Living overseas is one of the most rewarding things you can ever do – it gives you so much perspective on life, helps you understand people, places and cultures other than your own and tests your limits and boundaries. Without these life shaping experiences (both the good and the bad), I have to say I would be such a different person. For one, I doubt I would have had the courage to make the leap from town planner to blogger, and all those different experiences helped me understand what the world out there is about, something that I can’t put into words let alone put a price on. When the concept of moving to London came up, my boyfriend and I jumped at it (a pair of Glastonbury tickets picked up last minute was the incentive) so you can imagine I’m more of a fly by the seat of your pants type person than an over-planner, but luckily when it came around to us moving to Hong Kong three years later, the experiences (ahem, trial and error) of moving to London had imparted many lessons, including what to do before, during and after the move. Read on to see the first part of my tips. I hope you’ll seriously contemplate relocating, if only for a year!
1. Get qualified/experienced
Unless you’re lucky enough to be relocating with work (the dream!) or already have a job lined up (go you!), when you move to another country, you want to put yourself in a position where you’re as appealing as possible to employers – cos seriously, girls gotta eat right? And never so much as when you live in another country away from the cocoon of your family and friends. Yes you could head off with zero experience and zero skills but chances are you’ll find yourself working in roles that don’t quite pay the bills, let alone allow you to travel and give you a sense of achievement. Whether or not you’re going the university route, do whatever you can to extend the length of your resume – take that course, work in that job, say yes to that manager role, do that out of hours work, all so that your prospects are better when you arrive. I moved to London at 21 with no job lined up (same when I moved to Hong Kong – that’s how I roll!) but I had done my Bachelors and Honors degrees, and bolstered that with two years full time work in my field of Town Planning. Although job hunting still sucked, having a few different experiences and qualifications made it much easier to get my foot in the door at interviews.
2. Save Money
This is probably a pretty obvious one, but saving money is the one thing you need to do in order to have the freedom to go and live somewhere else – that is if you want to do it without a constant feeling doom and a rock in the pitt of your stomach up until the point you get a job. Setting up a new life can be expensive, from organising a new house to funding your coffee habit (which will go hand in hand with job hunting) so as a basic rule, try to get three months of your salary down so you give yourself a nice buffer – this will probably mean forgoing nice clothes and dinners with friends, but your overseas jaunt is sooo worth it!
3. Decide on the country
There are so many options when it comes to where you could go, on this score the world is literally your oyster. A few things to think about when deciding what country to move to are:
- Where can you go that would support your field/work/interests? Look for vacancies in your profession/job.
- Is there a community of people from your home country that would make it easy to link up and share info? Don’t underestimate the power of a mutual love of Vegimite/Marmite/Twinkies.
- How easy would it be to move there? Some systems are designed to be easier than others.
- What is the climate like? Can you handle two layers of tights in winter or not?
- What are the pollution levels like?
- What is the medical system like? This is particularly important if you have any major medical conditions, but accident and emergency is also important to consider.
- How long do you want to move for?
- How easy it is to get a visa (see below)
- What part of the country? Obviously bigger metropolitan cities will have the greatest concentration of opportunities, but don’t overlook more regional locations which may have less competition (nothing like being a a big fish in a small pond).
4. Get your visa
One of the biggest barriers to being able to move to a country is obviously Visas, and getting that sorted at the outset is key to a happy trip (trust me, visa dramas are the worst). Do some research about places your home country has reciprocal arrangements with – I know Australia and the US has reciprocal arrangements with many countries which allow people to take a working holiday, thus allowing them not to be tied down to a single employer – this is the best scenario. However, if the place you want to go has no such arrangements, a lot of people find the best way to live in a country is to get sponsored by an employer. This has varying levels of difficulty depending on the place, where you come from and what sector you work in so it’s worth checking before you go. A lot of people in this situation travel to the country as a tourist and look around for jobs at that point, and then reenter the country when they get their visa. If you live in Europe or have multiple citizenships you’ll have more options, and I would suggest you take the easy one!
Nothing is better than a quick trip to a country you’re considering to moving to as a way to crystallise your plans and help you decide if a) you want to move there at all and b) if so, where should you live? where should you work? where will your favourite coffee shop be? etc etc. Just go!
6. Research, research, research
Once you know the country you want to move to, the next step is to understand all you can from a far about what you need to know to live there. Research online about the place and all you need to do to prepare including local customs, languages, cities, regions and laws. Obviously forums are a good way to hear directly from people about their experiences, however I would use them with a pinch of salt – usually it’s the people with the worst experiences who spend the most time on forums.
7. Apply for Jobs
Ok so this one is pretty obvious, and is something you should start doing before you go. That said, in my limited experience it’s not that simple to get job when you’re far away. Unless you’re in a super sought after profession or you know them, often people want to see you land and be on the ground before they’ll give you the opportunity. However, there’s nothing like getting a feel for your industry than linking up with recruiters or emailing job advertisements. If you’re in a creative sector, looking up and following companies on social media that you want to work for is a great to way stay up to date.
8. Reach out to people
In this day and age it’s really easy to find out if you already know someone living in the place you’re moving to, simply have a look around Facebook and ask friends. Although those blind friend dates that are part and parcel of moving somewhere else can be a tad awkward, there’s nothing you’ll appreciate more than tips from a local about areas to live in and how to go about setting up, and you never know, maybe you’ll make some much needed new friends? Some of my best friends in different countries I’ve met this way so just do it!