coping with living abroad

Moving to a New Country, How to Cope

Author: Steven Coleman

A while ago I wrote about moving countries, where to find information and what questions you should be asking yourself. Having experienced a couple of country moves I can give you a few tips.

Everything I wrote before on researching the country on websites, joining blogs and finding out whether your salary is going to cover your cost of living, are all relevant. What I want to do is take you through the process of moving. If you are being hired by a company who are going to help you move, life is going to be a lot easier. If however, you are going to be doing this on your own you need to prepare yourself for a little work.

Firstly, find out what you need from a documentation point of view to get into the new country.

1. Do you need a visa, which type of visa will you need (working, spousal, minor children, etc) for each member of the family and start preparing the documentation for them.

2. Documents could include Unabridged birth certificates, ID documents, Passports, Passport Photos, Marriage Certificate, each country has its own requirements. Some countries require a police / criminal clearance. Find out either from the government website or the embassy in your country as to what you need, or alternatively find an agency that can do it all for you. An agency will let you know what you need to get and can assist you in obtaining the relevant documents.

Secondly, what will you need to do when you get to the new country.

1. You will need to find a place to stay in the interim, open a bank account, organise a post box, transport, etc, so you need to find out what you need to have to do these. Do you need to keep certified copies of your passport or bank statements, etc?

2. Will you need to go through medicals for any reason, do you need to take any medical records with you?

3. How do you set up your medical aid, life insurance, buy or rent a property, get a phone installed???

Once again if you are moving with a company all of this will be a lot easier, as you will always have someone to facilitate you with the processes, but moving to a foreign country where everything is different could take its toll. Sometimes the best advice is just to ask.

Thirdly, prepare yourself for the move.

1. Start planning, make a list of everything you need to do.

2. Our list consisted of the following:

a. Plan the day you are going to fly out and book the tickets, this date will determine all the below dates. First ensure that you have all documentation required before booking your tickets.

b. List all accounts that need to be paid or cancelled and the dates that this needs to be completed by e.g. Medical Aid, Security company, Car insurance, Telephone account, Internet account, Post box, Clothing accounts, etc.

c. Decide what to do with your bank account, and all the cards attached to it. Do you want to keep your account open and keep all the cards, or just keep 1 card? Remember the bank charges that you will need to pay monthly and that you will have 2 sets of bank accounts if you do keep it open. However, it could be worthwhile so that you have money available and cards that you can use.

d. What are you going to do with your car/s, house, other assets, furniture, even down to your clothes - if you are going to sell them start planning what to sell, how much for and how you need to go about doing this, with deadline dates. Alternatively you can store your belongings.

e. If you require to give someone power of attorney to sell anything or do any other legal work for you, decide on who you would want to do this for you and how to go about doing it. Your bank can normally assist you in this process.

f. Decide what you want to do with your Life policies, Retirement annuities, or any other policy or investment you have made, your broker can help you with these decisions.

g. When are you going to tell everyone about this decision you have made, do you have to resign from a job before you go and when do you need to let them know, plan your decision carefully as you don’t want to leave with any problems.

h. Do you employ anyone, start planning how to tell them you are leaving, what they need to be paid, is there a retrenchment package attached, write referral letters, do you need to write letters to any government departments to inform them of the change in status of your employee and leave with everyone happy.

i. If you are taking any personal belongings with you start getting quotes from removal companies and make a decision on who to go with. Get at least 5 quotes to be objective and ensure you are comfortable with the service, and get referrals.

j. Are you taking animals with you? If so do the same as above. Find out whether there are any special requirements you need to take into account when taking your animals with you. Do you need to keep them in quarantine and if so for how long, what documentation do you need to get for them and vaccinations?

k. Organise someone to take you to the airport.

l. Check on how you are all feeling, how are the kids doing and how do they feel about the move. Talk about it and let the kids know what is happening.

m. Have a farewell party for all of you, the kids and their friends and you and your friends. There needs to be some form of closure, and it will make you feel just how special all the people in your life are and how special you are to them.

n. Remember to keep contact details close at hand of everyone that is important to you.

o. See if you can find a personal relocator in the country you are moving too, they can be of great help too.

I hope this helps in the process required to relocate. It can be daunting and unsettling, or an adventure, you need to decide how to perceive the move. In my next article, I will write about settling in and the processes you need to go through to do this.

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About the Author:

Steven Coleman runs the most comprehensive global relocation calculator available, an internet service that is used primarily to calculate expatriate salary levels for global assignments, which can be found at

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