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 move.
Table of Content
- Why Would You Want to Move and Start Over (and Why You Would Not)
- How to Choose Your Destination
- How to Find a Job
- How to Hack Your Way Into Any Country
- How to Find a Place
- Get Your Papers In Order
- Get Your Life In Order
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 doing it.
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
- You are not in the right environment to achieve your goals (building a business, founding a family)
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 were why I moved to Australia, the Netherlands, and Poland.
Moving out won’t make your burden any lighter – 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?
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 wanting to find a job in Belgium as it meant peak decadence for me.
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 worse.
2. How to Choose Your Destination
First, choose your destination.
Make a list of requirements.
For me, those are:
- Safe place
- Not too crowded
- Not too polluted
- Flat so I can move by bike
- No ongoing woke, communist, or hateful revolution or political destabilization
- Easy to find a place to live
- Possibility to find a job
- Good weather
- Cheap meat
- Nice people
- Possibility to speak/learn the language (no, I will not learn Hungarian, sorry).
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
(I wrote an entire guide on how to find your first job, but even if it’s not your first job, it will still help you.)
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 skills to find a job is IT. Software engineers and web developers are always in demand, and are often only required to speak English.
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.
Don’t forget that you don’t have the “right” to move anywhere, or “demand” a passport. Such attitudes are childish and cringeworthy.
You should be valuable to the country that welcomes you, which is why you should gain valuable skills.
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 perceive you as motivated and you’ll have the chance to meet people that could help you out.
4. How to Hack Your Way Into Any Country
Sometimes you won’t be able to find a way into the country you want to go to due to your passport.
Passports are a very recent invention created after the first world war. Before passports, people could move anywhere however they wanted (with certain restrictions applied to people in colonies).
Few moved though. It was expensive, long, dangerous, and differences in quality of life rarely made immigration a worthwhile adventure.
But today, it is different.
Immigration is a global issue that affects everyone. Contrary to the mainstream narrative, immigration is not all good. However, it is not all bad either.
If you are going to immigrate to a new country, you need to understand the impact you have on the society you are immigrating to.
There are five stakeholders when it comes to immigration.
1. The People
For the common citizen, immigration will always yield negative consequences.
More immigration means more workers in the country, which means companies can afford to pay lower salaries since someone else will be happy to take the job if the local doesn’t want it. It also means more competition for jobs.
Brussels is a good example. A city with an unemployment rate of 25%, Brussels welcomes people from the entire world to work there. This is why it is so hard to get a job there. You not only compete against Belgians, but you compete against the Dutch, French, Germans, Spanish, Portuguese, Italians (lots of them), Polish, Latvians, Romanians, Turkish, Moroccans, and finally, people from Luxemburg.
Since there are more people, there is more competition and demand for real estate, hence higher rents and house prices.
Finally, more people in the city means more consumption of goods, hence inflation.
In general, any normal citizen with a job always has economic incentives to vote against immigration, whichever type it is (refugees, high-skilled workers, digital nomads, etc).
2. The Government
The government has one purpose only: to balance the budget. For most governments, migration is great news.
It means more workers, hence higher production and consumption of goods and services, hence more taxes and GDP.
This is why governments are always initially positive about welcoming migrants (France and Belgium in 1950, Germany in 2015-2016, Singapore in the 1990s, USA in the 19th century, etc) then backtrack when they realize they are losing their voting base.
The tide turns when locals realize they don’t benefit from immigration as much as the elites. You can observe the mainstream media faints shocked at “the populist wave across Europe”.
Unfortunately, it’s basic economics, but few people understand that.
Businesses have all interests in welcoming migrants, as this enables them to have a higher supply of workers which decreases pressure on increasing wages.
In Belgium, a company was flying Romanians drivers to Belgium to avoid paying the Belgian ones.
A good example.
Migrants rarely leave their homes enthusiastically. As I like to say, “an international person is first and foremost a sad story”.
People that leave their place are often forced to because they can’t find what they are looking for in their home country.
I once met an Azerbaijani girl that had run away because the mafia was after her family.
This is also important to understand: no one leaves their country willingly. Migrants should always be helped, not refused.
5. Society as a Whole
The economic gains of immigration largely support the idea that immigration has a net positive impact on society.
However, not everything in life is economics. We wouldn’t give a complete picture of immigration if we didn’t take culture and values into account.
I don’t share the idea that mankind is “inherently good, tolerant, open, and respectful”. Rather, I believe that mankind is the product of its consequences, genetic (nature) and environmental (nurture).
History gives a fair picture of what happens when several cultures whose values are opposite end up in the same location.
Let’s take the Jews as an example.
Rejected from every place they ever went to, it was only in 1948 when Israel was established that they could finally have a place of their own (albeit at a certain cost).
In Estonia where I am currently residing, the Russian minority is often discriminated against and stagnates at the bottom of society.
In Brussels, you have more chances to end up at the police station if you look Arab or Black.
The idea that “all men are equal” is theoretical, and there isn’t a single place where it applies in practice. When cultures clash, one will be preferred over another.
And no, it’s not always the majority (the Jordanian minority VS the Palestinian immigrants majority in Jordania, or the local of Dubai VS everyone else in the UAE).
In general, you have all reasons to expect clashes when cultures have opposite dietary traditions (Jews VS Christians, Muslims VS Hindus), values (Egalitarian protestants in Scandinavia VS hierarchical Catholics of the south of Europe), or simply, mindset (the business-oriented Dutch VS the religion-oriented Portuguese in their conquest of Japanese commerce).
This is simply humans. We seek to associate with our kin and denigrate those who do and think differently than us. Despite the great speeches about human values, we remain inherently tribal and animalistic.
You compete with your siblings for the love of your parents, your family competes with other families in the neighborhood, your school competes with other schools in math competitions, and your country competes with other countries in football.
As Charles Darwin found out, only the strong survive in the long term, and the only way to identify them is to let everyone compete with everyone.
Competition is a core aspect of life on earth.
There is no reason why your culture wouldn’t compete with other cultures, something Huntington knew when he wrote the Clash of Civilizations.
After living in eight countries, let me tell you; multiculturalism does not exist. People are inherently tribalistic and will always assemble with those they have shared attributes with.
All of this to explain why we have borders and passports.
Now, I will tell you how to hack them.
In practice, it is fairly easy: university. Studying for a degree in a foreign university is your easy way into any jurisdiction, including North Korea.
This is why you’ll find a bunch of Ukrainian students in Poland, Chinese students in Australia, Russian students in the Czech Republic, etc.
Make sure you find a job as soon as possible once you start your studies. Make yourself relevant enough so that the company sponsors you once your master’s is over.
Easier said than done, but definitely possible.
5. How to Find a Place
I wrote an entire guide on how to find an apartment, 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 more 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.
6. 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
- an Internet connection.
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 like vegans in Switzerland.
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.
7. 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.
I have found that finding local friends is extremely hard. They have a different culture and already have their friends, so they are not interested in hanging out with you. Also, they think you will likely leave at some point, so why bother?
As a result, your friends will be other foreigners but they too may leave at some point.
So 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 (check Evenbrite)
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 nomads.
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, fails to get laid on Saturday, sleeps on Sunday, and starts all over again on Monday.
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.
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