So for the first “informative” post, I thought I’d start from the very beginning. Preparing for that big move overseas.
Preparing for the big move can be very overwhelming. From bank accounts to visas, it’s all too easy to forget something important. What I will cover in this post are those things that I considered to be the most important and the most vital to my move, including those that I missed. Keep in mind that this is a very brief overview so please don’t rely on this and this only. Everyone’s situations are different so these may or may not apply to you. So, here goes…
1. GET YOUR VISA!
I cannot stress this enough. Get. Your. Visa. Sorted. Find out what visa is required for your country of choice and apply. Note that many countries have a waiting period before your visa will be issued, as well as a time frame in which you must arrive in the country after the visa is issued. Take special note of these dates and plan around them. Without your visa, you can forget the rest. Also take note of the rules and regulations that your visa has, such as work restrictions. Much of the information you will need will be on government and immigration websites of your chosen country. If you’re unsure, you can always send an email to the closest consulate. I have found that they are always happy to help where possible.
I also recommend checking on whether or not it’s possible to change visas after your arrival. In my situation, I arrived in Japan on a working holiday visa. After obtaining work and realising that I could easily be here for more than the 18 months that my visa allowed, I changed to a work visa sponsored by my place of employment that gave me 3 years. Changing visas is not uncommon, so it is useful to have this information handy.
For those interested in Japanese visas, I’ll do another post at a later date with more in depth information.
This one may seem super obvious, but just to be sure. Keeping your visa in mind, book flights to your destination. Remember, you’re not going on holiday. You’re moving countries. You are going to have A LOT of luggage. While you may be tempted to pick the budget airline with cheap flights, you may end up spending just as much on extra luggage as you would have if you had just picked the more expensive airline.
For my move, I found it cheaper and far more comfortable to fly from Brisbane, Australia to Osaka, Japan using Singapore Airlines. Singapore Airlines offered 30kg of check in luggage, food and entertainment. Jetstar (flying from the Gold Coast) had cheaper tickets, BUT they didn’t include any luggage, meals, or entertainment.
Sites like SkyScanner are a great tool for finding cheaper flights and comparing them with other options. It doesn’t always show your luggage allowances etc., so be sure to check with the individual airline to be sure.
Another one that may seem obvious, but one that can be difficult to organise. For some, organising a long term rental straight off the bat will be easy and the best option. For others, finding a short term option to begin with is the easier way to go. It’s hard to know what’s best, but there are some things you can think about to help you decide.
Do you already have work lined up, or will you be looking once you arrive? If you have work, you can easily find somewhere close by and convenient. If you are yet to find employment, a short term rental may be the way to go. Do you want to live in the main city? Or, do you prefer being out in the suburbs or in country areas? How close do you want to be to public transport? How much space do you want? Will you need a car park?
Another thing to keep in mind is that some places will not allow long term rentals unless you inspect the property in person. There are also some cases where real estate agents want to meet you first, OR worst case scenario, they simply won’t rent to foreigners (Japan, I’m looking at you).
Also keep an eye out for fees, bonds, key money etc that you may not have in your own country. In Japan, many places make you pay not only a bond, but also key money (gift money as a thanks for renting to you) and possibly even a monthly maintenance fee on top of your rent. Each country will have it’s own traditions, rules etc., so do your research beforehand.
For short term rentals, some real estate companies may have furnished options that are designed for people in your situation, so they are definitely worth checking out. Personally, I booked an AirBnB apartment for 1 month and kept my fingers crossed that it would all work out. Not the safest bet, but always an option that can work out a lot cheaper than a hotel, hostel or something similar and that can provide you with a more private and functional space.
If you are lucky enough to be moving overseas without a need to find employment, you can skip this section and I will be forever jealous. For most, however, finding employment can be the most stressful part of a big move. Work cultures can differ dramatically between countries, as well as the jobs on offer for someone in your situation. Maybe you don’t speak the local language at a high enough level, or maybe your qualifications aren’t recognised in your new home. It’s a whole new ball game for most people.
The best advice I can give is to start your search before you move. Even if you can’t land a job beforehand, you will have a much better idea of what jobs are on offer, where, the salaries on offer and what jobs you have a chance of being offered.
For many expats in a country with a language other than their own, language teaching is a good way to go. In Japan, and probably many other countries, some companies will allow you to interview over skype and will even help you find accommodation. If you’re lucky enough, some companies will even subsidise part of your rent. Be wary, however. Some companies are known for overworking their employees without overtime pay. Look at the reviews online for various companies but stay objective. Remember that some people may have just had a bad experience with one particular manager and their review may not reflect the entire company. I’ve heard good and bad reviews of the same company, so it’s really down to a bit of luck.
There are various websites designed for expats, so check these out (i.e. gaijinpot.com in Japan). They will generally offer a range of job and apartment advertisements, classifieds and some tips and tricks on living in your new country.
Other things to look out for when searching for employment are health insurance, labour insurance, tax rates etc. These will vary from country to country, so do your research and ask questions. Some companies may pay these automatically for you, others will not include it at all. Remember that although the salary may look enticing, don’t expect that total amount to reflect what will end up in your pocket at the end of the day.
5. The rest…
So with the biggest things out of the way, what else do you have to worry about?
A fair bit. Sorry…
Basically, get your affairs in order in your home country. Bank accounts, mail, licencing etc. Ensure that you can pay any remaining bills in your home country and ensure that your bank knows that you are heading overseas for two reasons. One, so that they can contact you if needed, and two, so that they don’t freak out if your account activity shows transactions occurring overseas. The last thing you need is for you money to be frozen because they have assumed that your card has been stolen.
Also make sure you have all of your passwords either in your mind or kept safely somewhere. Through personal experience, I learnt that resetting an Australian password (for my bank, government websites etc.) can be next to impossible! I have racked up huge phone bills having to call my banks in Australia to sort out something that I should have done in Australia but completely forgot about.
In regards to mail, it can be a great idea to have your mail forwarded, or have your address changed to a family members house if this is an option. That way, you will still receive any correspondence that banks, the government etc may send you.
Licencing. Will you need your drivers licence in your new home? Does your licence need renewing anytime soon? If you’re planning on driving after you move, check out getting an international licence and if it applies in the country you’re moving to. Sometimes, getting a licence in a foreign country can be a very expensive affair, so an international licence can be a great way to avoid this, at least for a while.
Money. You’ve save up all this money for the big move, but how can you access it all once you arrive? So many options. I personally went for a Travelex Cash Passport. Not the cheapest option, but it was very convenient not having yet set up a bank account in Japan. You can always take cash and exchange it but, not only is this very risky, if you have over a certain amount you may be stopped at customs, so be aware of the limits.
Medications. Sort out any perscriptions you have / need and check with the requirements and rules in your new country. Japan, for example, has a ban on codeine, a common ingredient in stronger pain killers in Australia. Don’t get stuck at customs because you didn’t check! Also make sure you have enough to last yourself a while so you allow yourself a bit of time to settle in, sort out health insurance if needed etc.. Also check costs in your new country. What may be cheap and easily accessible at home, may not be where you are moving. Once you know, you can arrange to stock up in advance.
Aside from getting your affairs in order in your home country, you also need to be looking at what you will need to set up in your new home. I will do a post on this at a later date, but it is important to start thinking about things like getting a bank account, how you can transfer money between countries, getting a phone number and internet connection etc.. Many of these things cannot be arranged until you arrive, so do your research. It can be very helpful to know what you’re looking for and what to expect before you arrive. This can help you budget more efficiently and you won’t get a rude shock.
Remember that many people before you have walked this path and have some great advice to offer. Also remember that by doing enough research, you may be able to find an even better deal. Don’t rely on just one source. When I arranged my phone and internet in Japan, the struggle was mainly them not allowing foreigners with visas under a certain period to sign up to their plans. Furthermore, staff may not even want to try and deal with you because of the language barrier. Even when I had an extended visa AND told them that my boyfriend was a Japanese citizen (all in Japanese), they wanted to talk to him and wanted very little to do with me. I even struggled to get a brochure off the lady! Don’t be deterred, you’ll get there eventually!
It really is a mission trying to organise it all, but try not to stress too much! If you forget something, that’s ok. For many of these things, it can be fixed with a little time and effort. I found it helpful to create a bit of a ‘To Do’ list on my phone. Every time I thought of another minor thing I needed to sort out, I’d add it to this list, no matter how small. With so much going on, it’s easy to forget the small things.
One more thing…
SPEND TIME WITH YOUR LOVED ONES!
At the end of my time in Australia, I was running out of time. Never underestimate your friends and families ability to leave it to the last minute. Particularly in your last week, you will be busy. Your loved ones will call and text saying, ‘Hey! Let’s catch up! We need to say goodbye!’. It can leave you feeling guilty when your time is running out for both socialising AND packing. Organise your time in advance and ensure your loved ones know that your last week will be a hectic and busy time. You will miss them when you leave, and they will be your support network when you’re feeling down in a new land. Make the most of your time with them and enjoy it. Soak it all up. It won’t be the same for a while. And, while everyone says they will come and visit soon, don’t rely on it. Just enjoy it while you can!
So! That’s the basics. Remember that this is a very brief outline, so please don’t rely on this and this alone! If you have any other points, or if there is something I missed, please comment below and let me know! Share your own experiences, tips and tricks. We’re all here to learn.
Until next time,