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How to Move to a Foreign Country and Start Your Life From Scratch (Step-by-Step Guide)

Moving to a new country and starting over isn’t as difficult nor daunting as it seems.

I should know.

At the tender age of 27, I have done it 8 times (including in my own country).

In this guide, I’ll tell you everything you need to know on how to move to a new country and start your life from scratch.

We’ll begin by outlining the reasons why you’d want to do such a thing.


1. Why Would You Want to Move and Start Over (and Why You Would Not)

There are as many reasons to move away as there are people moving away.

What few people know though is that moving out is exactly like…drinking. Yes, drinking.

You need to know why you do it and abstain if the reasons aren’t the right ones.

Right reasons to move away and start over

  • You’re curious and long for something different and exotic
  • You’re bored
  • Your environment makes you depressed/the place is depressing (due to high crime rate, rain, pollution, depressed people, etc)
  • You have a unique opportunity (a job, someone inviting you, an academic exchange…) in a foreign place

These are good reasons to move out. They were my reasons to move to Colombia, Spain, Estonia, and France.

Bad reasons to move away and start over

  • You have problems you are afraid to solve
  • You want to avoid something you’d normally have to go through
  • Bad breakup/divorce
  • You’re running away from something

These are the bad reasons to move away. They make some of the reasons why I moved to Australia, the Netherlands, and Poland.

The reason why these reasons are bad is that moving out won’t make your burden any lighter.

In fact, it will be quite the opposite!

Problems don’t get solved when you are on the other side of the world. They become heavier. And you are incapable of solving them because you’re not where you should be – you’re not home.

Do you know when I was thinking the most about my problems in my hometown?

It wasn’t when I had them in front of me in Belgium.

It was when I was on the other side of the world in Sydney.

I moved away for bad reasons three times: once to Australia, to avoid dealing with my social life; once to the Netherlands, to avoid dealing with my academic life; and once to Poland, to avoid dealing with not being able to find a job in Belgium (lol).

Do I regret it? No. Moving away enabled me to learn these lessons. However, had I known about this, I would have fixed my problems before leaving.

Be mindful about why you want to leave. If it is to escape pain, you won’t.

You’ll just make it stronger.


2. How to Choose Your Destination

First, choose your destination.

Make a list of requirements.

For me, those are:

  1. Safe place
  2. Not too crowded
  3. Not too polluted
  4. Flat so I can move by bike
  5. No ongoing woke, communist, or hateful revolution or political destabilization
  6. Easy to find a place to live
  7. Business-friendly
  8. As few international people as possible (these places tend to get wrecked pretty quickly otherwise. Eg: Brussels, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Sweden, London, New York, San Francisco, Vancouver, Sydney, etc).
  9. Possibility to find a job…?

If you’re making money independently online, the world is your playground. Make sure to arrange your visa before leaving and go!

If you’ll need a job, choosing a country will be more complicated and you will have to adapt your choice of destination.


3. How to Find a Job

Your capacity to find a job is directly correlated to your skills and the languages you speak.

If you have a degree in communication, art history, or gender studies, and speak Hungarian and Latvian, your chances to find a good job in Japan will be around -69.

If you’re an engineer that speaks fluent English, Spanish, and Russian, your prospects will be much higher!

The best skill set to have by far remains IT. Software engineers and web developers are always in demand, and you likely won’t be required to speak anything else but English.

You can work as a developer as much in Chile as in Japan.

If you are an English native speaker, your best bet is to become an English teacher. This will give you an income while giving you time to learn the local language (which should not take more than 2 years), and move on to a better job.

If you’re not an English native speaker, things get complicated.

Unless you speak the local language, you’ll have to go for jobs where speaking your native language is an asset. These jobs can be teaching, customer service, writing, maybe communication.

If you neither want to work as a teacher nor at the customer service, then it may be wise to move to Thailand or Mexico for a year and follow a complete Codecademy curriculum to become a developer. But that’s on you to find out if this is worth it or not.

Should you look for a job before or after leaving?

In theory, I always recommend looking for a job before you leave your hometown. It will be cheaper. The pandemic has normalized Skype interviews so you no longer need to introduce yourself in person.

Also, you’ll likely need a visa which only a job will give you.

Don’t worry about long-distance job searches. When I moved to Estonia, I signed both my housing and work contracts digitally (despite being in the country).

If you don’t need a visa to work in your chosen country (mainly for EU people in the EU), then moving there directly could give you an edge. Employers will see you are motivated and you’ll have the chance to meet people that could help you out.


4. How to Find a Place

I wrote an entire guide on how to find an apartment in 2021, but I’ll summarize the basics here.

You will need time to find a decent place.

Book an Airbnb for a month before leaving and negotiate with the landlord to extend for one month without paying the service fee. If you can’t, then book another Airbnb for another month.

Looking for a place will likely take around two months.

The first thing you need when you arrive will be a phone number. Search which provider you should go with and get a pre-paid SIM card with enough Internet on it (minimum 3Gb/month).

Once you are in the city, ask for the best websites to find an apartment. Facebook often has some groups to rent a place as well as an expat community that will help you out.

Personally, I find it worth it to pay websites for early-bird or premium access to listings.

We’re talking about your future house, so don’t go spare 50 euros if paying them will enable you to find affordable accommodation fast.

If you go to a place where corruption is common practice, don’t sign with the landlord directly, but try to sign through an agency. Find one where the agent speaks English and that has good reviews (ask the expat community on Facebook).

Do not move into a place if it’s not possible to register there (it’s illegal).

While I always say never to take an apartment without visiting it, I have actually broken this principle when I went to Colombia. I contacted the guy on Facebook, he showed me the room through Skype, and I paid him with Paypal.

I made sure that his Facebook profile was legit, that the address was legit, and I asked him to show me the outside that I had spotted with Google Street View.

So it is possible, but obviously, not recommended.


5. Get Your Papers In Order

By now you probably got your visa, your work contract, a phone number, and your rental contract.

You still need to get a social security number, some sort of ID (if applicable), a resident card (if applicable), moving your taxes and pension overseas (if applicable), a bank account, and an Internet connection.

In Europe, you can now open bank accounts in any country pretty fast with banks like Revolut or N26 without even having work or housing contracts (a phone number is sufficient lmao).

I got my Estonian bank account in under 15 minutes with N26.

While I didn’t need it since I already had three or four other bank accounts (I like using services when they’re free, don’t judge me) I still opened it to get Spotify for cheaper (€7 instead of €10/month).

Obviously, each country will have different rules and systems in place when it comes to legal paperwork. The only constant I found out was that public services are equally slow everywhere in the world.

Ask for help from work regarding the steps you need to take and the offices you need to go to. Check if your city has some sort of centers for international people. And be ready to use Google Translate a lot.

Take care of ALL the legal paperwork. If you want to live there long-term, you should ALWAYS respect the law, rules, and customs. That means registering your address as a city resident, declaring your goods, and leaving the country when/if your visa expires.

You are a guest in a new country. You must be grateful, adapt, behave and carry yourself like the locals.

Don’t evade taxes like the French in Belgium.

Don’t fraud in the public transportation system like the foreigners in Brussels.

And don’t disturb social peace.

If you do, I will hide under your bed and scare you at night.

This isn’t Logan Paul in Japan.

It’s you starting a new life.


6. Get Your Life In Order

A life isn’t so hard to get.

All you need is a job, a place, and friends to drink with on Saturday night.

I’ll be honest. Out of these three, the job and the place are the easiest to get (unless you’re a pretty girl).

I find that finding friends is extremely hard when you are an expat. You likely will hang out with other foreigners but they will likely leave at some point.

As such, the best investment you can make for the long term is to learn the local language. This will enable you to change jobs if you want, make friends with your neighbors and other locals, find a wife/husband, and have a real life in your new country.

To be honest, I really don’t have any tips for you if you want to meet people. Ever since I started traveling in 2013, it has become harder and harder to make friends as people are less and less open and willing to have new friends (me included).

I blame technology.

The way I met friends all these years were:

  • They were my roommates
  • I met them in a hostel
  • I met them through Meetup or Couchsurfing (they’re both dead now)
  • I met them in class
  • I met them at a language course or a sport club
  • They were my neighbors
  • I met them in nightclubs and bars
  • I met them at a private party
  • I met them through forums
  • They were a friend of a friend
  • I met them on Tinder or Bumble
  • I met them in an Airbnb
  • I met them at a conference or an event

Conclusion

The reason why we’re all dreaming to move away is that for 2 million years, we and our ancestors were nomads. Traveling is in our blood, the thirst for adventure is in our genes.

As Chris Ryan outlines in “Civilized to Death”, we weren’t born to enter numbers in Excel all day every day.

We were born to live freely in a group of about 150 individuals that took care of us and that we took care of.

We had a lot of sex often (likely with a lot of partners) and our workweek lasted around 25 hours.

Food was made out of meat 80% of the time and plants for the remaining 20%. We likely ate once a day and spent up to three days fasting.

The world was an unknown place ready to be explored. And explored it we did.

It’s obvious that this heritage still lives inside us.

After all, we only became sedentary 15 000 years ago – a drop of time in the ocean of evolution.

The will to move away is a normal feeling.

I must warn you though. While the colors may look brighter at the beginning of the experience, you will soon realize that all places on earth are the same.

Everyone works Monday to Friday, gets drunk on Friday night, fails to get laid on Saturday night, sleeps on Sunday morning, and starts all over again on Monday.

Everyone, everywhere.

This is why you want to make sure that the reasons for moving away are the right ones.

If they aren’t, you’ll never know peace.

Your problems will always follow you.

No matter how far you go.

For more resources, head to auresnotes.com.

Photo by magnezis magnestic on Unsplash

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