10 Factors to Consider When Moving Abroad

Deciding where you will live and work abroad is a major decision no matter what stage of life you’re in. Going over these factors will help guide you in making the decision that’s right for you.

1. Language

What is the local language used outside of the workplace for daily transactions? Chances are that you’ve been offered a job where you’ll primarily be speaking a language you are comfortable in, but what about when you’re doing your banking or grocery shopping? You may it frustrating to use hand motions to make yourself understood, or on the other hand you may be moving to a foreign country in order to learn the local language. If you want to immerse yourself for language learning, it would be advantageous if less people spoke English so that you’d have adequate opportunity to speak the target language. If you aren’t interested to learn the language, but you want to be able to do your errands without much confusion, it would be better for you if a higher percentage of people spoke a language that you can also understand.

2. Transportation

Is your company providing a car or a driver? Is the public transportation good, and is it safe for foreigners to travel by? In suburban areas of major cities worldwide it is generally an advantage to have a car. How do the people drive? It is too chaotic and crazy for you to drive safely? Do they drive on the same side of the road as you? Would you be able to afford buying and maintaining a car on your proposed salary? These are important questions to ask if you want to be able to get around in your new hometown.

3. Community Life

When you move abroad, do you plan on spending the majority of your free time with other expatriates, or with locals? Either way, you should look into how large the expat community is in your city. You may not be able to have a very good social life with merely three other foreigners, and you may be overwhelmed if foreigners outnumber the locals. Is it easy to interact with and socialize with locals? How different is the surrounding culture? In some places, like Saudi Arabia, it can be difficult for foreigners form intimate friendships with locals. Foreign workers may also be restricted to life on a secure compound.

4. Living Arrangements

Make sure your company gives you detailed information about your proposed living arrangements. Are your utilities paid? Is your rent paid? Is your place completely furnished or partially furnished? Is there a settling in allowance, and how much is it? Is there a shipping allowance so you can ship your personal effects abroad? Does the school provide housing, or are you expected to find it on your own? How many bedrooms will you have? How many bathrooms will you have? What exactly does the kitchen look like, and do all the appliances work? If you’re a single, will you be expected to share with other singles or will you have an independent flat? What does security look like?

5. Leisure Activities

You should also find out what types of leisure activities are available. Is there a gym, a pool, or a riding club nearby? Are there any people interested in playing soccer? The job may be the most important thing, but leisure activities should also play into your life overseas. If you love ballroom dancing, but dancing is considered taboo in your overseas home, you may feel like you’re missing out on one of your favorite hobbies.

6. Freedom for Women

Even if you’re a single male, this is a question you’ll want to consider. How easy is it for women to travel independently in the country? Can women drive and take public transportation easily? Are there any restrictions on dress? Can single women and met meet up casually in public or in private? In some countries, a man could be jailed or even killed for meeting up with a woman in public! If the meeting takes places in private, the consequences could be even more dire. Local women in some regions have been killed by their own family members for so much as a sideways glance at a man who was not her husband. Men as well as women need to be aware of any cultural or legal restrictions on women that you are not used to abiding by.

7. Weather

This may seem like a silly question, but can your body handle the 50 degree C (122 F) temperatures of much of Asia and Africa? How about the extreme cold of Siberia? Will you get monsoon rains, and does the city flood? Are roads blocked in winters? Do weather conditions create breeding grounds for malaria bearing mosquitoes? Think long and hard about a city’s of region’s weather before you decide if it’s the right place for you. Don’t assume you’ll always have electricity or power to keep you in your comfort zone!

8. Shopping

Are you a name brand type of guy or gal who never goes generic? Well, know now that your favorite brands and products may not be available everywhere in the world. If you’re planning to move to Europe, Australia or major cities in South America and Asia, you can be pretty sure that most products will be available at the local supermarket or a specialized import store. Outside of main cities, you may not be so fortunate. Some products, like tampons, are unavailable in the entire Middle East region, save major cities and places where there are large expatriate communities. If you absolutely must have your special hair gel or your favorite cereal, it may be better to bring it with you.

9. Cost of Living

What is the average cost of living in the city you plan to move to? What is not covered by your salary package that you will need to pay for out of pocket? Is your goal saving or just making ends meet? If your goal is to save, you may surprisingly be able to save more in Asia or the Middle East than in a European country where the cost of living is considerably higher. Do a little research to see average prices are and subtract that from your budget to see how much, if any, you’ll be able to save while overseas.

10. Salary Package

For most applications, this is probably the most important point. There are many expenses incurred when settling and living abroad that you may not be counting on. Ask potential employers if the following aspects are covered, and if yes, how much cash value they have.

Housing (Rent & Utilities)

Settling in Allowance

Shipping Allowance

Medical & Dental Insurance

Life Insurance (Does it apply to you only, or your whole family?)

Return Airfare or Travel Reimbursement

Paid Vacations

Professional Development

Local Transportation – Work Related and Non Work Related

Visa Fees

Annual Salary (How is it paid and in what currency? Is it tax free?)

Education for Children

By discussing these questions with your family and researching the different factors, you should be able to make an informed decision is living abroad is the right choice for you. You should also be able to compare two or more options in order to see which is the best choice according to your lifestyle. If you’re not quite sure why you want to live overseas, it’s a good idea to have a clear answer to that question before looking at the above factors.

2 Comments on “10 Factors to Consider When Moving Abroad

  1. Very useful information. I wish I could have seen it before moving to Malaysia for work. Although I with my wife had hours long brainstorming :) which finally paid. Although I could not bring all the 125Kg stuff my wife packed but still.
    Now I’m assessing to make a move again since I am really sick of weather (haha … huh) so I might be moving to some cold areas like Australia or US.

    • My husband really wants to live somewhere cooler, but I actually like the tropical heat. It’s nice to have one set of clothes for the whole year!

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