A Guide to Moving Abroad

One day, your foreign boss sent you a message out of nowhere, asking about your expertise and what else can you do. The next thing you know, you have been asked if you considered relocating abroad to be part of a team.

This happened to me. It all happened in a span of about two weeks. And within four months (the legal and immigration aspects had something to do with it), I was already on a plane to live in an entire new country with nothing but the expertise I was expected of, some hopes and dreams for an entirely new future.

It sounds easy, but it isn’t. And I’m maybe one of those lucky few who got all the support from the company I work for, the decision to move abroad still made me consider a few things before I signed off that contract and hopped on a one-way flight to a new country to which I would call my new home for an indefinite period of time.

This guide will be all about the experiences I had and I think that one should consider before deciding on that big move. After all, we’re not just changing countries. It’s an entire new chapter of our lives that we should consider here. There will be a change in lifestyle. You will have to adapt to a new culture. You will either leave your family behind or bring them with you. You will leave your friends and will meet some new ones. The place you will leave behind will move on without you and when you come back to visit, it will not be the same.

I created this guide mainly for single people, as I am one. But for anyone who is married or have dependents who will relocate with you in another place, I wish this might help, too. I tried to compartmentalize each considerations I have taken, and I’m telling you, writing this list resulted into one lengthy post. So here it goes…

Salary. In my country, the Philippines, the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) made up a big part of the country’s GDP, in which the remittance earned from the money being sent by them to their families significantly contributed a lot to the economy. People is one of the highest imports of the country, and many of my fellowmen moved to work abroad for a higher income to provide for their family. While this was not my case, I still considered this, thinking if it’s worth the move and leave everything behind or can I earn this at home? One of the sites I went to was Glassdoor, as it has a comparative analysis of the professional positions in certain countries that defines the competitiveness of your salary. Also take note of the health benefits, social security contributions, employment benefits and retirement investment program, if the company have any. Make sure to check if the company also have protection for their employees. These areas I mentioned are very important because when you live alone or with your new family in a new environment, you have to consider the things that would take care of you while you’re there. These can be checked against what the country has to offer to its workers. While I had no problems in the benefits I had I in Thailand when I was there, when I had the opportunity to move to France, my French manager in Bangkok has enlightened me with the benefits I might be getting. Discussions like these are very important once you considered about moving abroad.

Visa / Work Permit. Is there a definite period in your contract on how long are you going to work in the company? Who is going to process your visa? Are you going to get an assistance for this or are you going to do this on your own? What are the documents needed to process your visa or work permit? Secure your birth certificate, marriage certificate, education diplomas, social security certificates or documents, previous income tax documents, health records, travel insurance, financial accounts, government ID, other IDs, land or house titles (if you have investment properties in your country of birth) and latest photos. Make sure to have copies of these and also have it scanned and saved in your laptop or in the Cloud, so you can access it anytime. Double-check that your passport is not going to expire soon, too. Check the immigration website of the country where you will be moving in and how does the process work for a work visa, what are the requirements, as well as the fees.

Savings. Everyone knows that savings is important. We work to live, and that should include saving something for the rainy days. Once you have considered the salary you will be getting, think on how much of the percentage will go to your savings. If you can, calculate to make 10-20% of your monthly net salary should go to your savings. After savings, that’s when you check how much should go for the rent, for the groceries, and other expenses.

Tax. Consider the tax to be deducted from the salary you will be given. How much would it be for a single person or for a married person (if you’re going to bring your family with you abroad and declare them as your dependents)? How to declare the income taxes? It’s different in every country and their government websites have information on this matter. You should ask your employer about this, as well, especially when salary negotiation is a very important discussion on the table. After all, you should also be considering the…

Cost of Living. It is different in every country. The Philippines, in my comparison, has a higher cost of living but lesser salary than Thailand, where I moved years ago. I never knew anything about Bangkok except the only time I went there for a business trip so, I researched online how life happens for the foreigners. Bangkok is a bustling city and the things and places one needs are very accessible. And then, before moving to France later in 2018, I found that the cost of living in Europe is much higher than Asia. Upon research, even if I am earning in Euros, the salary I am receiving is competitive against the cost of living in France. The rent I was paying for a 65sqm condo in Bangkok is almost the same to the one I’m paying for my 35sqm apartment in France. The food is different, too, so you have to adjust if you want to cook and how and where to get the ingredients. There are several discussion sites who could help you give ideas on how much to spend on personal living expenses such as grocery and clothing, including the kids’ education (if you have any), the cost of rent, etc. Make a list.

Budget. Initially create a budget. This will set you to focus on what is important on the first few months upon moving in to a new country. List down the possible expenses that you need to spend. Is the company going to provide a relocation allowance? Do you need an extra money on hand for the advance deposit for the rent of an apartment? If you have an idea already on where you think will be a good place to live, set a budget for payment for the first two months of rent. This might come from your own pockets or if you’re fortunate, the company will share it with you. You will not get your salary yet until the end of the month, so set aside a budget for food and transportation. If you’re going to take some things with you, research for a moving company such as Sta. Fe Relocation that have quality, safe, reasonable, and competitive packages to help in moving your things from one country to another.

Proximity. I have a series of questions on this and some of them are:
1. How are you going to travel to and from work?
2. How long will it take? Is the traffic bad?
3. Are you going to take the public transportation or do you plan to get a car? What are the alternative modes of transportation?
4. Is having a car part of the relocation/employment package?
5. Where is the cheap place to live and is it a safe area?
6. Where is the best place to live that is not too far from your place of work, or somehow easy enough to take the public transportation?
7. Is it near a train station, the bus station or the airport?
8. Are there any nearby hospitals, stores or malls?
9. Are there nearby recreation areas to keep you occupied on weekends?

Language. You have to check how language will affect the way you work and you live in a new country. Do they speak English or something else? If it’s a different language, do you think they are also open to speak English so it would be easier for you to immerse in this new life you are considering? It will be very respectful to research about the language of the country you’re moving into. This will also help you discover their culture and history, and with that, it will help you prepare on how to adapt to your new circumstances. Thai was a difficult language for me because of its many tones that has different meanings when you speak. I did not realize I have been saying a different thing inside the train for a year until my colleague corrected me on how to pronounce the words. Moving to France was also in a challenge in a way that it’s an entirely different culture – this is coming from an Asian who hasn’t been to Europe before. While I learned French when I was in the university, I never got the chance to practice it and only remember a few basic ones. So, I reviewed my French before moving to France, but once I got here, it was still different. The French I knew helped me survive in a few weeks, but being a fish out of the Asian Pacific waters, I was intimidated by it. I am only fortunate that I work in an multinational company so English is basically the language of business in the office. Still, I encourage practicing in the local language. It may also endear you with the locals. It shows that you respect them because you are trying to adjust to them, and not the other way around.

Seasons. Is the country you’re moving to have four seasons in a year or just simply a wet-and-dry season kind of thing? Consider this when you have to pack the wardrobe you will bring with you when relocating.

Lifestyle. This is a personal preference. It depends also on how do you spend life in and out of work. Do you easily make friends or want to go out and explore the area on weekends? Do you need a car? Do you like going to the bars, malls, or restaurants? What’s the nightlife like? Or for fitness, are there parks or nearby forests or mountains you can go to for a hike? Or do you feel like getting a gym membership instead? Do you like cooking or baking, then perhaps a good supermarket nearby would be a good one? Do you like history and culture, and are there opportunities to go to interesting places when you move abroad? When you move outside of your comfort zone, you will have a re-discovery of yourself. That includes a new lifestyle in a new country and with different people.

Community. Is there an expat community in the place you are going to live? Are there any organizations nearby that support the foreign community or is your embassy have support groups for their countrymen? Do you like interacting with fellow expats, with your own fellowmen, or do you want to get involved with the local community? You can check those in the local governments or in a church community. Most of them are active online: in Facebook groups, InterNations, MeetUp, etc.

There goes my list. I don’t know if I missed anything in my notes, but if I do, I will post another blog about it. I hope this will help you in deciding on moving abroad. It’s practical and considerably convenient to list down all the things. If I miss on anything and you want to suggest more, feel free to put it down in the comments below.

Life will not be easy for any foreigners in a new country. It’s not the one that we often see in Hollywood movies, and there would always be drama. But I’m sure that after all these preliminary considerations, you will enjoy a new life abroad. I do. 🙂

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