10 Things To Consider Before Moving To A New Country


Decid­ing to move to a new coun­try, either for retire­ment or for the lifestyle, is often the result of hav­ing had sev­eral won­der­ful vaca­tions in the area being con­sid­er­ing, or is based on some­thing read about in books or travel mag­a­zines, or some­thing seen in a movie or on TV. My hus­band and I had heard some won­der­ful things about life in New Zealand — the won­der­ful lifestyle, the gor­geous scenery, the friendly peo­ple…. We’d seen movies, trav­el­ogues, spoke to numer­ous peo­ple, did a fair amount of research — but had never actu­ally been to New Zealand before we moved there. Not the best type of research to base a major move on!!

Even when a con­sid­er­able amount of time is spent in the coun­try you plan on mov­ing to, the image cre­ated of actu­ally liv­ing there can often based on an ide­al­ized vision of what life will be like on a day to day basis. It is far too easy to accen­tu­ate the pos­i­tive aspects of what life will be like in this new coun­try and all too easy to over­look the neg­a­tives. It’s one thing to have a great time there on vaca­tion for a cou­ple of weeks a year — but to really live there, day after day, month after month, year after year, is a whole new level of real­ity. Friends of ours spent every sum­mer hol­i­day for years in a lovely lit­tle town in France and decided they would retire there. Three years into their retire­ment and they are look­ing for some­place else to live — a place that more read­ily fits with their lifestyle. The town was a nice place to visit, but not a nice place to live in.

Some­times its the lit­tle things, like not being able to get your favorite brand of peanut but­ter, or tooth­paste, or cof­fee, that become a major irri­ta­tion. Other times its the big things, like not being able to under­stand what your doc­tor is telling you, or the chemists instruc­tions for tak­ing a med­ica­tion, that can leave you stressed. When I moved to New Zealand I quickly dis­cov­ered that even when lan­guage is not an issue, cul­tural, lifestyle and other dif­fer­ences can be still be chal­leng­ing, spe­cially if you are unpre­pared for them.

So, before you sell off all of your worldly belong­ings, here’s a list of 10 things that you should care­fully con­sider before decid­ing to move to a dif­fer­ent coun­try:

1)  Fam­ily and Friends:
How close are you to mem­bers of your fam­ily and to your friends? Do you visit often? Do you share activ­i­ties, golf­ing, shop­ping, vis­it­ing muse­ums, shar­ing din­ner, etc, on a reg­u­lar basis? Or do you rarely see them? Promises to visit reg­u­larly may be made with the best of inten­tions. Unfor­tu­nately, life always hap­pens — inten­tions, maybe not so much. How do you feel about miss­ing out on the major events in your family’s life — the birth of a grand­child, your niece’s grad­u­a­tion, your nephew’s wedding,etc.?

2) Lan­guage: If the native lan­guage of the coun­try you are think­ing about mov­ing to is not Eng­lish, how well do you under­stand  the lan­guage? Could you cope with an emer­gency — a med­ical emer­gency that sends you to hos­pi­tal or to an emer­gency clinic? or a burst water pipe or other house­hold emer­gency that requires imme­di­ate atten­tion? Could you under­stand a movie? or make small talk at a party?

3) Med­ical Issues:
An unfa­mil­iar lan­guage is not the only con­cern regard­ing med­ical issues. Do you have a med­ical con­di­tion that will require con­tin­u­ing care? Even some­thing like high blood pres­sure or dia­betes could be expen­sive if your med­ical insur­ance does not cover you while you live out­side of your native country.

4) Cul­ture: Every coun­try has their own unique cul­ture, their way of doing things that is often dif­fer­ent from the way these same things are done in every other coun­try. The way peo­ple inter­act while shop­ping, at work, doing busi­ness, ren­o­va­tion and repair­ing homes, in social set­tings, etc, can be very dif­fer­ent from coun­try to coun­try. How easy is would it be for you to adapt to these new cus­toms?

5) Finan­cial:
Have you cal­cu­lated the cost of liv­ing in the coun­try you are con­sid­er­ing mov­ing to? We kept hear­ing how the cost of liv­ing in New Zealand was so low, but what we hadn’t hear about was that the cost of any­thing that was imported into the coun­try, like books, large appli­ances, beds, cars, gen­er­ally any­thing that wasn’t made in New Zealand, was extra­or­di­nar­ily high. For some coun­tries, its the ‘extra’ costs of doing busi­ness, or buy­ing a home, or what­ever. When you take these ‘extra’ costs into con­sid­er­a­tion, the cost of liv­ing can become pro­hib­i­tively high.

6) Employ­ment: Although related to Finan­cial Issues, issues sur­round­ing whether you are allowed to work or not can become unex­pect­edly sig­nif­i­cant and should be con­sid­ered on their own. No mat­ter how good a finan­cial plan is things. like wob­bly stock mar­kets, can hap­pen. Do you have the skills, the tal­ents or the legal abil­i­ties to work if you need to? Some jobs or entre­pre­neur­ial oppor­tu­ni­ties, can be done com­pletely online from any­where in the world where the Inter­net can be accessed. Other jobs will require work visas or per­ma­nent res­i­dence sta­tus for the country.

7) Lifestyle: Are you used to a cer­tain lifestyle? Fre­quent vis­its to muse­ums, art gal­leries or live the­ater; eat­ing out in good restau­rants,  or eat­ing in fast food restau­rants; enjoy­ing a wide selec­tion of food; vol­un­teer­ing; hav­ing a friendly game of ten­nis or round of golf of the week­end;  etc. Will these lifestyle choices still be avail­able to you after you have moved? Do you enjoy watch­ing tele­vi­sion or lis­ten­ing to the radio? Some coun­tries only have three tele­vi­sion chan­nels to choose from. Will this be enough? Is the area you are think­ing of mov­ing to one that attracts a lot of tourists? How will you feel about being inun­dated with tourists in five or ten years? My in-laws used to live in the South of France, in an area that was much loved by tourists. Every August my in-laws left the area in order to avoid the tourists. They found that daily activ­i­ties, like gro­cery shop­ping and vis­it­ing friends, were increas­ingly more dif­fi­cult,  frus­trat­ing and stress­ful dur­ing tourist season.

8) Shop­ping: What is the shop­ping like in the area you are think­ing of mov­ing to? Will you have access to the type and style of cloth­ing you like; the foods you like; the books, mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers you like? Is the shop­ping close to where you are think­ing of liv­ing or will shop­ping become a major day-long excur­sion? If you have only vis­ited the area you are con­sid­er­ing mov­ing to dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son, what is the shop­ping ilk dur­ing the off sea­son? Is the selec­tion of goods and ser­vices that you have become famil­iar with only avail­able while the tourists are in town?

9) Ameni­ties:
Are you used to a cer­tain stan­dard of liv­ing? Well main­tained roads where the snow is cleared after every snow­fall: a con­sis­tent sup­ply of elec­tric­ity; ser­vices com­pleted in a rea­son­able amount of time; the abil­ity to grab a quart of milk or loaf of bread at mid­night or on the week­end? While these dif­fer­ences may be easy to live with in the short term, could you make them a part of your every­day life?

10) Return­ing to Your Native Coun­try:
There are two sit­u­a­tions when return­ing to your native coun­try can be stressful:

  • The first is if you need to get back quickly because of a fam­ily emer­gency, a fam­ily mem­ber is sick, or has passed away, or was in an acci­dent. Could you cope with not being able to get back to your fam­ily in a hurry? Nat­ural dis­as­ters, strikes, etc., could pre­vent you from trav­el­ing right at the moment when you need to travel the most.
  • The other “Return­ing to Your Native Coun­try” sit­u­a­tion that can be very stress­ful is if you dis­cov­ered that the coun­try you moved to is no longer the coun­try you want to live in and you want to return to your native coun­try. The finan­cial costs of mov­ing back can be enor­mous, but there are also emo­tional costs. Cul­ture shock can be just as hard to take mov­ing back to your native coun­try after you have been away for a few years, as it can be when you move to a new country.

The bot­tom line is that the more flex­i­ble you are, the more you are will­ing to adapt to what­ever comes your way and to change as the sit­u­a­tions demand, the eas­ier and more enjoy­able it is to live in a new country.


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4 thoughts on “10 Things To Consider Before Moving To A New Country

  1. Hi Danie Liv­ing in New Zealand was not exactly what we had expected, but wouldn’t have missed the expe­ri­ence for the world!!. There are so many intan­gi­bles that are impos­si­ble to gauge before­hand — even vis­it­ing a place doesn’t really give the full pic­ture of what its like to live there. For any­one think­ing about mov­ing to a coun­try that is sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent from their home coun­try I would strongly rec­om­mend doing your research (and lots of it) and have an escape plan in place before you leave :-)

  2. Sounds stress­ful, but man­age­able when you give clear and con­cise points about what to expect and what needs to be done. Thank you for post­ing this. So what’s it like liv­ing in New Zealand; how does it dif­fer from your orig­i­nal expec­ta­tions after you set­tled in?

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