Becoming a UK expat brings many benefits. A life abroad offers broadened horizons, a change of lifestyle, a chance to get out of a rut and often the benefit of a warmer, sunnier climate. It is an opportunity to get to know people with a different outlook on life and to become fluent in another language. A large number of UK nationals have taken the plunge, with the Home Office estimating that around 4.7 million UK citizens are living abroad. Among the most popular destinations for expats are Australia, the USA, Spain and France. Of those who have moved away from the UK, many have done so to take up employment abroad, but there are also many retirees setting up home abroad in search of a slower pace of life and a place in the sun. According to the Home Office, between 4,000 and 8,000 retirees leave the UK every year.
Here are some tips to help you prepare for your move abroad and to ensure you make the most of your life abroad.
1. Visas, work permits
Make sure you have the right to work in your intended location. If you are an EU citizen intending to work outside the EU, you will need to apply for a relevant visa to allow you to work/ stay in your new location. Give yourself plenty of time to secure the necessary visa. Although you won’t need a visa to travel to other EU countries, you might need a work permit. This is the case in Germany, for example.
2. Buying a home
If buying a home for your new life abroad, make sure you do plenty of research before purchasing. Make a point of visiting the area several times before you decide to buy, to make sure that this is the right place for you and your needs. You could always first of all rent a property in the area to allow you to truly experience what the area is like. Once you have decided on a location, you will need to become fully aware of the protocol for buying a property in your chosen country. You should also be aware of all the many extra charges you might incur when making a real-estate purchase, including taxes, insurance fees, survey fees and lawyer fees. It is vital that your purchase goes smoothly and that you fulfil all legal requirements. You should, therefore, seek independent legal advice to keep you right regarding issues such as title deeds, taxes, planning permission, planned development work, contracts, placing deposits, transferring ownership, etc. If you are not fluent in the local language, make sure you hire a translator/ interpreter to translate any documents pertaining to the purchase of your property. This may be provided by your lawyer. Finally, beware of buying a property off-plan, as the project could come up against a number of problems before, and if, it is built. Delays to completion could have a knock-on effect on your plans at home, and there is always the risk that the developer could go bankrupt, leaving you without your dream property and with little chance of receiving your deposit back. See our Top Tips on Buying a House Abroad to learn more.
3. Shipping possessions
To set up home in your new location, you will need to bring with you a considerable amount of luggage. Airlines are making it increasingly difficult and extremely expensive to bring any substantial amount of luggage with you. Having your much-loved possessions with you, however, can help to turn your new property into a home. Send My Bag can ship your luggage to the door of your new home. Send My Bag has many international routes, with a great-value flat rate for each route, up to a massive 30 kg. This means that you can bring your favourite clothes, books, DVDs, etc. to quickly help you set up home abroad. Click here to learn more.
4. Keeping in touch
These days, phone and internet access are essential parts of daily life and will be especially important to you if you have left friends and family back at home. If you are on a mobile phone contract at home, you should try to cancel this, if possible, as your tariff will often not include international calls. You can then obtain a pay-as-you-go sim so you only pay for what you use. Alternatively, you could try to change tariff to one that includes international calls. In the long run, the best option is to purchase a local sim in your new location, especially as you will increasingly need to contact people locally. To obtain internet access, you will often need a landline. The landline provider may be able to offer a package with free international calls. Or, you could use Skype to contact other users at home. If you would rather not pay for a landline, if may be possible in your area to use an internet dongle. Whichever option you go for, make sure you shop around, and ask the advice of locals. They may even be able to help you make sense of terms and conditions if you are not entirely au fait with the local language.
5. Sending gifts home with Send My Bag
You can also keep in touch with home by sending packages home to loved ones – to your kids or grandkids. Just because you are living abroad, doesn’t mean you have to miss giving gifts on special occasions, or that you need to restrict yourself to only tiny items. Why not fill a suitcase or box with your Christmas or birthday gifts and have them delivered door-to-door by Send My Bag. This also means that if you are visiting home you do not have to sacrifice any little luggage allowance you might have in order to carry gifts. Or, you could easily travel with just hand luggage and sail through the airport, knowing your gifts have been taken care of.
When relocating abroad, you will need to have money available in the local currency. Make sure you have enough money to cover your travel, as well as the first few days/ weeks in your new location, to allow you to set up a bank account. Do not carry too much cash, however. Instead, spread your money across cash, travel cards/ traveller’s cheques, etc. You should also authorize your credit/ debit card to be used abroad. To avoid paying international transaction fees too frequently, you should withdraw cash to cover you for a few days, once you have arrived, rather than using your card for lots of individual purchases. Once you have a new bank account, you can transfer money from your old account. Why not transfer your money using CurrencyFair? CurrencyFair is a website that allows you to transfer money internationally, while avoiding your bank’s poor exchange rates and high fees. This service will also allow you to send money back home to family.
7. Health care
Make sure you have access to local health care. Find out how the health system works – whether it is a public or largely private health care system. Do you need to obtain health insurance to afford fees? If you are working, does your job contract come with health care benefits? Does this cover other members of your family? Ensure that you know what to do in the case of an emergency and what services are available for minor injuries or illnesses – a walk-in clinic or pharmacy may be able to help. Register with your local doctor/ dentist/ optician and find out how to arrange an appointment. This is especially important if you are a retiree or have pre-existing health problems.
8. Making new friends
In order to establish a new life abroad, you should try to integrate with the local community, whether simply by making conversation with your neighbours or by joining a local club. If you are working abroad, talk to people at work and ask to get together outside of working hours. Remember that family members who have travelled with you may not have such outlets for socializing and encourage them to meet people in other ways – by joining local clubs and societies, for example.
9. Learning the language
A significant hurdle to overcome may be a language barrier. It is imperative that you try to learn the local language. This can start well before you move, whether you take a formal class at home or simply teach yourself using books or one of the many online resources now available, such as language apps, websites like Babbel, or more substantial software such as Rosetta Stone. Most people you meet abroad will be thrilled that you have made the effort to learn their language and these people will be crucial to helping you become fluent. Moreover, mixing with local people will ensure that you get to know local customs so that you can communicate in ways that won’t offend!
10. Get together with fellow expats
Home-sickness is likely to strike once the excitement of relocating has died down. To help with this, you could join a local group of expats, with whom you can reminisce about your home country. There may even be an expat society in your area. Several groups for expats have been set up online, with forums for discussion and helpful tips and advice. Search online for your particular area and don’t forget to have a look on social media sites.
Thinking of joining your fellow UK expats abroad? Consider where is best for you to move to by mulling over these criteria, as put together by Send My Bag.