Last Thursday, I attended the Melbourne Mobility Forum. The room was filled with companies who currently assist or are keen to assist employees as they relocate to a different country.
How lucky are these people?! I thought to myself feeling slightly envious as I reflected on my personal experience moving to and from six different countries.
It was a challenging and solitary affair at times but it taught me a lot so I thought I’d share with you some of the useful things I learnt the hard way as well as my very own relocation checklist. I hope it helps in your future endeavours all over the world!
In 2007, I moved to Norway to study. I was 18 and naive – though I denied it, of course! I had discovered online that Bergen is the rainiest city in Europe but I thought I’d be fine and refused to look silly so I didn’t invest in rubber boots or waterproof clothes. You should have seen me attempting to walk in heels under snow and rain… Ridiculous and hilarious!
Learning? Check what the weather is like wherever it is you’re going and pack the clothes you need rather than just the ones you love. Challenging, I know… But you’ll thank me later!
In 2009, I moved to the United States for an internship. The company was located in a fairly remote town so they provided me with a car. One night, I parked near a restaurant. As I couldn’t see any signs and it was a Sunday evening, I assumed parking would be free – just as it would have been the case in France. A few hours later, I came back to my first ever fine on the windshield. Damn!!
Learning? Try not to make assumptions as to how things are based on what you’re used to in your home country. New place, new rules!
In 2011, I moved to the United Kingdom to work after I’d graduated from university. There, I first lived in a shared flat with three students. When the first council tax letter arrived, they told me we didn’t have to pay for it. I didn’t question them as they’d lived in London for years. Plus, I’d never heard of council tax before. When – a year and a half later – a court order addressed to me personally was delivered to our apartment, I freaked out! As it turned out, students don’t have to pay council tax but employees definitely do.
Learning? Research which local taxes apply to you before moving beyond borders. It will save you a great deal of money and worry!
In 2015, I moved to China for work. By then, I knew to be more careful and had prepared the longest relocation checklist ever! But that wonderfully detailed piece of paper turned out to be far from sufficient considering my non-existent command of the language… I needed help with Every. Single. Thing. from opening a bank account to getting a local phone number, finding an apartment, ordering furniture etc.
Learning? Make local friends quickly and be really really really nice to them. They are your lifeline and your wellbeing and happiness will depend on them greatly – whether you like it or not!
In 2017, I moved to Australia to be with my partner and to follow my dreams of presenting, acting and writing. I’m not going to lie, it was a pretty easy transition. Well, aside from all the visa stuff… We have been in the process of applying for a working visa since last December and, at one stage, had to provide all of our street addresses for the past 10 years as well as criminal records from each country we had lived in this far. A time-consuming task for me, to say the least!
Learning? Keep a record of everywhere you live and start an “important documents” folder on paper or electronically. Store all the paperwork that seems important at the time and streamline the file before each move.
For the majority of my life, I have lived in France. I was born and raised in a French family, French town, French everything. Well… Last night a friend asked me for my French bank account details as she wanted to order a copy of Where Are You From? (Yaaaay!) Embarrassed, I had to ask my family which bank account details I was supposed to give her.
Learning? Don’t be afraid to ask questions regardless of how stupid you might think they sound. You can’t know everything about everywhere so pack an open-mind and be patient with yourself.
The Famous Checklist!
Each move taught me so much and prepared me for the next one. However, more often than not, I wished I’d learnt from other people’s experiences rather than by making my own countless and costly mistakes. So today I thought I’d share my relocation checklist with you. I hope you find it useful!
1. Visa – Make sure to obtain the right visa before you leave and be aware of all the rules and constraints attached to it.
2. Local Bank Account – Open a bank account with one of the local banks on arrival or – if it’s better for you – set-up a multi-currency account with HSBC.
3. Local Phone Number – Ask around and find out which local provider has the best coverage, then buy a SIM card with them.
4. Accommodation – Decide which accommodation type you are looking for and look online at what is available. In some countries, you can also walk into real estate agencies and find out what they can offer.
5. Furniture – IKEA time! Buy whatever it is you need to make your new place feel like home. But remember… you might not be here long so refrain from purchasing the whole entire store!
6. Internet & TV – Check with your agent or landlord what the options are and purchase a TV licence (if required) and monthly subscription.
7. Other Bills – Register to pay for water, gas, electricity and any other accommodation related taxes.
8. Work Requirements – Obtain a Tax Number – different countries have different names for it – in order to be able to work locally and legally (!)
9. Health Care – If available, register for free health care and sign-up with the closest clinic. If not or in addition, purchase private health insurance.
10. Insurance – Consider purchasing other insurance policies such as Travel Insurance if you are going away or Contents Insurance for your belongings.
11. Embassy – If this service is available for your country of origin, register with your local consulate or embassy as an expatriate. It will make sure that they are aware of your presence and will mean that they have to assist you in case of major issues for example in case of repatriation due to civil unrest.
12. Transport – Buy a public transport pass. If you would like to drive, ensure that your driving licence allows you to do so. You might need to have it officially translated or need to swap it for a local one. Then, buy a car and ensure you tick all the other required boxes such as car insurance, parking permit, annual checks, etc.
13. Things to Buy – Do some online research and ask friends who have been in your new country before. You will then know what you may need to buy whether it be warmer clothes or your favourite perfume that can’t be found anywhere else in the world!
14. Friends – Join online groups and communities before you move. They will enable you to ask lots of questions and get useful tips beforehand. You can then leverage them to meet people and make friends when you arrive. MeetUp is a great place to start. You can also ask around and see whether you have any friends of friends of friends who live in the area too!
Note: This is a non-exhaustive checklist based on my personal experience. It gives you general headlines/topics to look at. If you’re after more country-specific information, feel free to contact me!
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