel.

Looking at the bigger picture when choosing the country to move to can make for a much longer, more exciting stay.

And if you can’t get a visa for your first choice country, then maybe one nearby is a possibility instead.

How To Choose A Country To Move To
Thailand – Maybe South East Asia and the beach is more your style?

Job opportunities

Looking at job opportunities in another country could be a deciding factor when you’re choosing a country to move to.

You could begin your country search by looking at which opportunities you can find, for example, if you want to be a snowboarding instructor then Canada would make sense, or if you want to teach English you could look at South Korea, Japan, or other South East Asian countries.

Equally, the work opportunities could be the last thing you consider in your search. For example, you could have decided to move to Australia and then look at whether you want an admin job in the city or to work in a pub in a small town.

If you speak the language, there are likely more to be a broad range of job opportunities available, including doing something similar to what you already do.

What work you might be able to secure can make or break your plans, so it’s vital you spend a lot of time researching what’s currently available to you should you move to a particular country.

BEst Places to Travel Solo - Spain

There are some typical expat jobs in particular countries, or you may be able to work in your chosen field.

Here are some practical tips for searching for jobs abroad:

  • Find out what the number one job website is for that country, and start marking jobs.
  • Contact or register with temp agencies (although they often prefer you to be there)
  • Use your network. Get back in touch with anyone you know who has been there, knows someone who has or knows someone who’s there. Both to get the lowdown on the job market and to make contacts.
  • Join Facebook groups for expats in your country of choice. They are full of useful hands-on tips and could even lead to work.
  • Evaluate your skills and think about whether you could do any standard expat jobs
  • Think outside the box; your first job may just be for you to get your feet under the table in your desired country. It doesn’t have to be forever! 
  • Consider whether you could work remotely, which could mean you apply for a digital nomad visa instead.

When I first moved to Scotland I signed up with a temp agency and worked random jobs (I’m a pro at stuffing envelopes) before landing the position I had for the rest of my visa through the normal job application process.

My number one suggestion is to find something you can do while you are waiting for something you want.

That might mean working in hospitality for a while, even if it’s not your favourite, or working for the hostel you’re staying in, or pulling staples from files for 8 hours a day as one lucky friend of mine did.

It’s all worth it to live abroad, right?!

Read More: The Best Expat Jobs That Help You Travel the World

How To Choose A Country To Move To
London – A first choice for many Kiwis and Aussies, and a place with a lot of opportunities

Ultimately it doesn’t matter which country you choose to move abroad to, the people you meet, and the experiences you have will make it what it is, which is hopefully one of the best experiences of your life.

The crucial part of deciding which country is to begin the process and actually do it.

You’ll never find the perfect safety net that will tell you absolutely everything you need to know. Sometimes you just have to take the leap and book your ticket!

Still stuck on where to move abroad? Check out the Best Expat Cities.

And see What You Should Know Before You Move Abroad.

Here’s all the information you’ll need to have the best experience you can:

Expat Stories and Inspiration – read about other people’s lives abroad:

Money and Tips:

Job and Visa Tips:

  Sonja x

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Expat Life: How to Choose a Country to Move to

11 thoughts on “How To Choose A Country To Move To

  1. Eloise says:

    Great tips here! I’ve lived in England (>1 year) and Turkey (6 months) before moving to Australia (>3.5 years). That’s a fantastic way to travel and fully experience a different culture. For now I’ve found my balance in Brisbane and settled there!

    • Migrating Miss says:

      Thanks Eloise! Living abroad is so different from travelling, you really get a chance to immerse yourself. That’s great you’ve found somewhere with balance. I’m still searching for it!

      In the meantime I’m living on the Gold Coast, it’s a small world!

    • Afnan says:

      Hi Eloise! Wow you moved a lot in a relatively short period. I am thinking of moving but I am scared. Is it easy to keep moving?

  2. Charmaine says:

    Hey Sonja, love to speak to you about how you moved from one place to another! I love listening stories of how people can migrate from one country to another because that is exactly what I try to do as well! I’m from Canada, and lived in France, Singapore and now in Hong Kong. We can share stories!

  3. Cécile says:

    The local food is in my top 3 criteria personally, especially if it’s a long-term expatriation!
    Cécile, a French expat in San Francisco 🙂

  4. Kewpie says:

    Hello & Kiora Sonja,

    I got back from Work and Holiday Visa in Australia. Sadly to say, I should have found your website in the prior time. I also felt a little bit sad that I withdrew Work Holiday in NZ where I was supposed to be there yet. But it’s happened!!!! Gotta redirected my life again & accepted my crazy decision. I recently have read some of your articles, right, those are very informative and helpful!!!!! Sort of things for me to list and make some decisions to pick a country for my next destination. I’m gonna stay positive for whatever reasons and be more inclined towards my gut feelings as well. Much appreciate to your amazing advice!

    Support & Hugs 🙂

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