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Where and How to Start Planning When Moving Abroad: Ten Things to Consider

Updated 10 Oct 2012

There are many reasons to move abroad, and whether you’re going because you’ve got a great taste for adventure, a career change or promotion, or finally living your dream, there are quite a few preparations that you have to make. Here are ten things to carefully consider while you’re preparing for your move, and although it isn’t on this list, don’t forget that you can never have too many lists!

Categorise what to sell, store and bring

Dividing up your possessions is a daunting task, but having a space in your home devoted to sorting what to keep, what to bring and what to store will make your preparations and final move run much smoother. Not only will having these categories firmly in your mind while you’re making your preparations help you mentally prepare for your journey, but it will also help you see how much you’ve got in each category. 

When you have boxes all over the house, it can be hard to visualise what you’re taking or getting rid of. You might end up with too much to bring or store, or surprise yourself by reducing your clutter.

Order boxes, tape and bubble wrap 

There is something to be said for buying boxes, and that is “do it”. Purchasing boxes might not sound like it deserves to be top of the ‘to-buy’ list when moving abroad and can stretch budgets, but having the necessary supplies to make your packing easier is so important. 

Have sturdy boxes and the supplies you need to protect your valuables is crucial, whether they’re heading to storage or on the journey with you.

Start packing as soon as you can

You might feel like you have weeks, or months even, to pack and get ready for your move, and you could very well have lots of time. The sooner you start packing the better. Not only does this help remove some of the stress of packing last minute, it will also help you identify what you might not need any longer, what you can comfortably live without, and what you know you absolutely need to bring along. 

If you start packing early enough, you might also be able to save on some moving or storage fees if you identify things that you can sell or give away instead of saving. You’ll also feel in control of your situation because you won’t spend sleepless nights wondering what to do with your belongings. 

Decide whether to bring or replace

To keep a sense of the familiar, decide if it’s worth shipping some of your belongings or if it would be better to try to find similar versions and buy when you arrive. A good way to do this would be to identify five things you need to bring with you, whether they’re small or large, without which you won’t be able to adjust to your new surroundings. 

For some, this might be a few family photographs and a favourite jumper, or a blanket, or other family keepsake. Try to choose small things in order to make your move a bit easier.

Sell, sell, sell

Sell everything that might be out of date or you think might be of little use when you come back. When you start to pack, you’ll realise that there are lots of things that make more sense to sell instead of storing or bringing. Computers, living room furniture, televisions, cars and other small machinery like lawnmowers are easy to sell and can be easily replaced when you return. 

It might seem short-sighted, but the money you make selling them, combined with the money you save by not needing to store them, will allow you to easily repurchase these items when you return. 

Practice communicating

If you’re moving to a country where your home language is not widely spoken, make sure you learn enough of the local language to get by before you leave, and definitely make sure you know basic words and phrases. Moving abroad will take a lot of preparation time, and a language course might not seem like it’s worth the time before you leave, because you’ll be immersed in your new culture. But this is well worth the hours required. 

Being able to communicate, at least on a basic level, will massively decrease the stress you feel when you arrive, which is very important as your first impressions can set the tone for the rest of your stay. 

Research providers and the process for utilities

Do a bit of research before you arrive so that you’ll have Internet, phone as well as utilities as soon as you can once you get settled in your new home. Some countries require different and specific information that you might not think you’d need. It’s good to be prepared in advance so that you can avoid as much stress as possible, and have your accounts set up quickly and easily. Ask someone you know in your new country for advice, or visit some travel forums. If you feel brave, you can also call providers at your destination and ask for their advice so you’ll be well on your way. 

Research your new neighbourhood

Another important task before you leave is to really research the neighbourhood where you’ll be living. This includes where you can do your food shopping, where your closest doctor, dentist and hospital are, as well as parks. You could also investigate where you can participate in other activities you enjoy, like yoga or try to find a book club and get in touch before you arrive. This is important to help mentally prepare you for your move, as well as help you adjust as soon as possible. 

Study cultural differences

Try to figure out cultural differences so that you won’t be too overwhelmed when you arrive. This is a big one, and there are various ways to tackle it but knowing what to expect when you arrive is important and will help alleviate the inevitable culture shock you’ll feel. 

Set goals for your first three months

Again, this is important to help reduce the stress you’ll feel when you arrive. One of the most difficult adjustments once you’ve made your move is creating a new routine. One way to make this go a bit faster is to set a few goals for yourself, like visit three museums in three months, try the new city’s most famous dish, and join a club, society or group to meet some local people.

Moving abroad can be a challenge, but if you put some thought and lots of planning into it you’ll make not only your packing, but your journey and adjustment into your new home much easier.

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