It’s a big decision to leave your country to live in a foreign place. How to decide such a ›big thing‹? I guess it was a mixture between gut feelings and pro-and-con-lists.
Therefore I am no expert when it comes to moving abroad at all. I am just trying to figure the whole thing out – expat life is all about organizing things and being patient, I figured that out already. But during the period of planning I realized that you mostly have to think about the little things. In the end, I asked myself six questions.
Six things to ask yourself when you move abroad
Can you get a job and a visa?
For me, this one is a deal-breaker. I wouldn’t move abroad without having signed an employment contract. But that’s just me. If you can live without the safety of an employment waiting in your new home country, you can just give it a try and look for a job once your there. But there’s another thing to keep in mind: In most countries, it’s pretty easy to get a tourist visa. Work visas are a different story, though and visa processes were made to test your perserverance – and your bank account. Your going to pay shitloads of money for certified copies, certified translations, medical reports and police clearance certificates. Not to mention the price of all the cigarettes and bottles of wine your consuming to calm yourself down. As for me, I decided to leave the work to experts. For South Africa, I can recommend Imcosa. A first consulting session is for free with them, then you can decide if you want to let the experts do the work or face the jungle of documents and regulations yourself.
Can you have a long-distance relationship with your friends and family?
This one seems so obvious: you’re moving, so you won’t be with your family and friends anymore. And I guess this will be the hardest one for me. You will miss birthdays, break-ups, engagements and weddings of your family and closest friends and you can’t be there for them when they need you most. Of course, Skype, Line and WhatsApp have made overseas conversation a lot easier but it’s not the same as a face-to-face meet up. You will miss them, you will feel guilty and you might lose contact to a couple people that used to be close friends.
What is there you can’t live without?
There is a huge difference between travling an country and living in a country. Eventhough I have been living abroad for quite some time in South Africa and Denmark, I know that culture shock is going to hit me hard. Sometimes it’s the little things you miss – German bread, German sausages, good coffee – sometimes it’s cultural and traditional things you just can’t get used to. For me, it’s punctuality and reliability that I know is missing sometimes in interaction with South Africans. So you need to be honest when asking yourself: Can I give up some of my beliefs and traits? Or can I at least live with a compromise that won’t make me unhappy?
How expensive is life abroad?
Okay, come here. Show me the money! Can you afford living abroad? Remember: Your visa might just cost you shitloads of money, as well as your flight and moving all your stuff to your new home country. And then there’s buying new furniture, buying a new car, getting new insurences – the stuff adds up. And apart from that, you often underestimate the real experiences you have abroad. For example: South Africa is a lot cheaper then Germany, but: prices for a rental apartment are almost German standard. Plus: your salary abroad might be lower than the one in your home country. Therefore a budget plan ist a must! And you shouldn’t leave if you realize you will spend more money than you earn for more than six months.
Are you really independent?
There’s a difference between being a grown-up and being independent. I’ve got friends who would never board a plane alone. I’ve got friends who would never ho on holidays alone. For these friends, moving abroad might not be the next best adventure. As an expat, you will face challenges as well: applying for your visa, buying a car, finding an aparment, open a bank account… you need to do this all by yourself, and it will be hard and you will feel like giving up but you need to trust yourself to do it anyway. If you’re a really shy and introvert person who is not too keen on meeting new people and who gets nervous in unfamiliar situations, moving abroad might just not be your thing (yet).
Do you have a plan B?
Moving abroad feels a bit like being in love head over heels: You see your adventure through rose-colored glasses, everything will be perfect. And just like in a brand-new relationship, you’re sure that you will never ever break up. But just like relationships fall apart, you might just realize that the expat life is not your thing, no matter how hard you tried. This doesn’t mean you failed. Failure is, not to try at all. Neverteheless, your situation will be a lot easer if you have a plan b and know how to move on.