Wednesday, April 28

How to move to a new country without losing your mind!

Moving to a new country or city can be one the scariest and most exhilarating experiences of your life! The stress of it can also do your head in. In 2008, Craig and I moved to the UK for a year. While I was fortunate to have a husky man by my side, I have the utmost admiration for those who do it alone. Having survived and loved the experience, I thought I’d share some ‘big move’ tips with you!

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  • If your visa involves complicated paperwork, consult an expert who can advise you on the relevant steps to follow.
  • Cancel your utilities, TV license, subscriptions and cell phone contract if needs be. Give your paper trail to someone responsible (your mum perhaps) who can help you out if a rouge bill arrives after you’ve left.
  • Get covered with short-term health insurance for your trip. You don’t want to be smacked with a hefty medical bill after being smacked with the drinks trolley. That happens, right?
  • Make photocopies of your passport, visa, ID & medical documents, bank statements and important telephone numbers. Keep the originals on you and stash the copies in your suitcase. If your handbag goes AWOL, you’ll have a back-up paper trail to identify yourself with.
  • Get a passport holder. Not only will it prolong the life of your passport but also save you time rummaging around your handbag for the darn thing. A few years ago, I bought one that holds my passport, ID Book and boarding passes – brilliant!
  • Take spare ID photos. They come in handy when setting up a whole new life.
  • Keep your existing passwords somewhere safe. You may need to log in to your old bank account at some point and it’s easy to forget old passwords when you have to remember a whole bunch of new ones. Take it from the girl who forgot hers!
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  • These sort of things can be a nightmare to arrange, especially bank accounts. We consulted the Overseas Visitors Club to help us plan our move to the UK. For a smallish and totally worthwhile fee, they arranged our new SIM cards and meetings to apply for our N1 numbers, bank accounts and tax forms. They also introduced us to some helpful job magazines and newspapers.
  • If you’d prefer to arrange this lot on your own, try to get handle on the relevant organisations and systems of the city you’re moving to before you go. There’s nothing worse than rocking up to a government office, only to learn that you need to book an appointment three weeks in advance with documents X,Y and Z.
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  • If you don’t have a pre-existing job offer, give yourself a head start and start applying for some online before you go.
  • Make a list of recruitment agencies with their contact numbers before you go. If you can’t get online when you first arrive, at least you’ll have some numbers to hand.
  • Print a wad of CVs before you go and keep them neat in a trusty folder. (Grief, I really do sound like Little Miss Organised. If only, I applied all this in real life :D)
  • Don’t just email - ring recruitment agencies. Bomb that CV off everywhere and throw the net out wide!
  • Friends can be your best PR. If you have some where you are going (lucky you) send them your CV and let them know what sort of work you’re after.
  • CVs tend to differ in style from one country to another. Do some research to find out what’s best practice in the city you’re moving to.
  • {I’m going to write a more in-depth post on job-hunting in a new country soon!}
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  • When choosing a suitcase, look for one that’s sturdy but lightweight. You don’t want the case itself using up the bulk of your baggage allowance – that’s for shoes!
  • I can personally recommend suitcases with 4 wheels! What a pleasure rolling one of those bad boys around.
  • Lock up those cases and remember where you stashed the keys! (I'm really talking to myself here. I'm forever losing those little guys.)
  • For my first trip abroad, I thought it would be fun to get a bright pink suitcase ala Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde. As perky and pretty as it was, it garnered far too much unwanted attention and I felt like a right twot wheeling it through Heathrow.
  • TRAVELING 101! TAKE A CARRY-ON CASE WITH WHEELS! I just about broke my back once carrying a giant hold-all. When I got home, I replaced it with a case that fits the ‘universal’ on-board cabin size. What a winner that thing is.
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  • What you choose to take with you totally depends on where you are going and how long you are going for. When it comes to furniture and big-ticket appliances, remember that doorways, room sizes, elevators and sockets vary from country to country. That Smeg may look awesome in your current flat but will it squeeze into your new London loft?
  • If you’re crashing on a mate’s couch for the first month, you don’t want to be cluttering up their living room with loads of boxes. You can always send for your stuff once you’re in your own spot.
  • It's the familiar, everyday stuff you miss the most when you’re away from home. Take along some photos of the things that are special to you. Pics of friends, family and pets are a must but why not take some pics of your old surroundings – your bedroom, garden, neighbourhood etc
  • I really missed my dogs while away so I bought a soft, cuddly puppy toy from M & S! It sounds ridiculous but that little dog (Hamish is his name) was a great comfort to me.
  • If you have space, take your favourite book, DVD and knick-knacks. Decorating your new spot with pieces from your old life will help you to feel at home.
  • FYI for South Africans moving to the UK: I was blown away by how affordable homeware is in the UK. You can set yourself up for next to nothing with IKEA and the Sainsbury’s Basics range. Crazy Straws for 20p? Hello!
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  • GHD’s, hairdryers, cell phones and cameras…all very handy but only when you can charge and plug the darn things in.
  • Pack all your chargers and adaptors! I took an ‘International Adaptor’ with me but that sucker failed to work in Paris or Amsterdam. Thank goodness the B&B’s had spares because without them, I would have roamed the streets looking like the wild woman of Borneo. Electrical stuff tends to be pricey but try to buy the best quality adaptor you can afford.
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    • Carry some 'home' currency for departure day. It’s quite astounding how much cash you can burn during two hours in an airport. Magazines, gum, headache pills and cappuccinos all become vital necessities! 
    • Carry some notes and coins of the country you're off to. Those traveler's debit cards and cheques won't be of much use when you need to use a pay phone or by a bus ticket on arrival. 
    • Save 10% more than you were planning to take with you. There are so many unforeseen costs that arise during a big move. Remember to save for a deposit as well as one month’s rent. We forgot and it meant we had to eat 60p peanut butter rolls for a week. Oh, the horrors;)
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      • Sometimes you land somewhere and for whatever reason, you decide immediately that it’s not for you. That’s ok, it happens.
      • Other times, it’s tempting to return home because you can’t find a job you like, friends are scarce and the weather’s a blip. My advice would be to stick it out for at least a year. It takes about 6 months to find your feet and after that, the fun begins!
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        Remember, you can do anything! Traveling can be tough but the rewards are immense. You might have to eat a lot of humble pie to begin with but you’ll gain invaluable life experience and return home, a tougher cookie! I’m sure most of the above goes without saying but I find checklists very calming amid a whirlwind of boxes and bubble wrap. I’d love to hear your moving tips and suggestions so please feel free to comment away!

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        5 comments:

        Helen said...

        This is a fantastic post! I'm considering moving abroad at some point soon so I'll definitely be bookmarking this! <3

        Freshly Found said...

        Brilliant advice! Will have to save this link in case of anyone needing the info!

        Lauren said...

        Ah, thank you so much. Much appreciated:)

        jilly said...

        Thank you! For putting this together, post hoc. It's great!

        I'm moving to SA in four months, for a period to be determined, and then my lovely South African boyfriend and I will (maybe) pick another stop, just because we're young and work visas call. I'm bookmarking this one.

        Miki's scrapbook said...

        It's funny that I've seen this. I'm moving to the States within 3 months or so. My fiancè is American and I'm Argentinian. My visa petition has just been accepted, but we're still dealing with loads of paperwork ... the day to leave will arrive soon ... hopefully, hehe. Nic blog, by the way.

        Cheers from Buenos Aires! ;-)