Friday, 1 August 2014

So, you're thinking of moving abroad?

In my personal opinion, moving away from home and living in a foreign country is such an eye-opening and unique experience. The saying goes that travel is the only thing you can spend money on that makes you richer. I'm tempted to contradict that statement by throwing the words scratch and card out there, but I'll just keep it at that. Anyway, I wouldn't call myself an expert in this particular field, travel, not scratch cards; however for the last few years I have lived in various places around the world so I feel like I have a little to share. 
If you've read my About page, (link) or have read a few of my blog posts, you may be familiar with the fact that I am currently living in Finland. Before that, I was living in Qatar, in the Middle East. Nothing like mixing it up a bit eh!? I'll spare you the details of how I came to be in both places as you can read that elsewhere on my blog, but I thought that I would try my best to give some advice on what to consider or look out for if you are planning on packing your bags and starting afresh in another country.

Do your research!

Ok, this sounds pretty self explanatory; although you can sometimes get swept up in the excitement of moving somewhere new, but when faced with the reality, it may not be all that great for you. If you are moving to work for a new company, then it is pretty common that they will send you information on the country in question. If not, you should ask them to give you as much info as they can. The internet is your friend if you use it wisely. It can be easy to read horror stories on certain places and be completely put off by what you see. I've had so many people question me on Qatar and some of the misconceptions about the place would be enough to put even the most seasoned traveller off! Look for balanced and genuine information about where you are hoping to move. Every country has its flaws and its good points. Try and get in touch with other expats living in the same place and ask them for any tips. You'll find that there are so many expat groups on Facebook these days just waiting to help you out.

Know what you want from the move

Are you hoping to move to further your career, meet new friends, or be closer to loved ones? It's important to identify what it is that you are hoping for out of this transition so that you don't find yourself being disappointed further down the line if things don't work out how you'd hoped they would. 

Have an emergency fund!

It doesn't need to be a whole chunk of savings, but if you have a bit of money set to one side or a bank account with an overdraft or credit card, these will be huge lifelines if you ever find yourself in a spot of financial bother. If for any reason you need to dash back home, you need the security of knowing that there's money on hand to pay for such emergencies. I've been in the situation where I've had my salary paid to me late because of an extended public holiday and having something to fall back on is really useful. You have to remember that the country you are in may have different rules than back at home and sometimes people aren't always willing to help you out. 
Health care

Depending on where you are planning to move, you will need to figure out how you are going to look after yourself in a medical sense. It's no good rocking up at your final destination and then having to drag your sorry ass back home to see the doctor. In Qatar, my medical insurance was paid for by my company so find out if you are entitled to a similar thing if you have a job lined up abroad. If you are moving within the EU and you are from another EU member state, such as the UK, then access to health care is generally a bit easier but it is vitally important that you find out what the specific rules are before you make the move. Also, it is worth noting that some countries carry an increased risk of transmittable diseases and other nasty bugs, so find out from your local doctor if you need any jabs before you leave. Don't make the mistake that I did and leave it right to the last minute as some injections take a number of weeks and multiple visits to kick in!

Embrace the local culture

I get that certain aspects of a foreign culture might not be everyone's cup of tea, but there is so much to gain from just embracing it, rather than letting it feel like a negative. Sure, dancing around a pole with a salmon on you head is a bit weird, but hey, why not? I spent part of Ramadan living in a Muslim country and I can tell you that it was a total culture shock. Drinking or eating in public during daylight hours is an arrestable offence and for a girl who likes her food, it was a toughie; but seeing restaurants come alive at night with various Iftar offerings was lovely to see. Just try and take something from the situation; however small and in the end, it all adds up to your vast wealth of life experience. 

Be safe

This is the part where I'm probably going to sound a bit naggy, but it's so important to remember that it isn't just a holiday. When you're having the time of your life partying it up in a bright, new city, you can often forget that you're a million miles from home and that you are probably in a much more vulnerable position than a local who knows the place and knows the rules. I don't want to be a spoil sport but if you wouldn't get in a stranger's car back at home, don't do it when you're anywhere else. It goes without saying but I have seen it happen so often where people have been taken advantage of because they have been singled out for being an expat. Please, please be careful! It's also a good idea to find out if your home country has an embassy in the place you are moving to, and you should register with them as soon as possible on arrival. You know, in case you do a Bridget Jones and end up in a foreign prison, trading your bra for a few essentials... Not good!

Finally, remember...

It doesn't matter where you go in the world, or how much you love the place you decided to make the big move to, you're always going to have a few crappy moments where you want to stuff your wash-bag, lipstick and a clean pair of pants in your bag and make a beeline for the nearest exit. We've all been there. There isn't a single expat that I have met that hasn't had days where they want to give it all up and walk away. The key is to focus on the reasons why you moved in the first place. Are you genuinely unhappy or are you just having an off day? Take time to take a step back, speak to friends and family and maybe eat a bit of cake because cake makes everything better, right? Feeling homesick from time to time is completely natural and I've taught myself to ride the waves when they come. It isn't always easy starting a life somewhere new, but it can be an incredibly rewarding and life-changing experience.



  1. Another great post :) Sounds like you have had some amazing experiences, i bet living in the middle east was an eye opener! I wish more than anything i could be living in Finland again, i did initially really struggle with the culture change but i love the reserved nature of people there, i found it just as hard moving back to the UK again! xxx

    1. Thank you Nicole. It's definitely been different living in both the Middle East and Finland! I miss the year-round warm weather of Qatar, but Finland is certainly more like home. It's a lovely country but I have struggled a bit with the fact that it is so quiet and there's no Topshop!!! Nightmare haha.. I never thought about the fact that it may be hard to move back to the UK but it's a great point! I don't have any plans to move home just yet but I'm sure it will be a big adjustment again. Thanks for your comment xxx


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