1. Where do you want to go?
Make a list of all the places you’d like to live. It can be three places or thirty places, anywhere you want! Then research, research, research. Watch videos on what it’s like there (in all seasons). Read about the experiences of people who have already made the move. But read A LOT because everyone’s experience will be different. For every sour puss, there are just as many with a positive outlook! China is an incredible country, but would you be able to deal with all that pollution? Consider the type of medical care that will be available. Make lists of pros and cons for all countries you’re interested in. Once you start making those lists things will narrow down quickly even if you’ve got 30 places.
2. What skills do you have?
Can you speak a foreign language? Are you a teacher? Are you a doctor? Are there certifications you could do before you leave that could help you to find a job more easily? For example; completing your TESOL certificate before heading abroad to teach, could help you to get a higher paying job. Though in my experience, it’s really not that much higher, or particularly necessary. But that’s MY experience. I know people who have moved to Taiwan with ZERO experience, no degree, and are still kicking around here (although that’s illegal so maybe try to avoid it, I am just saying it IS possible).
3. Do you have family/friends somewhere?
My family is Hungarian, I already speak Hungarian, and had been to Hungary many times. So for me moving there was easy and made a lot of sense. When I moved to Hsinchu, my cousins let me rent a room at their house and got me my first job. The move to Taipei was easier because my friends gave me advice, and my boyfriend let me stay with him until I found a place. When I moved to Malaysia, I had two friends who helped me in introducing me to the people I am still friends with.
4. What are the laws like, will you be safe?
While I find the Middle East incredibly intriguing, I don’t think it would be the right place for me to live for an extended period of time. I looooove to have drinks and do as I please, and the laws are often changing there on a whim. Luckily in Taiwan, you can buy liquor 24/7 and drink it on the street if you wish. I regularly grab a beer with my girlfriend and we walk her dog together. Are you going to be imprisoned for things you’d be fine doing in your home country? Do you like to do drugs? Some countries will execute you for possession. Are you at high risk for kidnapping? Consider the present political situation in the country you’d like to go to. I am not going to immigrate to Syria or Afghanistan for an overseas experience unless I am doing some kind of aid work. Singapore is an incredibly beautiful and clean city, but it’s also illegal to chew gum there.
5. Are you religious/gay/trans/female or other?
Consider what types of challenges you’ll be met with in a new country because of your religious beliefs. Are those challenges and perhaps adverse conditions something you’re willing to deal with on the daily? In some countries, homosexuality is a punishable offense, as is being transgender. They imprison people for it. I don’t imagine you’d like to live in a place where you need to hide who you are. Being a woman is much harder in certain countries. If you’re considering moving abroad as a woman on your own, you need to be mindful of what you’re getting yourself into.
6. Are you going to need language skills where you are going?
As I mention in my post, I didn’t learn any Mandarin before coming to Taiwan. Had I not moved to Taipei, I would certainly have struggled a great deal more. Are you ok going somewhere you don’t know how to say anything? I will be honest, moving to Hungary and being able to communicate made things easier, but it really isn’t necessary. Fortunately, in most places you can find some English speakers. It does make life easier, and many things are written in English as well as Chinese, here. I would highly recommend learning some of the language, at least. If you’re not up for learning another language, that’s ok. Consider the countries in this link to help you find someplace suitable.
7. What is the purpose of your move?
Are you working to pay off student loans? There are a number of countries with low cost of living, but higher salaries, Taiwan being one of them specifically. Are you wanting to travel more? If you’re looking for a place that has great weekend getaway options, South East Asia is an amazing choice. I could fly from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Bangkok, Thailand, in a couple of hours and for about 60USD. The islands are even closer and only slightly more expensive to get to. Kuala Lumpur to Singapore or Bali, similar situation. Take into consideration the cost of living somewhere like Singapore or Hong Kong. While they’re amazing, fun cities and travel hubs, you need a good job to make a living there. I don’t think you want to move overseas to struggle. One of the things I love about Europe and Asia is the convenience of travel to another country, even just for the weekend.
8. Are you allowed to own property?
In many countries, foreigners cannot purchase real estate, or there are stipulations that come with purchasing a home. Are you only looking to stay for a short while? Maybe you’re like me, you don’t have enough money to buy a house in the market where you live. Are you going to be happy in a rental home, and how difficult or easy is it to get a lease as an expat?
9. Are you securing a job before you arrive or after?
Most countries have a landing visa which generally gives the visitor 30-90 days in the country (check that, it varies country to country, nationality to nationality). It’s certainly possible to go into a country on a landing visa, have a look, find a job, and then change your visa afterward. Some countries won’t allow you to change your visa while in the country. You’ll have to fly to a neighboring country, submit your paperwork, and reenter the country once you’ve acquired your visa. I came to Taiwan with a job and changed things up later on. But I did have to go to Okinawa and apply for visas there at one point when I was in studying and subsequently deal with the dreaded immigration office in Taipei upon my return. You can turn it into a nice little vacation, I did! Having a job lined up beforehand has its downsides as well. If you’ve never been to the country before, you might want to consider that you could be signing up for something you don’t want. I know some people who hated the job where they signed their contract, and then were stuck. I like to keep as many options open as I can. But sometimes circumstances don’t allow that. DO YOUR RESEARCH.
10. Do you care about the weather?
Yes, I thought loved warm weather and rain, but can you do extreme temperatures year round? Especially in a city? Once I wanted to import a Swedish boyfriend and told him all about how wonderful Taiwan was. He came for a month to try it out. I am not kidding you: torrential downpours every single day. Needless to say, he did not make the move permanent. I found Malaysia’s heat more pleasant than Taiwan’s. It’s always hot there (about 30C/86F and humid year round) and sometimes there is “haze”. People have loads of outdoor things like restaurants, bars, and POOLS! In Malaysia, it doesn’t rain for weeks/months on end like it does in Taipei.
Bangkok is so much fun and one of my favorite cities in the world, but don’t ask me to run errands there in that blazing, polluted heat. Taiwan summers can be brutal too, forget walking around outside on a hot day in heels and showing up to the office looking fresh. Think: walking around in a polluted sauna for an hour, still trying to look presentable. I sometimes complain that Asian people walk extremely slowly, but they’ve probably got the right idea. I would likely not be a ball of sweat all summer long if I wasn’t power walking everywhere I go. One thing I wish there was more of in Taiwan: easily accessible outdoor pools. That being said, I would take the heat over the snow any day. I am such a wimp about cold weather having lived in tropical climates for the past eight years or so.
11. How important is the infrastructure to you?
Do you insist on first world living? How about drinking water? Indoor plumbing? Are you a fancy pants high-end type of person? Nothing wrong with that, I like some fancy pants-ness myself, but you aren’t going to move to a rural beach somewhere and build a hut to live in. Are you down with the locals in a small fishing village? Do you need an airport nearby? Do you need electricity and the internet all the time? I have never been to South Africa (it’s on the list) but friends say sometimes they don’t have power, and the internet access can be shoddy. That is normal there. It looks AMAZING, with both the sophisticated and well, not so sophisticated parts. What it boils down to is whether or not you can deal with what it’s like to actually be there 24/7.
12. When the holiday is over, are you still going to like it?
You’re going for a new experience! It’s going to be so fun, new, exciting, and few things are going to bother you. Initially. You can’t expect to lay beside the beach all day, cocktail in hand unless you’re on permanent holiday. Even then, you’ll get bored of doing the same shit every day. Moving to a remote tropical island might have been a good idea, but it’s 2 months later and you really need a haircut, some decent internet access, a hospital, maybe you want to wear shoes. You’ve seen the entire island and pretty much know everyone already, you’ve eaten everywhere, you’ve drank everywhere, you’ve suntanned everywhere. What now? More than likely you will still have to go to work. You will still have bills, and grocery shopping. You’re still going to be adulting, guys, don’t kid yourself. You’re just going to be adulting somewhere unknown and more interesting. Choose wisely, kittens.
13. How are you going to get around?
If you’re moving to a big city, often enough there will be public transportation you merely need to get the hang of. But if you’re moving to a place like Hsinchu, where I first lived, it was necessary to have a scooter to get around. Are you going to need a vehicle? What are the rules as far as getting a driver’s license and insurance? I am not going to lie; I didn’t have a driver’s license or insurance, or papers for my scooter and had no problems. That is until my scooter got towed and I couldn’t prove it was mine. I don’t even think I knew what kind of scooter I had, but it was black (my favorite color) and I loved it. I had to let that baby go. It was probably for the best anyway since I have road rage badly enough just walking. I crashed a couple times but it wasn’t too bad, others haven’t been so lucky. Choose somewhere you’re comfortable with the transport you’ll most likely be using.
14. Are you going to need to return to your home country?
If you are close with your family, like I am, moving abroad can be quite trying at times. It’s well worth it I think, and I am very happy. My family is happy for me, and I make a point of going home at LEAST once a year for a minimum of two weeks, sometimes as much as six weeks. That being said, I have friends who haven’t been home in 5-6 years. But I also have friends that go home 3—4 times a year. Can your family and friends visit you? It costs time and money so be sure you consider this in selecting your new home.
15. Have you REALLY done your research?
Make sure you’re prepared. Make sure you’ve carefully selected a place to live and at least have an idea about what you’re getting into. Choose wisely my friends, and be excited! It’s going to be such a wonderful adventure!!!
Have any of you tried to move abroad? What did you find helpful in choosing where to go? I would love to hear some of your stories!
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