Although moving abroad can be a very stressful process, it doesn’t have to be. Now that we are beginning the journey for our second international move, I figured I would comprise a list that anyone considering a move overseas could use. I have taken the liberty of putting it in a timeline format so that it doesn’t feel so overwhelming. Some of the things on the list are country specific and may not apply to your destination. Feel free to take off the things that do not apply to you.
- Decide on a destination– This is probably THE MOST important task on this entire list! Making the right decision on where to move to is crucial especially on your first move abroad. I have wanted to move abroad for quite some time even though Mr. Ward really wasn’t into this idea. When he finally did come around it was important that we found a location where we would both be comfortable or this whole living abroad thing was never going to work. Knowing what you want to get from the experience can be a good deciding factor in where to go. For example, if it is your goal to learn Spanish while living abroad it would not be in your best interest to move to Nigeria where no one will speak that language. What we did know going in was that we wanted our first destination to be in Asia, due to the impression that we would be able to save a lot of money. It’s much easier to pick a country then worry about which city later. We each took 3 destinations and made pro and con lists. Major things to consider: Cost of Living, Work Availability in your field, Housing, Religion, Food, Culture/Customs, Weather, Do they like people from your race/ethnicity. We then convened and went over why we think each place would be a good fit. In the end, we couldn’t agree on a place. Mr. Ward wanted to go to China and I absolutely did not because I had seen how blacks could be treated there and at the time it didn’t seem like something I could cope with. I kind of blind-sided him and chose Thailand. (Yes, I am a bad wife lol)
- Research Your Location– This goes hand and hand with deciding on a destination. You can never do enough research on a place you want to live. Start a Pinterest board and pin everything you can about the place. See our Pinterest board about Thailand here. Just doing a simple Google search for “Do’s and Don’ts in Thailand” will yield a million results.
- Look up the following things:
- Customs, culture and etiquette- Is the culture similar to yours or vastly different? If it is different will you be able to adapt? What are the business rituals? How do you greet someone? What is traditional clothing? What language do they speak? What is considered rude? Is everything equal for men and women?
- Bathroom practices – Do they use real toilets or do they use squatters? Do you have to carry your own toilet paper? Do they have bum guns? Is the toilet somewhere private or public? Do they have hot running water in the home? Is the water safe to drink?
- Food -Do they have food from your country? What is the local food like? Are you allergic to any of the ingredients they use in their main foods? Do you have a very specific diet like vegan, gluten free, etc. and can this country accommodate that? What utensils do they eat with? Which hand do they eat with? Do they eat family style or is it individual meals? Is their food very spicy?
- Healthcare – Is it expensive for foreigners? Can they support your needs? Is the medication you take every day banned there? Can you live in this country with a certain disease or illness?
- Weather/Seasons- Is it mostly hot or cold? Do they have seasons of extreme weather like monsoons, hurricanes, sandstorms, daily temperatures over 100°F (37°C) or less than 10°F(-12°C)?
- Dress code -Is wearing certain colors offensive? Is it a modest country? Is it a nudist colony? Are you expected to abide by local dress or can you wear what you want?
- Electrical voltages and outlets – Find your country here. Will you need a converter?
- Religion – What is the main religion? Can you practice your religion openly or do you have to hide who you are? Are there churches, masjids, synagogues, monasteries, or temples you can go to there?
- Government- What is the type of government? Do the local people agree with this style? Has there been uprisings, protests, demonstrations, coups?
- Laws- What are the most extreme laws? Is PDA illegal or frowned upon? Is littering illegal? Is it legal to chew gum? Are the laws too harsh for you?
- Crime rate- What is the crime rate in the area you will live in? What types of crimes are being committed? Will you end up being the target of said crimes? Has there been kidnapping or human trafficking incidents with foreigners?
- Drugs- Are drugs illegal? If so which types? Will this be a problem for you? What is the punishment for getting caught with drugs?
- Terrorism – Has there been recent waves of terrorist attacks? If so who were the targets? Does the government support or object these extremist groups?
- Hygiene products- Are the products you use readily available or will you have to have them imported? Items like tampons, soap, deodorant, facial cream, lotions, hair products, shaving cream, condoms etc.
- Public transportation vs driving -Will you bring your car? Will you purchase a car/motorcycle when you arrive? What is the traffic like? Gas prices? Is the public transportation reliable? Is it efficient? Does it go where you need it to go? Is it usually over crowded?
- Social life- Do you like to drink? Is it legal to do so? What’s the night life like? Are there activities you enjoy doing available there? Is it easy to make friends? Is there already a community of expats from your country? What is dating like? Is it acceptable for a local to date a foreigner? Is premarital sex legal? Do they have dating apps available or are you usually set up by a family member?
- Scams -What are the most popular types of scams? Read our article on Scams in Bangkok. How will you avoid them? Is it common for foreigners to be taken advantage of?
- Quality of life- Are you going to enjoy this country? Will they have things you are used to in your country or will everything be completely different? What does daily life consist of? Will you be able to make enough money to survive and pay your bills back home?
- Sexuality -Are the people gay friendly? Is the government gay friendly? Is it illegal to be gay, transgender, etc.? Has there been any hate crimes involving the LGBTQ community? Do you have to hide who you are?
- Shopping -Where do they shop? What kind of food do they sell? What kind of clothing do they sell? Do they have big sizes? Small sizes? Are you expected to haggle or will the prices already be set?
- How are people from your country or race treated? If it is not good will that bother you or do you have tough enough skin to ignore it?
- Children- If you have children, is it children friendly? Will there be activities to entertain your kids? Will your kids be safe? What styles of education do they have? Do you want them to attend the schools available?
- Aside from customs, etiquette, and laws I will tell you to take your findings with a grain of salt. Everyone’s experience in this country will be different and you don’t want to use someone else’s opinion or experiences to dissuade you from going places. If you find any information about the country that you know you can absolutely not cope with (For example: you have blue eyes and this country stones people with those features because they think they are demons🙄) I suggest you start your search over and look for a new destination. Have no fear it’s a big world and you will be sure to find a place to your liking.
- Look up the following things:
- Figure out a move date– Now that you have decided on a where it’s time to figure out when. Make sure your move date is far enough away to get all your affairs in order. If you have children or are a teacher when does school end/start? What is the weather like? How long will it take you to save your desired amount of money? Our move date was more than a year after we had actually decided to move, for a number of factors, which revolved around school, saving money, and when our contracts (work and apartment) expired at home.
- Start saving as much money as possible– There cannot be enough emphasis placed on this. There are so many factors that may arise in relation to moving. The last thing you want is to be starving in a foreign country where you don’t know the language. It was suggested that we save $1500USD per person as a startup cost for moving to Thailand. Something told me that didn’t seem like enough so we saved a little over $7,000USD and I’m glad we did.
Within two weeks of being here Mr. Ward got sick and had to go to the emergency room. We ended up at the most expensive hospital in Bangkok (obviously not on purpose) and had to pay all of the bill up front. Deciding it would be best to just stay in one location, instead of moving around like we originally intended to, we rented an Airbnb for a month. That cost us a pretty penny. When the month was over we moved into our new apartment, which wanted 1st, last, and a month’s rent security deposit. Even though our place came fully furnished we moved here with nothing more than clothing, so we had to purchase stuff like bed sheets, towels, kitchen accessories and food. We also had to get cable, Wi-Fi, cell phone services turned on. All these things add up and if we hadn’t saved properly we would have been in trouble. Lucky for us Thailand is a really cheap place in the scheme of things and after living here for a year we have just over $3,000 of that money still in the bank. We will use that money to take us to our next destination.
Check out the next page for 90 Days Prior to your move