I have recently been contacted by HiFX and I was asked to contribute to their Expat tip page. Their latest campaign is super useful - well worth a read and can be found at http://www.hifx.co.uk/
resources/expat-tips/. After contributing to their campaign, I realised I had tons of tips and advice I could share with people looking to move abroad, so here are a few top tips which all expats should know before making the move abroad!
Here are some numbers for you:
15 = the number of months I have been in Canada.
2 = the number of weeks I have spent in England within those 15 months.
1 month = how long I have left on my International Experience Canada visa
5 = the number of months I spend cold as s**t per year here in Canada
10 = the number of months I have been working in Canada for
2 = the number of jobs I have had here in Canada
3 = the number of visas I have had to apply for in that time!
So you can see the experience that I am talking from! I am not the most experienced, but I do have a few tips for people starting out!
I have divided my tips into the following categories: possessions, money, culture shock, homesickness, work, visas - all based on my experience. I would have added houses also, however I was fortunate to be able to move straight into a home here, so I have no tips there!!
- Ebay is your friend! Begin by reducing your material objects. If you don't use it daily, can cheaply and easily replace it, don't love it, get rid of it! If you are unsure about getting rid of something, pack it into a box for a month. If you don't think about it, get rid of it - you really don't need it!
- Plan how you are going to transport your possessions. I was lucky, I was able to take my possessions in my suitcase over the six trips I took to Canada prior to moving here. The rest I boxed up and left at my parents - friends now bring me things when they come and the rest I will get as and when I go home. Shop around to find transporters to do this for you if necessary. Consider renting a furnished apartment and selling your furniture to fund the move.
- Think about your animals! I looked at transporting my rabbit to Canada, which would have cost £800. I would readily have paid that money, but I did a lot of research and found that because rabbits are prey animals, they do not often survive the flight and it would have been selfish to have taken him with me. He now lives in a lovely new home.
- Eliminate your debts. Try to reduce your financial ties to your home country. It is difficult to try to transfer money - exchange rates mean that you will be spending more on your debts than in your home country.
- How will you transfer money to your home country? If it is necessary, how will you transfer money home? Banks often charge fees, but PayPal don't have the best exchange rate. I have had to use PayPal, I send money to my Dad's English account and he can then transfer it to my account.
- Every penny counts! Use your money wisely - there will be plenty of hidden costs and you don't want to be caught short and sent home!!
- Visit your new country as often as you can! This will help you to understand it more and to acclimatize to it.
- Get involved! It is tempting to create a mini version of your home country in your home, but remember what an amazing opportunity it is to learn about a new country. That said, don't forget about those few necessary creature comforts! Care packages help!
- It takes time. There will be a long adjustment period, your brain is working in overload during this time and you might feel exhausted and depressed by it. Don't give up though! Keep going and soon things will start to feel normal to you.
- Learn the lingo. Or else - what is the point? Even here in Canada, I try my hardest to use Canadian words instead of English ones, in order to fit in.
- There is no way to avoid it. Meet it head on. More hints about that on a detailed blogpost here.
- Research!!! Will your qualifications be transferable? Are there any online organizations you can join or contact to find out? What is your intended job market like? Will you need to retrain? I meet so many people (myself included) who are not fulfilling their potential in their new country.
- Start a portfolio of work. Do this early on, because it will be hard to find evidence of your long career from your home country when you have limited means in your new country.
- Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. I always try to prepare for things going wrong. You can't prepare for everything, but if you do this then you won't be caught quite so unawares. Equally - hope for the best! There is no point in desperation, the worry won't help things. Just work hard and know that you have tried your best.
- Research others' stories. You might think you need to spend a small fortune on a lawyer, but do you? There are so many expats who know how hard this move will be and who are willing to provide help, support and advice. My greatest resource has been the blogs and forums written by other expats.