How to Prepare for Working & Moving Abroad

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So you’ve decided to work abroad and are now in the planning stages of your big move. Congratulations! Working and living abroad is always an enriching experience and you have a lot to look forward to. But, before you book your plane ticket and pack your bags, there are quite a few things you’ll need to prepare for before you can head out on your adventure.

Hallelujah! Your moving and working abroad checklist

It can be really overwhelming to think about everything you need to prepare for at home and in your new destination before you can make the move. To make the process easier, use this “moving and working abroad checklist” that we’ve put together for you. 

notebook, laptop, and white mug

It all starts by making your work abroad checklist for pre-trip prep.

1. Find the right work abroad program

If you haven’t lined up a job yet, the most important task is finding the right work abroad program for you. There are opportunities in so many different fields. You could get a working holiday visa, teach abroad, become an au pair, work on farms, or apply for more traditional jobs. Allow yourself enough time for this process, so you can find the perfect fit and complete all your applications. 

[Get matched with work abroad programs]

2. Research your destination

This might go without saying, but before moving to work abroad, take some time to research your destination. This research will help you every step of the way, as being well informed will help you to be more relaxed during the rest of the process. Find out about the culture, customs of your future home and learn some interesting facts.

Good old travel guidebooks are a great start to get an overview. You could also talk to people you know who have spent time in your chosen country, as the first-hand experience is absolutely invaluable. 

3. Save up a “Buffer Fund” for when you arrive

One of the best parts of moving abroad to work is that you’re essentially getting paid to travel. However, this doesn’t mean you don’t need to save up before your move. It’s important to save up a “Buffer Fund” to help you out during the first few months. 

There are always costs involved with moving abroad. In addition to travel costs, you’ll likely need to pay for at least one month’s rent and a security deposit upfront. You might also have to buy a few things that your new house is lacking in, such as furniture.In many jobs, you may also have to wait a month or more for your first paycheck to arrive. Therefore, make sure you find out when you’ll get paid and save up enough to bridge the gap. Of course, there are always ways to be savvy with the money you do have, to make it stretch further. 

[You can fundraise for your trip with FundMyTravel!]

woman working on laptop early in the morning

Early birds get the worm, the same goes for working abroad.

4. Look for housing

This might not be relevant to everyone, as some work abroad programs offer housing as part of the package. But if you have to find your own accommodation, make sure you’ve got at least a few nights booked in a hotel when you arrive so that you can take your time to go apartment hunting. 

5. Make a bucket list

While everyone has different reasons for wanting to move and work abroad, travel is usually a major one. You’ll be wanting to explore your new home country and city as much as possible and it can be really helpful to make a list of all the places you want to visit, the food you want to try and the activities you’d like to experience. That way, you’ll avoid leaving everything to the end of your stay and then scrambling to find the time to sightsee. 

6. Take care of business at home

Unfortunately, moving abroad isn’t quite as straightforward as packing your flip flops and jumping on a plane. Besides preparing for your new destination, you’ll also need to take care of business in your home country.

Make sure you understand the bureaucratic processes involved in moving. Do you need to de-register? Should you notify your embassy (some countries recommend this)? Do you need to notify your bank or insurance company? Depending on whether you’re subletting or giving up your house or apartment, make sure you take care of utility bills. Do you need to store or sell your car and cancel or downgrade your car insurance?

[Working Holiday Visas: Are you Qualified?

Also, don’t forget about those pesky smaller costs, like subscriptions and gym memberships. These can be easily cancelled, but you can easily find yourself in trouble if, for example, you close your bank account without cancelling direct deposits and standing orders first. You should also arrange to reroute your mail to family or friends or use a mail forwarding service to take care of this for you. 

7. Storage or selling

This comes down to how much stuff you own and whether you’re keeping your property or planning to take everything with you. A move abroad is a great time to go through all your belongings and downsize. Decluttering is incredibly freeing and you’ll be thankful to have fewer things to worry about. Long-term storage is available in nearly all cities and is quite affordable. 

man working on laptop at sunrise on ledge

While this office might be impractical, it’s definitely cool.

8. Packing

You might think that packing is one of the last tasks you’d need to worry about, but a lack of preparation can easily lead to a lot of headaches and panic packing before your big move. Make sure you plan what you want to take with you, how much luggage you will travel with and consider mailing a box or two of your things in advance so you don’t have to worry about checking multiple suitcases. The general rule when packing for any trip, no matter whether long-term or for a weekend, is to lay out everything you want to bring and then halve it. If you’re not moving to an extremely remote corner of the planet, you can probably buy almost anything you need, or forgot, in your new home. One exception to this rule is prescription medicines. 

9. Prepare for culture shock

No matter how well prepared you are before your trip, moving to a foreign country always means experiencing a bit of a culture shock. After the initial excitement has worn off, you’ll likely start feeling how different everything is and maybe even get a little homesick.

It’s completely normal and you shouldn’t feel bad about it or let this discourage you. Many people change their minds and move home because they’re not prepared for this. But, as long as you know this is just part of the process, you can get through it and enjoy your adventure again.

Try to keep exploring and enjoy yourself as much as possible. Go on weekend trips, meet other expats at meetups and tick items off your bucket list. 

[WATCH THIS: How to Work Abroad: Words of Encouragement]

10. Learn a bit of the language

If you move to a country where you don’t speak the language, it’s a great idea to get a headstart before you leave home. Try to at least learn the basics and consider taking a crash course to make you feel more comfortable when you arrive. Speaking a bit of the language already is another great way to prevent culture shock. 

11. Get your paperwork sorted

Every move abroad comes with a lot of paperwork to tackle. Make sure you research visas, work permits, taxes and insurance early on, as it can take a while to get everything approved and set up. 

man working in coworking space in Indonesia with large windows

If you love an office with views, you’ll love the views you get working abroad.

12. Banking

Banking is another one of those pesky tasks that you’ll have to add to your list. Make sure you know whether you’ll be able to use your bank cards at the cash machines abroad. Understand the fees involved and consider getting a debit or credit card with zero foreign transaction fees. It’s also a good idea to have at least one backup card just in case yours gets lost or stolen, or if the banks abroad don’t accept it. 

13. Get a medical check up

It’s always a good idea to get a medical checkup before you leave home, especially if you’re moving to a country where healthcare is expensive. You should also stock up on prescriptions for any medication, contraception or contact lenses you need, as there is no guarantee you’ll be able to get them abroad. Go to a doctor well before your move so you have plenty of time to get any medications and vaccinations that might be necessary. 

[Why Work Abroad? 9 Legit Reasons]

14. Get international health insurance

While we’re already on the topic of health, make sure you research the health insurance requirements of your destination before you go. For example, some countries offer free healthcare for people on working holidays. Other countries are more complicated, so you might be better off getting international health insurance for expats. This is not the same as travel insurance, which is also recommended, to cover you for delayed flights, lost luggage, etc. 

15. Start building a network

Reach out to people you might know in your new destination. Do a shoutout on social media to see whether any of your friends know people who live there. It’s always nice to arrive in a new place and already know someone who could show you around. 

You should also join local online communities. Facebook groups and meetup groups are the easiest way to meet other expats and locals before you go. If you have a hobby, research local groups that share your passion, which can join on arrival. 

16. Make a list and check it twice

Now that you’ve nearly reached the end of this list, it’s a great idea to actually write down all the tasks you need to complete before you can move abroad. You can use these steps as the main topics and then add all the mini-tasks that are involved. Having a moving and working abroad checklist is a great way to keep on top of everything and make sure you don’t forget any important tasks. It’ll also help you remain calm as the big day moves closer. 

[Download this checklist we've already created for you 😉]

man working at curated work space

Create your space and fill it with all your travel memories!

17. Throw a party

Now to the more fun tasks. You should have already informed all your friends and family, and now it’s time to get together and throw yourself a little leaving party. It doesn’t have to be a big affair. But your close friends and family will appreciate spending as much time with you as possible before you move. Prepare yourself for being asked the same questions over and over. A nice idea could be to put up a map of your new home country with some fun facts so that your loved ones feel included.

Bonus idea: A get-together is a perfect time to collect or update everyone’s address so you can send them a postcard. It might sound old-fashioned in the days of email and Facebook, but people really appreciate little gestures like this. 

18. Get excited!

Last, but not least, get excited about your upcoming adventure! While you’re caught up in all the preparation and checking things off this working abroad checklist, it can easily feel more like a chore than an adventure. It’s so easy to get lost in all the hustle and bustle of preparing a move abroad, that you might end up super stressed and anxious. Remember to take a step back, remind yourself why you’re embarking on this new adventure and get excited. You could read novels that take place in your new home country or city, and watch movies or documentaries to get you excited.

[Download our FREE eBook for even more tips & tales from first time workers abroad]

Check every box

You’ve reached the end of your working abroad checklist. Awesome! Though there are a lot of things to prepare for and think about before moving and working abroad, we hope this detailed list will help you enjoy the process. 

Find work abroad programs and get started!

Topics:  Before You Go, How to