There is a common misconception that moving abroad is an escape from work, family and adulthood in general. That’s perfectly okay, but know this—living in a new place will not make you a new person. There will be times when you wish you could go back to your old 9 to 5. Sure, becoming an expat has a certain glamour to it. You’re going to start killing the Instagram game and might even stop sounding like an asshole when you say things like allons-y. But the truth is that it’s regular life with a whole lot more paperwork.
Oh, visas. For expats in most parts of the world, visas are an unfortunate but necessary fact of life. As soon as you decide which country you’re moving to, research the relevant visa laws. It’s best to do this at least three months prior, as bureaucracy can take quite some time. Obtaining a visa will likely involve contacting the country’s consulate in your area and putting down a hefty filing fee. For countries with particularly obfuscated visa laws (hi, China), you might consider using a visa agency, though this will increase the fees significantly.
Even if you start your new job immediately upon landing, it is best to bring plenty of cash with you—think rental deposits, furniture down payments and cab money. Leave a savings account open in your home country, but take out enough to get yourself started elsewhere. One of the best ways to transfer money to another country is via Paypal. Of course, depending how widely accepted your credit card is (Visa, MasterCard, UnionPay, etc.), it is possible to simply bring it with you and make daily trips to an ATM. However, many of these methods are subject to transaction fees, so choose wisely.
The only thing worse than getting sick in a foreign country is not having insurance when it happens. Some countries even require that you buy health insurance before they’ll issue your visa. If you’re lucky, your company will insure you, but don’t wait for them. Get traveler’s insurance before you leave, and cancel it when your company insurance kicks in.
Going to a place where you don’t speak the local language? Learn it! Learning a foreign language opens more doors than you can possibly imagine, and it also shows respect for your new home. English will help you get by in many places, but don’t be the guy who makes no effort because you’re lazy. Sign up for night classes, take a free course online or sit down with a language exchange partner a few days a week, and you’ll go from “Ni hao” to “Ni chi fan le ma?” in no time.
It’s hard to hire a Uhaul truck when you’re going from London to Buenos Aires. Although it’s tempting to bring along that vintage night stand you inherited from Aunt Noel, it’s best to stick with items you can easily pack in a suitcase: clothes and toiletries to get you started, a few books, maybe a poster or two. Look up the baggage requirements of the airline you’re flying, and try to stick to that. You won’t believe how much of what you own is not truly necessary when it comes down to it.