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10 questions to ask and answer before moving abroad

Updated 18 Sep 2009

1. Location

Where do you want to move to?

Just like buying property, location is the key factor in planning a move. Are your expectations about the destinations accurate and reasonable – and have you researched it thoroughly? Use the expat guides published here, explore the links, and visit bulletin boards where expats chat about the issues they are encountering. Make sure the career opportunity you are embracing is not undermined by the reality of the destination you are moving to.

2. Motivation

Why are you going – and how motivated are you?

Good reasons to move abroad are to further your career and experience another culture. Poor reasons include making more money, seeking better weather or wanting to live somewhere cheaper. Expats invest a lot of time, money and energy when they move – make sure there is good long term return for all that outlay.

3. Language

Can you speak the local language?

 If not, it’s a great idea to learn some key phrases before you go, and start lessons once you arrive. You will be surprised at how much more you will enjoy your new home and how quickly you will be accepted if you can engage with the locals in their own language.

4. Taxation

What rate of tax will you be paying?

 Does your expat destination have a reciprocal agreement with your country so you avoid double taxation? Get accurate information on how much tax you will pay as this will hugely effect your net income. For example, did you know that in Japan you will pay up to 45% of your salary in tax? Each countries has a different tax system and countries like the USA will tax their citizens no matter where in the world they live.

5. Financial planning

Can you handle an emergency – including a sudden move back home?

Plan carefully so you have adequate funds during your transition period abroad, and leave money at home in case you need a financial lifeline. If you have property, it may be wise to rent it out for a period, until you are sure of your move and know where you want to live.

6. Family

Do you have buy-in from your partner and/or children?

An expat life might be full of excitement and opportunity for you, but may involve a lot of upheaval for your family members. Help them with their transition by highlighting the positives, providing information about the new city, and finding ways for them to integrate in clubs and communities that support their interests.

7. Healthcare

Can you rely on the local healthcare service – or do you need private insurance?

Some countries offer outstanding healthcare to expats; others none at all. Will your existing cover keep you insured? If not research the costs and factor this against your new remuneration package.

8. Community

Can you connect with people once you arrive, to help smooth the expat transition?

Churches, Rotary clubs, and sporting associations like Hash House Harriers are great ways to plus into a community as soon as you arrive. They can make the difference between feeling alienated and accepted in those difficulty early weeks of your new expat life.

9. Costs

Do you really know how much things will cost?

It can be hard to predict what you’ll spend on groceries, utility bills, petrol and the like. Do your research carefully so you know what to expect.

10. Attitude

The most important question of all is quite simply this: will you embrace the experience and keep a positive outlook no matter the surprises that await you? If you can the expat life will be a rewarding one – whether you are a retiree or career-minded professional.

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