8 things to consider before choosing your expat destination

  • Moving abroad
Published 10 months ago

Only a few people can just pack up and set up shop wherever they choose, without much consideration. Should you choose the country or the city? Are you looking to live luxuriously or on a budget? We look at some of the most important things to consider before you choose your next destination.

Nisha Sawon

Editorial Assistant

Who are you moving with?

One of the first things to think about when choosing a destination is who you will be moving with. If you are moving alone, then the only person whose needs you need be concerned with are your own. If you are moving with a friend, you will need to think about things like accommodation, and agree upon what type of area you want to live in. Those moving with a significant other will have similar considerations, as well as individual job prospects in the destination. Families will need to also think about the education available; the quality and cost, in particular.

What is your budget?

Etablir un budget

Considering your budget before choosing where you move to is something that could be the difference between an excellent life abroad and a dismal one. For example, moving somewhere vastly above your budget could mean inferior accommodation in a less than ideal neighbourhood. If you choose a destination above your budget constraints, where basic goods are far more expensive than you anticipated, you may find yourself restricted and unable to enjoy your new home to the fullest. If you choose somewhere with a low cost of living when you are anticipating a high income, you may, on the one hand, get to enjoy a good quality of life. However, a generally low-income country may not offer you the chance to spend your income as you would like – for example, there may not be luxury hotels where you can spend the weekend or nice restaurants where you may want to spend the evening. Assessing your budget and doing some research into the cost of living of different countries and cities within countries can make all the difference.

What are the amenities like?

Amenities can vary by country, city, and even neighbourhood. You should consider what your circumstances dictate you will need. Of course, there is a marked difference between needs and wants; while you may want to be close to a gym, you may need to be close to a school if you have children.

So, for those moving with family, education will be a big factor; is education free or paid, what schools are nearby, is there transport that is safe for children? Transport, in general, is important, especially if you will not be driving. This may become more of a concern outside of urban areas or cities, as there may be less of a well-developed transport network. Healthcare is another issue worth looking into, or at least whether there is a public or private healthcare system, and perhaps look into contacting other expats or reading about their experiences dealing with the system.

What is there to do?

Universite de Cambridge, Angleterre
Evikka / Shutterstock.com

Are you a fan of skiing? Maybe surfing? You may think it is as simple as picking somewhere with snowy peaks or sandy beaches, but this often isn't the case. Are there ski resorts at your destination? Is there a surfing culture? How easy is it to maintain and buy the equipment needed for your hobbies?

Beyond specific hobbies, you may also need to think about how you like to spend your time in your home country, and whether the same pastimes will be available to you once you move. Moving from a hectic city to a quiet island may sound perfect, but, in reality, the lifestyle is completely different. Will you be happy giving up brunches for a picnic on the beach? If you're used to being able to access a supermarket or dine out at all hours, will you be happy somewhere where everything closes at 6 pm?

Furthermore, families should also think about what family-friendly activities there are. Look into expat and local communities in the area you are hoping to move to – is it popular with families or is it mainly young professionals? Is the area known for its parks and cultural activities or its nightlife?

How is the climate and general environment?

Moving abroad with family

Although this shouldn't be your first thought, it certainly is worth considering when thinking about your next destination. If you've been living somewhere with quite a cold climate, it's only natural to want to move somewhere with more tropical climes. However, try and remember the reality of living in the climate to which you are aspiring – hot weather comes with its own set of issues, so don't get swept away by the notion of sipping coconut water on the beach.

Similarly, the country's environment is something worth thinking about; what is the culture like? What about the people? If you are moving to a city with a huge population, will you be able to cope with the crowds, or are you the kind of person who prefers a less hectic urban lifestyle? All of these factors, as well as things such as the level of pollution, the work culture, and the lifestyle, should be in the back of your mind.

How hard will it be to adapt?

Once you have considered the environment of the place you would like to move to, you should also think about how easy or difficult it will be for you to adapt. Of course, this may be hard if you have never been to the country before (a short holiday to the destination will help give you better insight on this). Furthermore, if you are specifically looking to challenge yourself then moving to a country with a completely different culture or language might be just what you're looking for.

However, if you want a smooth transition, then factors such as familiarity with the language and stark lifestyle differences may prove to be a challenge. Moving from the quiet countryside of a highly developed country to a big urban area in one that is still developing may seem like a good way to have access to the amenities and quality of life you are used to, but this may not be the case.

Why do you want to move?

Plage de Mallorca, Espagne

Though it isn't a practical question, it is an especially important consideration. Are you moving abroad to challenge yourself? In which case, throwing yourself into the unknown and a completely different environment is ideal. However, if you are moving for economic prospects, you will be seeking the most amenable circumstances and environment, with your primary focus being employment opportunities. This is quantifiable and cannot be researched like other considerations on this list, but you should take some time to think about this, so you can be sure of your reasons for moving abroad.

Do your homework!

It's a lot to think about, and you may find yourself frustrated by the time-consuming nature of the process, but it is better to think about how well-suited your next destination is to what you want from your expatriation experience in advance, rather than once you have arrived in the country. Do you have friends in the country? Ask what it's like! If not, try and find some expat blogs online, detailing expat life in the country or city, or perhaps browse expats forums, where people may have asked the same questions that you have.

What advice do you have for expats on choosing their next destination? Let us know in the comments below!