Despite all the detailed resources about relocating internationally, many people still believe that moving to another country is an impossible dream. While it’s true, moving internationally is not simple, it may be easier than you think if you know what to expect.
Difficulties And Problems You Think Are Preventing You From Moving Internationally
As someone who’s lived in several countries, as a child, young adult and now a married woman with children, I know all too well the challenges, concerns, and fears one might have about moving to a different country.
I would like to try to convince you that it may be easier than you think if you accept the fact that there will always be a certain degree of risk, uncertainty and concerns.
How hard is it to move to another country?
Although many concerns and fears people have about relocating to a new country are legitimate, sometimes those concerns are based on misconceptions and limiting beliefs.
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
I’ve put together a list of 10 common concerns and fears people worry about when contemplating moving to another country and why they don’t need to prevent you from achieving your dream of living abroad.
“Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible”.
1) MONEY & COST OF LIVING: I Can’t move to another country because it’s too expensive
Lack of money or cost is one reason people from western countries move to foreign countries with a lower cost of living to places such as Thailand or Mexico. Full disclosure, I’m born in Thailand.
But what if you don’t want to move to France, Japan or some other country with a higher cost of living.
Whilst it’s true that expatriating yourself on a small budget to more expensive places like Paris, London, Or Tokyo isn’t optimal, that doesn’t mean an international move to these countries isn’t possible.
For example, if you’re dreaming of moving to France but can’t afford the outrageous Parisian cost of living, there are French cities and towns that are much more affordable.
- Montpellier is the seventh-largest city in France in terms of population, and it’s 32% cheaper to live in than Paris.
- Bordeaux, which is the 9th largest French city, is 34% less expensive to live in than Paris.
- And if you move to a more rural quaint village, the cost of living gap widens even more.
I wrote all about the cost of living when we first moved to France here.
How much money will you need for an international move?
No matter which foreign country you have your heart set on, do a little financial reconnaissance. Having a ballpark figure of how much it might cost vs an abstract number will give you a clearer goal to work towards.
Start by listing all expenses you think you’ll need for your initial move; Airline Tickets, Visa application Fees, Deposit for an apartment abroad, maybe a storage unit to store your belongings, etc.
Then research the average cost of living in the various places you want to live. The goal is to get an estimate of the amount you’ll need to survive for a set period of time; six months, one year etc. There are websites you can use to research and compare the cost of living in different countries.
You might be interested in reading: finding creative ways to save more money.
2) WORKING ABROAD: It’s too hard to find a job or get a work visa!
Depending on what country you’re from and the foreign country you’re trying to move to, you may need to obtain a work visa.
For instance, if you have an Irish parent or grandparent, you can apply for an Irish passport which gives you the right to live and work in any country that is part of the EU including, Italy, France, Spain, Cyprus, and many more.
Working Holiday Visas:
I’ve been asked a few times, how can I move to another country without a job?
The answer is the Working Holiday Visa, provided you qualify.
Some countries have bilateral agreements for a “working holiday visa,” which is essentially a residence permit that allows travellers to go to a country (without a job) and search for work. Once you arrive in the host country, you have the legal right to stay and search for work in that country for 6, 12 and sometimes up to 3 years. Whether you find one is another story.
But first, you have to qualify: The requirements for a working holiday visa are straightforward:
- You are between the age of 18 to 30 (18 to 35 in select countries).
- You have enough money to pay for a return ticket,
- You must be mainly travelling to holiday, with work being a secondary intention.
- Some countries require you have a specific amount of money in your bank account before arriving. Not a lot but enough to support you while you look for work.
Examples of countries where Americans and French citizens can get a working holiday visa.
If you’re from the United States: Americans can only get a “working holiday visa” in the following countries.
- New Zealand
- South Korea
If you’re from France: French people can get a working holiday visa in many more countries:
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- Hong Kong
Visa to work abroad
If you don’t qualify for a “working holiday visa,” or your home country doesn’t have an accord with your desired destination country, you may still have options.
Find a job abroad
Most countries require that you find a job first before filing for a work visa which means a company willing to hire you has to sponsor your work visa. You usually cannot sponsor your own work visa.
This can be tricky because no one wants their jobs stolen by foreigners and companies are encouraged to find local residents before seeking international candidates. Only then can they seek international candidates.
I wrote about the types of visas needed to enter France here. It’s far easier to get a job in a specialty field.
Don’t forget to update your resume / CV using the best practices for that country. For instance, In France, it’s common practice to put a photo and sometimes your age on your CV.
3) LANGUAGE BARRIER: I can’t move abroad because I don’t speak the language
If you would like to live abroad temporarily, say for a gap year abroad, knowing the local language isn’t that big of an issue because you can learn it while you’re living abroad.
However, if you want to move to another country and work, a language barrier might hold you back.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t jobs in other countries if you don’t speak the local language. It just means that the pool of job opportunities is smaller, much smaller.
If all else fails, consider becoming a language teacher.
You’ll need to get teaching credentials first which you can obtain in as little as a few months and sometimes online. For teaching English, it’s the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language)
If you’re anxious about the difficulties of having a language barrier, start learning before you go. There are plenty of classes you can take online, like this French course.
4) GAP ON YOUR RESUME: Moving to another country is too risky if I have to quit my job. I’ll be out of the workforce and fall behind
If you’d like to spend a sabbatical year abroad, but you’re worried about having a gap year on your CV, Having a gap in your resume isn’t as big of a deal as it used?
Why not use your gap as an entry on your resume?
Even if your year abroad experience doesn’t fit under work experience, many employers view a year abroad as a positive. It shows that your well-rounded can handle change easily. Living abroad in another culture can also improve your soft skills which you can use to boost your resume. A quality that is also valuable to employers.
Examples of soft skills include Cultural understanding, listening skills, speaking skills, creative problem solving, multicultural thinking etc.
Can you take a leave of absence?
Some companies allow employees to take a leave of absence (sabbatical.) The benefit of taking a leave of absence vs quitting is when you return, you’ll still have your job.
Can you do your job remotely?
Some companies like Twitter allow employees to work remotely. If your company doesn’t allow employees to work remotely, what about finding a new job that does?
5) CHILDREN: I can’t relocate internationally to a new country because I have kids
If you’re moving to a foreign country with children, initially, they may have trouble adapting to new schools or circumstances, especially if there is a language barrier.
Naturally, you’ll need to research and plan ahead; above all else, accept that it’s going to be challenging for them. It may break your heart to see your children struggle but moving to another country has many positive effects on children.
What to expect
In my experience, it’s easier to move to a different country when children are younger. It’s the moody, hormone-filled teens and tween years that’s rougher. Again this depends on the child.
When we moved to France, my two sons, ages 13 and 14, had mixed emotions. And they did struggle with the language at school. It wasn’t until our second year living in France that things turned around for them.
They made friends, their French improved, and so did their demeanour. Today, my boys are fully adapted to French culture and are in relationships.
Ultimately, it’s important that parents provide children with a secure and stable environment and do what they can to make the move easier.
Some things you can do to help children embrace the culture of their future foreign home.
- Visit a foreign country with your children before moving.
- Involve them in the move and share the experience. Don’t leave them in the dark:
- Find the right school: Research different school options to find the best one: private, international, public etc.
- Help kids stay connected—set up regular video or phone calls with friends and family back home.
- Choose the right house.
- Choose an area or neighbourhood that suits your family and values.
- Make sure they say they have plenty of time to say proper goodbyes before relocating.
6) FRIENDS AND EXTENDED FAMILY: I can’t move to a faraway country and leave them behind; I’ll miss them.
Yes, it’s hard to say “au – revoir” to friends and family.
Missing friends and family left behind, feeling homesick, isolated, lonely and experiencing a bit of culture shock are some of the hardest parts of expat life. You may even feel guilty for leaving.
Between zoom, skype and other video calling technology, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with family and friends.
Keep in mind, being away from home can also make you more self-reliant as you learn to navigate your new life overseas by removing your safety net of friends and family. There are so many more unexpected Benefits And Advantages Of Living Abroad:
7) LOGISTICS & INTERNATIONAL MOVERS: I can’t move to another country because I have a house full of stuff
Possessions way us down, literally, but that shouldn’t stop you from taking the leap. You have options.
If you own your home and have a house full of belongings, you’re probably wondering what you should do with all your stuff.
The answer depends on how long you plan on living abroad.
We planned on living in France for one single year, so we put all of our things in storage. 10 plus years later, we’re still living in France. Ooops. It was a calculated risk. We have since gone back and culled our belongings to just the essential sentimental things to ship them to France.
If you’re moving abroad to retire, you need to decide between selling your items or hiring an international moving company to relocate your belongings.
And if you own your home but don’t want to sell it, the obvious answer is to rent it out. The additional income may help supplement your life abroad. Don’t forget to check your local laws to see if you need to hire a property manager.
8) AGE: I can’t move to a different country because I’m too old/ young / I have to wait until I’m retired
There’s no universally perfect age or ideal time to move internationally. Some people think it’s best to move while abroad when they’re young.
Others think it’s best to move after retirement.
Keep in mind that some foreign countries don’t have a retirement visa. For instance, it’s almost impossible to move to Canada unless you’re working age and can get a company to hire you. Or you have close to a million Canadian dollars and can invest in a business.
Retiring to France, on the other hand, is much easier as long as you can prove that you have the money to support yourself and won’t be a drain on the economy. You’ll probably have to do some research into health insurance too.
Personally, I think moving to another country when you’re younger is better if you can manage it financially. You never know what will happen in the later years of your life.
9) UNCOOPERATIVE PARTNER: My spouse or significant other doesn’t want to move to another country.
Initially, my husband wasn’t on board with the idea of moving to France. Not because he didn’t want to but because we had good jobs (golden handcuffs). When we lost our jobs during the recession, he said it was too expensive, and we didn’t have jobs lined up.
Obviously, I convinced him because we’ve been living in France since 2011.
How did I convince my husband to move abroad? Initially, the plan was to live in France for one year. It went so well, we stayed a second, third, fourth and now it’s been 10 years.
I wish there were a one size fits all solution to help you convince your partner that moving to another country is a good idea, but everyone’s situation is different.
If you have your heart set on moving abroad, and you’re looking for ways to convince your spouse, read this article.
10) RISK: Moving abroad is too risky
Feeling like an international move is too risky or worrying that you’ll regret your decision ranks right up there with worrying about not having enough money.
Don’t put off your hopes and dreams because you’re afraid of losing your safe, comfortable life.
Safety is an illusion; anything can happen.
I lived the life I thought I was supposed to live: university, career, marriage, kids, two-car garage and home in the burbs. I made all the safe and practical decisions I was supposed to make, but we still ended up unemployed.
That’s ok though, because losing the golden handcuffs was the catalyst that set us in motion to move to France in 2011.
As cliché as it sounds, It’s riskier NOT going after your dreams because you risk your happiness.
You might be interested in reading 25 Unexpected Benefits And Advantages Of Living Abroad:
Start by collecting research about your international move
The key to any move abroad is to research, prepare, plan and take action. It might take you 3 months, or it might take you 10 years.
Ask yourself what your goals or why you want to move
- Is it to move internationally and work as an expat?
- Is it temporary: to spend six months abroad for cultural reasons or to learn a language?
- Is it to immigrate to a new country and eventually gain citizenship?
- Is it to retire overseas?
- Is the goal of your international move for health reasons?
- Is it to find employment and gain international experience?
Life in a new country can be exciting; there’s no doubt.
Other things to consider are health care, a driver’s license, opening bank accounts, documents you’ll need, shipping your possessions, culture shock etc.
Determining your goals, researching, and find the answers to your questions are all just part of the process.
But if you don’t take those first steps, you’ll never know if it’s even possible.