10 Things You Need to Know Before You Move Abroad

Deciding to move abroad is a big deal. You’ve got to pack your things, find a new place to live and say goodbye to your friends. That feeling you get from buying a one-way ticket will make you want to say adios to your old life and jump on that plane right now.

We’re adventure-seekers at Solgaard and each one of us has enough stories about living abroad that we could write a book. Even our Founder Adrian has moved around at least six times across 4 countries in the last 10 years. Suffice to say, we know what we’re talking about and want to save you from making the same mistakes we have, so we’ve compiled a list of 10 things you need to know before you consider moving abroad.


#1: Don’t Pack Your Bags Before You Know Why


If you’ve seen Simon Sinek’s Start With Why Ted Talk, you know that the reason behind something is paramount to a path forward to anything in life. It applies to work, family, and especially big life changes like moving abroad.

Whether you’re moving for a job, to study, or for a fresh start, here’s what you need to know:

Moving for a Job

  • If your employer is sponsoring you to relocate, make sure all the paperwork is filed and approved before you leave. If that’s not possible, check how long you’re able to stay on a tourist visa while your sponsorship is in process.
  • Freelancers have the ability to work wherever, whenever. But most of the time, that means your time runs out once your visa does. Do your research. Some countries offer freelancer or independent work visas that do not require you to register yourself as a freelancer or incorporate your business locally.
  • Working remotely is becoming more common. If you’re working remotely for a company based in your home country, make sure you are set up to pay taxes in the right place. You’ll likely be paying taxes in your home country if this is your situation, so check to see if your new home abroad has a tax treaty with your home country so you don’t end up being double-taxed.

Moving to Study 

  • Most countries offer visas to study abroad. How long you can stay abroad on that visa sometimes depends on the area of study, length of study and type of institution. Make sure you check the visa requirements before you enroll.
  • As a student, there are lots of perks of living abroad, including an instant community, a break on the cost of accommodations and student card perks at local restaurants and stores. When you’re searching for a place to stay, include the keyword “student” and you’ll find places that are much more affordable.

Moving for a New Start

  • We all go through things, and nothing feels better than the idea of a fresh start. Some call it running away, some call it a much-needed pivot. Ask yourself why you’re moving, and whether you could consider a long vacation instead.
  • Our advice in this arena is to visit the place that you want to move to for at least two weeks before you decide to uproot your life. Sometimes the emotional healing from a vacation is enough to provide some perspective. On the other hand, exploring a new country could be just the thing you need to confirm that the move is a must.


#2: There’s More to a Location Than You Think


The first thing you need to research is what kind of visas are available to you, for what reasons and for how long they’re valid for. Once you have that sorted, you should start looking at the process of obtaining permanent residency. The last thing you want to do is arrive in a new country, build a life there, have your visa run out, and then find out you’re not eligible to stay longer.


#3: Get Your Business in Order

Here comes the boring stuff. Moving abroad can feel like a dream when you first come up with the idea, but the logistics behind it can cause quite a headache if you don’t know what you need to prepare. 

Make a checklist of documents you need to obtain and bring with you before you leave. What you need depends on the country you’re moving to, but in most cases, you’ll want to apply for a visa in your home country first.

For that, common documents they ask for can include an official criminal record check, medical records, passport photos, proof of subsistence (aka enough dough to fly home if sh** hits the fan), proof of accommodations, return flights and more.


#4: Language Can Be a Challenge or a Barrier


Moving to a country where people speak a language different than yours can be just the challenge you’re up for. Some people love to learn new languages and others not so much. So be sure to ask yourself whether learning a new language is a welcomed opportunity or a barrier for you. If it’s not your jam, consider moving to an English-speaking location like Australia or the UK.

Keep in mind that English is spoken in many big cities all over the world, and many foreigners get by speaking English day-to-day. But our advice is to try and learn the language. You’ll miss so much of the brilliance of a new culture if you stick to your comfort zone.


#5: Prepare for Culture Shock

We’re not talking about going on vacation here. You’re thinking about moving your entire life to another country. Thinking about the aspects of your lifestyle that you can’t live without is essential to ensuring your happiness in your new home. Can you live without spin class? Do you have a gluten or lactose intolerance? Are you a big foodie?

Don’t expect every country in the world to be able to provide the same comforts you might enjoy in your current life. You might just have to say goodbye to avocado toast. Make a list of activities and things that are a big part of your current lifestyle and rate them based on whether you can live without them or not. Create a checklist of your must-haves and make sure your new home has at least some of those things before you make your move.


#6: Don't Pack Everything You Own


This is a biggie. Sure, you might have a life in your home country. You have things like a bed, a couch, kitchen stuff, clothes, electronics, sports gear, etc. The reality is that you might not be able to bring it all with you. Check out our post, Travel Like a Pro, for tips on packing.

We say, take this opportunity to start fresh. Bring only what you need and sell everything else. Use the money you’ve earned from selling your stuff to buy used things in your new home country. Meeting up with people to buy kitchen appliances, tables, and even plants is a great way to explore your new city and make friends.


#7: Community Can Make It or Break It


Home is where your heart is. You can move to Bali or Spain, take in all the wonder of the incredible life you could live there, but there will come a day when the most important thing about your new life is your people. Get started early and join a community of like-minded people, or create your own. Challenge yourself to hang out with people you wouldn’t normally spend time with and use that opportunity to broaden your perspective. You’re in a new place, so why not try new things?

A few ways to get started include attending Meetups, joining Facebook groups, working at a coworking space, or signing up for recreational sports.


#8: Get In and Get Out

One of the best things about moving to a new country is that there is so much to do, see, and experience. It can take quite a while to get settled in a new place but don’t rush the tourist stuff. This is your new home, so take your time. Go about a routine that works for you and sprinkle in some sightseeing here and there.

If you’re craving a getaway, don’t overlook your new country. Vacations no longer have to mean sitting on an airplane for hours. Talk to locals, ask them where they vacation. Visit small towns, lesser-known natural parks, and see more of the things that tourists overlook. It will give you a better appreciation for the culture, people and way of life in your new home.


#9: Nothing is Permanent


If you haven’t paid attention to any of these tips, pay attention to this one. Moving abroad is a big deal and big deals come with some level of anxiousness. If you get the jitters before you board that plane, remember this: nothing is permanent.

Sure, you may lose some money and you might have to rebuild again, but you can always go back or go somewhere else. This is your life, so you should choose a home that makes you happy. There’s no way to tell whether you will gel with a new place or not, so try it anyway. If it works out, great. If it doesn’t, there are 194 other countries you can try.


#10: Embrace the Change

Take a breath. You may be about to start a brand new adventure, so get excited! There’s going to be a lot of change, so prepare for it, but also keep an open mind about it. Change is good if you have the right attitude.