Moving abroad is a wonderful experience, but it’s also incredibly daunting, one that fils you with questions. I’ve lived in Los Angeles now for over a year, and I often get asked how we moved and advice we would give to anyone looking to make a big move. While I want to focus on practical advice here, I did write more about why we moved to LA in this post, so feel free to read that to find out the reasons why I moved and my feelings after making the move.
THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR
The first thing is to think about what you’re looking for in a move? Do you want to be somewhere that’s easy to walk to places? Do you want a family friendly environment? Are you looking for outdoors activities or great night life? It’s really helpful to write down a list of the things you’re looking for in a move, and if you find yourself saying ‘a better way of life’ try to get specific, ask yourself what’s currently missing that you want more of. Do you want to be in a warmer climate, or a climate that has an even mix of seasons? The more specific you can get the easier it is to find the right place. Ask yourself (and your family/partner if it’s not just you moving alone) all the questions you need answers to. Will you be able to work, or more specifically, find the kind of work you would like more of? All these things are important to consider as they make the difference when you come to taking action.
VISIT BEFORE YOU MOVE
Before moving to LA we visited twice, both for quite substantial lengths of time. You want to make sure you can get a feel for a place, the day to day life as much as possible. Go to various neighbourhoods, find out how easy it is to get around. You want to get out of holiday mode, which can be hard especially if you’re moving somewhere that is well known as a holiday destination. The reality could be very different from the fantasy, it’s important to see it for yourself and live it, so there are no surprises when you do move. It’s safe to say a few days somewhere can easily feel like a honeymoon period where it’s easier to only see the good things, the exciting things, whereas staying for a full month or two helps you see a place in all its glory, the good and the bad.
MAKE CONTACTS BEFORE YOU GET THERE
Where possible, aim to set up work meetings during your early visits and meet with as many people as possible. You want to make sure there will be the right opportunities for you. Ask friends you do know to introduce you to their friends. During your initial visits you could even try going to a meet up for shared interests to meet like minded people who have made the move or are also about to make the move.
After visiting, try to imagine yourself being away from family and friends for potentially long periods of time. Will you be ok with this? If you’re moving as a couple or a family, talk about your trip, the likes and dislikes. The positives and negatives. Knowing what you know, can you really see yourself living in this new place?
DO YOUR RESEARCH
It goes without saying, research thoroughly, not just where you’re moving to, but the move itself, the logistics and required documentation you will need. We joined a Brits In LA Facebook Group to talk to other people who had made the same move and also read up on lots of forums about brits making the move to the US. Talking to others who have already made the move really helps as you are able to ask specific questions, especially time frames and things to be aware of. I also really recommend talking to an immigration lawyer so you have factual information in addition to option based information from people who have made the move. When it comes to documentation or legal technicalities, an immigration lawyer is the only one who has the correct and up to date answers.
SAVE THOSE $$$$$$
Moving abroad is expensive, and there’s always something you forget about having to buy again. So make sure you have enough money saved to cover your initial outgoings when you get there and the first few months, especially if you have the kind of job where you’re freelance, and don’t necessarily get paid on a month to month basis.
CONSIDER LOGISTICS & COST BEFORE THE MOVE
After talking with other people that have done the same move, you want to weigh up all the logistics you need to consider. Things like if you need a visa how long will it take to get it? Will you need to send over furniture when you move and therefore look into shipping containers maybe? Will you have to retake a driving test? Time and money may play a big part in your decision to move. Perhaps your move will be a more affordable way of life, but for some it may be an increase in expenses. The best thing to do is to make another list, one of all the associated costs and when they would have to be paid by, and all the tasks you need to do in order to move, and what you will need to do upon arrival. Make a timeline of what needs to be done and in what order.
AND UPON ARRIVAL
When you move abroad, in many ways it feels likes starting again. Maybe you will need a new bank account? Or a social security number in order to get paid? You also need to find somewhere to live so you might want to consider a short term let on arrival or stay with friends if possible while you find somewhere to live. Hopefully during your early visits you found the area(s) you wanted to live that are within budget and you won’t need to waste time driving round looking at endless properties. Remember things can be very different when you live somewhere new, so get accustomed to how things work and what the general costs are that you’ll have to pay month to month that you might not have had to pay where you previously lived. When you move to certain countries you may have to start with a zero credit rating, so getting things like a phone contract or leasing a car can be more difficult, so make sure you have enough saved as the first few months can feel the hardest financially, what with so many upfront outgoings.
Along with many other things I am grateful for, moving abroad is definitely up there! I hope this was helpful, and if you have any other questions let me know in the comments below. Good luck!
Photos taken by David Beazley at Melrose Trading Post