Despite all the detailed websites and books about relocating internationally, many people still believe that moving to another country is an impossible dream of fairy tales. While it’s true, it’s not easy, it may be easier than you think if you accept the fact that there will always be a certain degree of risk, uncertainty, concerns and fears.
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
-Quoting Nelson Mandela
Difficulties And Problems Stopping You From Moving To Another Country
As someone who’s lived in several countries, as a child, young adult and now a married woman with children, I understand the many challenges, concerns, fears and doubts one might have about moving to another country.
How many of your fears and concerns about moving to another country are justified?
Many concerns about moving to another country are legitimate but sometimes our fears, concerns, and doubts that prevent us from pursuing our seemingly impossible dream of moving to another country are based on misconceptions and limiting beliefs.
In other words, sometimes we are our own worst enemy.
It’s only when you overcome those fears, and work on solutions that you’ll be able to take the first step towards accomplishing your international move.
I’ve put together a list of the top 10 most common problems people worry about when contemplating moving to another country.
“Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible”.
1) FINANCES & MONEY: I Can’t move to another country because it’s too expensive
Money or lack of it is one reason people from western countries move to foreign countries with a lower cost of living, such as Thailand or Mexico. Full disclosure, I’m born in Thailand.
But what if you don’t want to move to another country that has a lower standard of living?
Costs of living
Whilst it’s true that expatriating yourself on a low budget to more expensive places like Paris, London, Or Tokyo isn’t optimal, that doesn’t mean an international move near these locations is impossible.
For example, if you’re dreaming of moving to France but can’t afford the outrageous Parisian cost of living, there are many French cities and towns that are much more affordable.
- Montpellier, where we currently live, 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.
Planning to move: How much money will you need for an international move?
No matter which foreign country you have your heart set on moving to, your first line of action is to prepare by doing a little financial reconnaissance.
Start by creating a cost analysis of all the expenses you’ll need for your initial move.
Airline Ticket, Visa application Fees, storage, Deposit for an apartment abroad, maybe 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 a ballpark figure of how much you’ll need to survive for a set period of time, six months, one year etc. There are many websites online where you can research and compare the cost of living in different countries compared to yours.
Once you have an estimate of how much it might cost to move and settle in your chosen city, you now have your savings goal.
Having a concrete goal to work towards is much easier to achieve than an abstract idea.
Can’t save fast enough? You’ll have to get a job abroad and or find creative ways to save more money.
2) WORKING ABROAD: It’s too hard to find a job or get a work visa!
Getting a job and finding employment in another country usually involves obtaining a work visa.
Whether or not you need a work visa depends largely on where you’re from and the foreign country you’re trying to move to.
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, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, and many more.
Working Holiday Visas:
Some countries have bilateral agreements for a working holiday visa which is essentially a residence permit that allows travellers to go to a country and search for work. Once you arrive in the host country, you have the legal right to work in that country for 6, 12 and sometimes up to 3 years.
The requirements for a working holiday visa are pretty straight forward:
- Be between the age of 18 to 30 but 18 to 35 in a select few countries.
- 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 a specific amount of money to be in your bank account before arriving.
Again it depends on where you’re from and the destination country, which must have a bilateral accord (agreement) with your home country.
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
Regular work visa to work abroad
If you don’t qualify for a working holiday visa, your home country doesn’t have an accord with your desired destination country, or you’re too old to get a working holiday visa, things get a little more difficult.
In most countries, you have to apply for a job first before getting a work visa.
Once you find a company that is willing to hire you, that company must then sponsor your work visa. You normally cannot just apply for a work visa without a job first.
This can be tricky because most companies are encouraged to find locals before seeking international candidates. I wrote about the types of visas needed to enter France here.
Keep in mind; different countries have different standards and best practices for preparing a CV / Resume. 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 go because I don’t speak the language
If your main goal is to live abroad temporarily, say for a gap year abroad or a family sabbatical year abroad, knowing the local language isn’t an issue because you can learn it while living abroad.
However, if you want to move to another country and work, a language barrier might hold you back. It’s a fact of life. If you don’t speak at minimum a basic language level, how can you do your job?
Look at it from the other side of the coin. If you were a bank manager looking to hire a new bank teller, does it make sense to hire someone who doesn’t speak your language? Non it doesn’t.
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 much smaller.
The exception might be if you were to become a language teacher, teaching English, German, Spanish, etc. You’ll need to get TEFL certified first to teach English.
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: It’s too risky to quit my job so I can move to a new country: I’ll be out of the workforce and fall behind
This is a real concern for people who want to spend a sabbatical year abroad before committing to a longer stay.
Apart from quitting your job, you may have some options with your current employer.
Some companies allow employees to take a leave of absence, sometimes called a sabbatical. The benefit of taking a leave of absence vs quitting is when you return, you’ll still have your job. Some companies even allow employees to retain their health benefits.
Can you do your job remotely?
Some companies like Twitter and Square, a financial services company, allow their employees to work remotely. If your company doesn’t allow employees to work remotely, what about finding a new job that you can do remotely?
Flex jobs is a site I’ve personally used and recommend to find remote work.
Having a gap in your resume
If you do end up quitting your job and moving abroad, having a gap in your resume isn’t as big of a deal as it used to be.
Even if your year abroad experience doesn’t fit under work experience, you can include it as an entry on your resume.
Many employers view a year abroad as a positive. It shows that your well-rounded and can handle change easily.
While abroad, you could also work on getting a new set of skills or learn a new language.
5) CHILDREN: I can’t go 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 plan ahead, do lots of research and 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, especially to another country, has many positive effects.
When you pick up and move to another country, you’re essentially starting over. Everything requires more thought and effort. And because everything is different, they learn to adapt, a skill that you learn through practice. They’ll also have a broader worldview.
What to expect
In my experience, it’s much easier to a different country when children are younger because they seem to adapt much more easily.
It’s the moody, hormone-filled teen and tween years that may be tougher. Again this depends on the child. When I moved as a teen to another country, I was so looking forward to it.
When we moved to France, my two sons, ages 13 and 14, were keen on living in France. But they really struggled with the language at school, and it wasn’t so fun for a while. It wasn’t until around the end of the second year abroad 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.
My youngest child was 4 years old when we moved to France. Because she was so young and had lived in Quebec for a while, she already spoke French. Her transition was seamless.
It was hard to see my two older boys struggle, but it was worth it in the end. Taking my kids out of their protected suburban bubble to experience other cultures has made them more compassionate, worldly and well-rounded individuals.
Here are some things you can do to help children embrace the culture of their future foreign home.
Ultimately, it’s important that parents provide children with a secure and stable environment and do what they can to make the move to a new country easier.
- Visit the foreign country with your children before moving.
- Please don’t leave your children in the dark: Involve them in the move and share the experience.
- Find the right school: Research different school options to find the best one, whether it be an international, private, or public school abroad.
- Help the kids stay connected with friends and family back home. Setup regular video or phone calls.
- Choose the right house.
- Choose an area or neighbourhood that suits your family and values.
- Make sure they say their proper goodbyes and have plenty of time to do so.
6) FRIENDS AND EXTENDED FAMILY: I can’t move to a far away country and leave them behind; I’ll miss them.
Yes, it’s hard to say “au – revoir” to friends and family back home.
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.
But 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 many benefits to moving abroad: Here are 25 Unexpected Benefits And Advantages Of Living Abroad:
But making an international move to a new country doesn’t mean you have to lose contact with friends and family back home.
Between zoom, skype and other video calling technology, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with family and friends.
7) LOGISTICS: I can’t move to another country because I have a house full of stuff
Our possessions way us down, literally, but that shouldn’t stop you from taking the leap. You have options.
If you own your home and or 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.
Blake and I planned to live in France for one 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 didn’t know we would live in France this long, but that’s ok. We have since gone back and culled our belongings to just the essential sentimental things. We had planned on shipping our things to France but then covid 19 happened.
If you’re moving abroad to retire, you need to make a decision: Do you sell everything, ship everything, or hire an international moving company to relocate your belongings (expensive)?
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 be able to supplement your life abroad. You may need a property manager.
8) AGE: I can’t move to a different country because I’m too old/ too young / I have to wait until I’m retired
There is no perfect age to move to another country. Some think they should work until retirement age and then move abroad to retire. There’s nothing wrong with 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.
Retiring to France is much easier as long as you can prove that you have the finances and won’t be a drain on the economy.
Personally, I think it’s better to move to another country when you’re younger (if you can). You never know what will happen in the later years of your life.
9) UNCOOPERATIVE SPOUSE: My spouse or significant other doesn’t want to move to another country.
My husband has always loved to travel, but he wasn’t on board with the idea of moving abroad to France. Not because he didn’t want to but because it seemed risky, we had good jobs, and it seemed expensive.
Obviously, I convinced him because as I write this, we’ve been living in France with our three children for over a decade now.
How did I convince my husband to move abroad? Initially, the plan was only 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 to another country, 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 to another country 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.
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 eventually.
As cliché as it sounds, It’s riskier NOT going after your dreams because you risk your happiness.
Of course, moving to another country is not free of inconveniences and occasional frustrations, but it might not be as hard as you think.
The key to any move abroad is to research, research, research and to prepare and plan. The more you know, the more you’ll understand your options.
Ask yourself what are your goals.
- Is it to move to another country 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 some destination and eventually become permanent residency or citizenship?
- Is it to retire overseas?
- Is it for health reasons?
Other things to consider are health care, getting a driver’s license, opening bank accounts, and how to handle friends and family back home.
Determining your goals, researching, and find the answers to your questions are all just part of the process. If you don’t take those first steps, you’ll never know if it’s really possible to move to a new country or not.