Planning to move to another country? I have some tips for you...
Updated: Feb 1, 2021
I haven't posted anything for a while. My bad. Probably going off a tangent here but for the past few months I've been adjusting to a new job (which I am very lucky and happy to have), in a new country (a very cool one by the way), in the context of COVID which unfortunately you are as familiar with as I am.
For a few months now I've been living in Luxembourg, and I will soon share more about that. However, today I want to talk to you about moving from one country to another. First thing I'm gonna say is that it is more complicated than it looks at the beginning. Once you accept that fact, you can start the mental and physical journey of relocating to a new location and start new adventures. If this is your situation now, or anytime in the future, I hope these steps help you out in one way or another:
Get rid of stuff
Do it. Unless you are a devoted follower of Marie Kondo, you probably have more things lying around your apartment than you need.
Before throwing all the t-shirts you no longer use in the trash, think of donating. Anywhere in the world you will be able to find NGOs that collect clothes, appliances and furniture and distribute them to people who are in need of them.
If you want to make some extra money you could try selling some items and furniture on Facebook or a variety of other online marketplaces.
Make sure you think this step thoroughly, because everything that you don't donate or throw away, will have to be taken to your new location and that could be a hassle.
Pack and ship your stuff
Step one here is to size the items you have left. Think of how you are sending them to their destination. Will it be all in suitcases? Will you send some boxes beforehand? Or will you hire a moving company to come, pack your stuff and handle everything for you. As you might guess, the price of the last option is the most expensive one, but might be the more convenient depending on the situation. For example, if its just you moving, or you and your partner, the first two options might seem more doable than if you are married and have 2 kids.
When you have decided, make sure you start putting everything in bags and boxes, that way you will see progress - which is great to encourage you to keep going, and it also helps understand if you might need to rethink your solution. In my case I knew I was sending some boxes back home to Colombia, and would bring everything I needed to Luxembourg in suitcases.
If you are sending boxes somewhere, I don't envy you, and its not even because of the price. The paperwork that exists when you send items, clothes or anything internationally is very strict, and you might have to fill pages and pages listing all the items that are in your boxes, with strange codes that don't even make sense. Pro tip: Label what you add in each of your boxes before you seal them.
Find an apartment
If you've made it here, congratulations! You still have a long way to go but at least no need to pack anymore.
Make sure that you consider all the possibilities at this stage. Again, depending on your situation they might vary but think of what kind of living arrangement do you want, and what areas of where you are moving to would you want to live in.
Don't forget at this point to visit the last section of this blog on finding groups of expats where you are going. They will definitely have great insider knowledge about rent and purchase prices, neighborhood details and anything else that might make your move easier.
Look at online real estate websites which will most likely have postings on what is available. Before moving to Luxembourg I looked at many local websites and ended up finding my apartment online, and signing a rental contract before moving. With everything going digital, don't underestimate the possibility of viewing apartments before traveling, especially if travel restrictions are in place. I did many videocalls with real estate agents and landlords before committing to one that seemed appropriate. Yes, you might call me crazy for not waiting to see the apartment in person, but at least you will be able to discard some options right off the bat.
Consider the expenses of staying in an Airbnb for a few days, or even weeks when you arrive there, while you look for an apartment. For me it was cheaper to pay for an apartment starting on August 1st, and arriving on the 20th, than to book an Airbnb for two weeks.
If you go for a real estate agent, make sure you have their terms clear, and written down somewhere. I have heard terrible stories of people not knowing the costs of renting an apartment through a third-party, so make sure it doesn't happen to you.
Figure out your bank account situation
This is a peculiar one. When moving to a new country, the initial idea is that you want to have a local bank account. It is definitely easier in case you want to get paid locally, or you want to set up the payments for your rent, services or internet.
I decided against it, and got a Revolut bank account, which had been praised by many around me to be very flexible and easy to use, especially since it was all controlled by its app. I do have a few comments, and I will keep it short to not make this a review of their services:
If there is no solution to a problem, you depend on a forum... There is no easy way to contact them directly.
If you state that you live in the country you are moving to, make sure you have an ID from that country to verify your account, or it will be completely useless until you do. Basically don't open it before you are at the new location.
Finally, don't close your old bank account before being fully settled in the new place. Might sound weird to move out with an open bank account, but in my case I ended up needing it to pay for my services in Luxembourg for a few months until I got my ID to verify and use my Revolut account.
Get a new phone number, and wifi
Well it's important to stay connected, but it's also important to weigh the pros and cons of different telecommunications companies before choosing one.
Will it be an annual or month-to-month contract?
Will you get a package with wifi/fiber and TV? Or will you get that separately?
Not sure what to call this one but basically make sure that you know what you will need to do once you arrive.
In my case, my employer gave me a list of things I needed when arriving to Luxembourg which included getting registered at my city center, having a medical check-up to certify I'm in good health, getting medical insurance and applying for my worker ID.
Join groups of expats
Find people like you! There are groups of expats in most countries on earth, and you should definitely look into them.
One great choice is to look at Meetup.com which will give you groups and events based on your location.
You are moving somewhere new, embrace the change, and make sure you feel like a local quickly by interacting with people who live there!
Don't be the person that moved to a city and after 6 months is still going to the bar that is just for foreigners (unless that's your thing).
Hope this helps you get prepared, and makes your next adventure easier!
Here are some of the first pictures I took in Luxembourg: