My Mum once told me that being a tourist in a new city is TOTALLY different to be being a resident in a new city/country.
I hate to admit but she hit the nail on the head. When you visit in tourist mode, your thoughts and thought processes are totalling different to that of one living and surviving in a new environment.
My 24 points below are some things to consider if you are looking to move and live in a new country. My points are based on us moving to China but could easily transpose for any new country. If you want more information, feel free to leave a comment below.
- VISAs : whether you are a student or working, a VISA is 99% of the time needed. Make sure you cross all your T's and dot all your I's in terms of your legal documentation as deportation is a real thing. Don't put your head in the sand, rather make sure you are legally living in your new country. Make sure you carry all the necessary proof of visa etc on your person at all times, so that you are ready for random checks. (If you have been offered a job overseas, make sure it is legitimate as there are many scam artists out there.)
- Language: What is the main language in the new country? If it is not English, can you cope with this - bearing in mind that most everything will be written in the foreign language - from legal forms, leases, contracts, food brands, online stores, shop information, road signage, etc. Don't brush this aside as a a small obstacle- not being able to communicate in English can be frustrating, challenging and lonely.
- Payment options & currency: How does one pay for daily items plus how do I transfer money to my own country once I have earned it? In China, RMB cash is accepted but the main form and preferred payment for everything is WeChat Pay via your phone (or a Union Pay card). Only certain banks can exchange currency so you must come prepared with the right currency. Don't assume that VISA, Mastercard, AMEX, etc will work. Do your homework first, ask lots of questions.
- Taxes: Make sure you understand your own country's tax requirements as well as the new country's tax rules.
- Water: Make sure you know whether or not you can drink the tap water. When in doubt, drink bottled water until you are certain as to the situation in your new environment, as you do not want to potentially fall ill in your first few days.
- Weather: If I can give you a word of advice, do not trust internet searches with this one. Speak to people who are currently living there, so you can get information from the horses' mouth. Weather can become a big factor to what you can do and when, so be prepared with this.
- The basics: Even though it may sound very stupid, think about your personal hygiene and maintenance needs e.g. from your hair cut/colour, your eye care (contacts/glasses), dental needs, medication/medical needs, clothes needs. A lot of this we take for granted until we run out of the item or can't find clothes that fit us.
- Food: Another thing we often take for granted is buying groceries and then cooking our own meals. Ask questions about this so that you are well informed.
- Renting an apartment: Make sure you use a reputable agent to help you with locating a place as well as the lease requirements. Make sure you understand your obligations in terms of deposits, monthly rental, electricity costs, water costs and trash.
- Internet access: Find out if you need to organise your own. If yes, choose a reputable internet agent who does everything by the book so that you do not get disconnected mid contract. If you are heading to China, you will need to think in terms of a VPN as all social media and many websites are blocked. Kindly note that VPN's don't always work so bear this in mind when wanting to keep in contact with friends and family back home.
- Driving: If you are wanting to drive in your new country, you will need to find out what the rules are pertaining to this. You may need to take new tests (written and practical).
- Safety: It goes without saying but always watch your belongings and your personal safety. Even if you have been assured that everything is perfectly safe, always be mindful of your environment and others around you.
- Cell phone: You would need to do some homework into whether your cell phone itself will work as some makes/models may not. Go to a reputable shop in your new country to organise your new sim card to ensure that your new number works. If it is a pre-paid option, find out how to top up on this number.
- Culture: Learn some cultural basics before you arrive as well as think about what you can wear.
- Restrooms: Are they western or eastern style restrooms? This can become a very important factor especially when renting an apartment.
- Support structure: When you arrive, what will your support structure be (especially if there is a language barrier)?
- Expat Forums: Are there some forums which you can join to find out more information?
- Transportation options: What public transport is available?
- Routine: Will you be able to get into a new routine of eating right/sleeping right/exercising right?
- Local knowledge: Not only will you have to learn the basics about culture, but you may need to relearn some other basics e.g. how to eat, how to cross a street, how to handle unusual moments.
- Foreigner Moments: If you are living in an environment with few foreigners - then you may have to get used to being stared at, photographed, video'd or spoken to.
- Public Holidays: Different countries have different national holidays. This can often be forgotten when you move abroad.
- Time Zones: This may be fine for you living in the new country, but this may affect how you keep in contact with your loved ones back home. You may need to stay up until 2am to speak to your loved one at 2pm.
- Air Quality: How is the air quality in the new country/region? How will this affect my health, skin, hair etc?
I have summarised as much as I can. If you would like to know more about living in China, feel free to leave a comment below.
In the next blog post, I shall be discussing some thoughts on living in a new country and a few tips on how to settle in.
"A person does not grow from the ground like a vine or a tree, one is not part of a plot of land. Mankind has legs so it can wander." - Roman Payne