There are many things you need to think about when choosing where to live abroad. The main factors to look at are language, standard of living, and finances, but there is much more you need to be aware of when planning a move to a different country.
Selecting a destination may seem like an easy choice to make but in fact, the process of selecting a country to move to is very complex. It can feel daunting at first, but don’t worry - we’ve got your back!
We have prepared the ultimate list of 14 things to think about when choosing where to live abroad. Read carefully and take notes - after all, it’s your quality of life that’s at stake here.
It might seem obvious, but the truth is that many people overlook this aspect. This is the reason why it figures on top of our list of factors to take into consideration when moving abroad.
Imagine moving to a country with long, harsh winters when you love the summer. Or the opposite - living somewhere hot and stuffy when you thrive on cold weather and despise sweating.
Moving to a place with no sun when you’re powered by solar energy would make you miserable. The weather has a huge impact on our mood. Why torture yourself by going somewhere where the climate grates on your nerves?
In this day and age, you can easily access information about the average temperatures and typical weather throughout the year in almost every corner of the world. Save yourself a lot of suffering by looking into it beforehand.
What is the local language spoken in the destination? Can you speak it? Can you get by if you don’t? Are you willing to learn?
Those are some questions you need to ask yourself when choosing a country to move to. Living somewhere where you don’t know the local language can feel very isolating. A language barrier can stand in the way of you making new friends and settling in.
But everyday life is not the only issue. You will have to deal with a lot of paperwork when you move to a new country. In many places, official documents are only issued and can only be processed in the local language.
If you don’t speak the language, think if you can dedicate the time and money to learning it. Or maybe English is widely spoken there, and there is no need to learn a new language - at least not at the beginning?
Identifying countries that speak the best English might help you make your decision faster.
Language goes hand in hand with culture. It is important to do research about local traditions and customs before going on a trip. When we talk about moving abroad, it is downright essential.
Moving all the way across the globe sounds like fun - and it can be fun. But take into consideration that the further away you go, the bigger the cultural differences you will encounter.
Cultural background varies between the East and the West, between the North and the South. Even neighbouring countries, whose culture seems almost identical, turn out to be significantly different once you spend enough time there.
Culture plays a major role in our everyday interactions. It influences people’s behaviour, their traditions and habits. Because cultural characteristics are hard to avoid, moving to a place where you find it difficult to blend in may be a source of great discomfort for you.
Don’t forget that things such as cuisine and religion are also elements of the local culture. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, are plant-based products easily accessible where you’re moving? If a certain religion is important to you, will you feel comfortable in a place dominated by a different faith?
Avoid faux-pas and misunderstandings and ensure your well-being by learning as much as you can about the local culture before taking the leap. Going on a trip to your destination before moving there is a good way to “test the waters”.
The world would be a beautiful place if we could choose destinations solely based on the local cuisine and climate. Sadly, we can’t live off good food and sunshine.
Always check if a country you’d like to move to is capable of providing good living conditions for expats. If a local economy is struggling to support the locals, foreigners settling in would strain it even more.
Moving to a country whose economy doesn’t fulfil our expectations and then complaining about it would be foolish. It’s in your best interest to do all the necessary research beforehand. If you relocate only to discover you can’t find a job or end up living below the standard you are accustomed to, it would be a waste of your time and effort.
Some jobs are in demand everywhere. Others are easier to find only in certain regions.
What’s more, particular countries offer more vacancies than others. Therefore, it might be easier to find a job in one place, and harder in another.
Do job market research before moving abroad. See if there are positions available in your sector, and how difficult it is to get them.
At Europe Language Jobs, we recommend moving only after securing a job offer. Many of the companies advertising on our job board offer relocation packages - flight tickets, help with accommodation, assistance in dealing with the local bureaucracy, and more.
In such cases, finding a job before relocating doesn’t only provide you with security. It also literally makes your move easier, as some of the weight will be shouldered by your employer.
If you have children, you must remember to get familiar with the local education system next to securing a job for yourself.
Education systems differ from country to country in regard to the age, number of grades, and even the teaching programme. If you have to transfer your child, compare the syllabus in your current country to that in the new one.
Will they be able to continue where they left off? Will they have to start in a lower class? Or maybe skip one? Is the level of education the same in your destination as what your child is used to? Is it lower? Higher? Will they need tutoring to catch up, or will they discover they’re not learning as much as they used to?
You will need to help your child answer all those questions - or maybe even do it for them, if they’re very young. Changing schools - not to mention countries - is a stressful experience for a child. You have to make sure the transition is as smooth for them as possible.
Also, bear in mind the language barrier. Children learn languages faster than adults, but throwing them into an unfamiliar environment where they have trouble communicating is risky.
Looking for a new home is stressful enough. Doing it in a foreign country, where you may not fully understand the language, law, and customs, is even worse.
The flat-hunting habits differ from country to country. There are a thousand things to watch out for when navigating a foreign housing market.
For example, in Germany, you have to be able to differentiate between kaltmiete (cold rent) and warmmiete (warm rent). In Hungary, you must be aware of the so-called “common cost” charged on top of your rent. And in Finland, it is common to attend group house viewings.
Pay careful attention to whether bills are included in rent or not. Also, bear in mind that the number of rooms means different things in different countries. In some, it is strictly the number of bedrooms. In others, it is the total number of all rooms, including the bathroom and the kitchen.
And finally, assess the general situation in the housing market. Is finding a house or a flat difficult? How long do you usually have to wait? What are the average costs you should expect? Is it possible to arrange viewings and paperwork remotely, or do you have to go do it in person?
There are cities like Berlin or Dublin known for the extreme difficulty of renting a place. Be aware of where the demand for housing highly exceeds the availability. Decide if such places are the right choice for you, and if you’re ready for the stress of taking up the adventure of moving there.
We all hate talking about it. But, sadly, we all need it. Healthcare is a complicated topic that is - again, sadly - different in literally every country.
Where you are from and where you are moving to can impact the conditions in which you and your family will be offered healthcare. It takes a while to understand the local healthcare system, and even longer to get included in it.
The topic of health is no joke, so in this case, we recommend consulting a specialist. Oftentimes, international private insurance will be the best way to go. A consultant will be able to advise you on the best choices and ease you into the ins and outs of local healthcare.
While there is no country where the healthcare system would be flawless, people are generally more satisfied with it in some countries than in others. Ask around for personal experiences of fellow expats and locals and compare them to your own priorities and expectations to make the decision.
Yet another topic no one likes talking about, but everyone has to. Moving somewhere permanently may require you to apply for tax residency in that country.
Furthermore, tax regulations differ from country to country as well. While some places only require residents to pay tax from income earned in that country, others expect citizens to submit tax from their global income.
It is also crucial to get to know the tax thresholds for every destination. Just like in the case of healthcare, we recommend consulting a specialist on the issue of taxes as well, to avoid possible legal repercussions resulting from confusion.
How difficult it will be for you to move to a certain country depends entirely on where you come from and where you’re relocating to. For example, moving within Europe is much easier for European citizens than for expats from non-EU countries.
Obtaining a visa will cost you extra time and money. It is not impossible, but it is one more obstacle in your race towards a new destination. Look into the requirements, paperwork, processing time, and costs before making a decision.
But visas are not the only legal aspects of moving abroad. You might have to obtain a residence permit, work permit, or other important documentation if you plan to stay somewhere for longer than a few months. These processes also vary between countries, so look it up beforehand.
How quickly you receive all the necessary permits may have an impact on whether you will be able to open a bank account or buy a house, for example. The requirements differ depending on the country and your nationality, so the process is very individual. Here, too, we advise you to consult a professional specialising in this area.
One of the things to think about when choosing where to live abroad is the distance from your destination to your home country and where your family and friends are.
When you move permanently, you will want to visit your loved ones regularly, and have them visit you. The further away you go, the less frequently you will probably see them.
For example, while you can get to most places within Europe in about 3 hours and for a relatively low price, travelling between Europe and the US rises to 10+ hours and a few hundred for a ticket.
Distance also affects the cost of transporting your things. If you have to move them, say, between continents, it is sometimes cheaper to sell as much of your belongings as you can and get new ones in the new destination.
If you’re enticed by the high salaries in a country you’d like to move to, don’t forget that they come hand in hand with a higher cost of living. Thorough research about the local standards is crucial before moving abroad.
What seems like a very high salary to someone used to the costs of living in a relatively cheap country might actually be average. Verify the prices of everything: a loaf of bread, a meal in a restaurant, monthly rent, and transportation. Look up the average monthly cost of living in a certain place and compare it with your salary.
Of course, the numbers should be taken with a pinch of salt. Everyone has different spending habits, so depending on how economical or extravagant your lifestyle is, you may end up spending less or more. But it is good to have a general idea of what to expect to not find yourself with too much month at the end of the money right after relocating.
The cost of living is not everything. You have to also see how it matches up with the actual quality of life you will be getting for the money you will have to spend.
There are a ton of places in the world which rob you of every penny, giving nothing in return. At the same time, there are many cheap countries, where you can live comfortably, at odds with the low prices.
Perhaps working remotely in one country while living in another would be a good option for you. It can be a hassle when it comes to paperwork and taxes, but with the growing popularity of remote work, it could be worth it. Who wouldn’t want to earn a German salary while enjoying the sunny climate of the affordable Portugal?
Last but not least - the most controversial of topics. It may be avoided at all costs in many circumstances, but in the instance of relocating, it unfortunately has to be touched upon.
There are plenty of political systems to choose from in the world. Naturally, each person agrees with some more than with others. Again, no country is flawless in that area. There will always be reasons to complain and areas to improve, but the fewer, the better.
When you relocate, you may not be allowed to vote for several years. Certain countries allow residents without citizenship to vote in local elections, others don’t. But you likely won’t be able to choose who represents you on a larger scale until you decide to obtain citizenship - and there is a long way to go until then.
Moving to a conservative country can feel extremely oppressive for someone with liberal views. And the opposite - someone who values conservatism wouldn’t feel comfortable in a place with a liberal government.
This is why the safest bet is to choose a country with a political system you feel the most comfortable with. Of course, seeing as the government changes every few years, there might be some positive or negative changes along the way. Parties in power may come and go, but the general system probably won’t change as easily.
There are many aspects to take into consideration when thinking about politics - policies towards different genders, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or race. Research those important to you to ensure your comfort in a place you wish to call home.
These are the most important things to think about when choosing where to live abroad. Of course, finding a place which would tick all the boxes in all of the categories is virtually impossible. You will have to compromise, so prioritise a few aspects you find the most crucial and try to find a balance between them.
Knowing what to focus on when moving to a new country is a good start. With this list, you will be able to make an informed decision about such an important change in your life.
Remember that Europe Language Jobs are here to help you relocate. Finding a job abroad is a huge step towards a successful move to another country, and we’ve got your back here. Have a look at our job board to make your dream about relocating come true.