Since moving abroad a year and a half ago there have been SO many people who have reached out with questions – everything from what is it like to live abroad to people from every facet of my life (including pre-school) asking for advice as they will also be moving soon! With this in mind I have rounded up a list of 13 things I wish I knew before moving abroad. Most are relevant for anyone moving countries and some are specific about leaving the US / moving to the UK but even if that is not the direction you are moving (quite literally) they should still be thought starters, I hope!
(1) People will Get Nosey – Before you leave it will be a ton of “why are you moving? ” and from close friend and family, “when are you coming back?”. These are are two of the most common questions I got in the weeks leading up to my departure. My suggestions would be to have have some quick pre-prepped nuggets to share. Additionally, especially if you move from somewhere like New York, once you arrive people will ask, “why did you leave?”.
(2) Be Prepared to Purge – You will likely not be able to moving everything you want aboard and there are tons of things you are going to need to plan to rebuy, including small appliances due to plugs and voltages. Personally I sold half of my furniture and donated almost all the rest of ti (minus one bench that is in my parent’s basement).
(3) Investigate Visa Types – There are many different types of visas for living and working abroad and they all have different timings, restrictions, and do’s / don’ts. I highly suggest anyone looking to move abroad does a ton of research on both the kind of visa you will be getting but also on the other types available. Without going into too much detail, I wish I had switched to a different one when I could have. I would also say the time things take to get approved vary wildly – from how long a biometric appointment takes to how many days a passport deliver takes. My suggestion is to be be flexible.
(4) Research Cell Phones – Before you move, figure out if you can switch your current phone to an international plan for a period of time and then when you move, try to get a local phone as soon as possible. You will likely need a local number to set up a bank account, rent an apartment, and a ton of other life admin. Also, share ahead of time with friends and family that them communicating with you via regular texting will likely need to change to WhatApp messaging or Facebook Messenger. Personally I bought a small £20 black phone that had calling only just so I could register for things.
(5) Sort out your Mail – Even though you have moved countries you will likely still get some mail in the post. I have tried to move all bills and letter to electronic statements but occasionally my parents still get a letter addressed to me as I set up a permeant forwarding address, easy to set up with the USPS for free before moving abroad.
(6) Look into Bank Accounts – If you are planning to move back to your home country at some point I suggest you keep your current bank account open and then open a new one in your new country. If I had done more research ahead of time I could have done some of the legwork before I moved to England and even had linked accounts – I wish I had looked into this ahead of time.
(7) Your Credit Starts Over – Another one about money, yes I know, but this is definitely directly applicable to the title – something I wish I knew before moving aboard. My US credit is always something I have have been proud of so after 15 years of carefully building it to have it effectively wiped and that was a shock. My credit in the UK restarted at 300 / 1,000 (in the UK, credit is out of 1,000, not 850) and it made it hard to get to an apartment and a credit card.
(8) You will be an Unofficial Representative of your Country – People tend to think you know everything about your country – from personally knowing the president, to having been to every major city, to really random things like having seen every American movie / TV show or every state in alphabetical in order. No, I have never studied American History in depth and no, I can not speak to the US’s political POV on every topic.
(9) Many Subscriptions Won’t Transfer – I knew that some companies do not operate abroad; like Pandora or Hulu, but I was super surprised to find out Netflix is different and Amazon is different – even though it is the same site / app, you need anew account. Heck, even American Express is different and in the UK did not register my US cardholder status.
(10) You Will Loose Touch With People – They say they will come visit, Skype sessions, stay in touch, etc. and it’s partially true – your true friends will, they will make the effort and you may even grow closer. But some of the other people will drop, and you know what? that is okay.
(11) Get Ready for Surprising Quirks – I wrote a post a few weeks after moving to England called 10 Surprising Things After One Month in London and most of them are still true. Sometimes it still gets me that the plug sockets turn on and off or that there are no outlets in bathrooms for hairdryers.
(12) Get Ready for Taxes – If you are an American expat moving abroad, you will have to file taxes in both the US and your new country, yup, it’s not fun. And I am not a tax expert but make sure you look into this before moving abroad (I would start with the IRS’ Taxpayers Living Abroad)
(13) Culture Shock is Real – I knew I was moving from one English speaking country to another and from a big metropolitan city to another but so many things were and still are different.
I am curious, if I have any other expats reading this, are there any other things you wish you knew before moving abroad?