40 tips for moving abroad

Advice from expat experts

Moving abroad is a big step and a little bit of the right advice can make all the difference. We have asked a panel of expats who have been through the process to offer their tips and advice for people planning to make the move.

If you would like to contribute to this page please email us at contacthifx@hifx.co.uk

Treat your life as an expat as a chance to explore and immerse yourself into a new culture. Don't compare your home country to your newly adopted country; it will only stifle your ability to fully adapt to your new surroundings.

Cheylene Thongkham

USA to England


It pays off to shop around when you need to transfer money from the UK to Europe. It is usually easy to find a better rate than what the bank offers.

Muriel Demarcus

France to England


Try before you buy. Always plan a fact-finding trip prior to moving abroad; this way you can begin to understand the cost of living before you move.

Russell Ward

England to Australia


Prepare yourself for hidden costs and extra expenses that pop up during your relocation. If your shipment is held up in customs will there be an additional storage fee? Are all the fees included for the moving company on the receiving end for delivering your shipment? If something in your shipment does not pass through customs, will you be charged for its disposal?

Lauren Kicknosway

USA to Australia


When moving to a new country, language can be an issue; but there are often free groups run by volunteers. Try these out before paying lots of money for a professional course.

Matt Baxter

UK to Japan


If you plan on moving to a new country, it is a good idea to prepare yourself mentally for the loneliness you will inevitably feel. For the first few weeks you will likely be a little overwhelmed by the separation from friends, family and the culture you grew up with. It is important to make new friends as quickly as you can - you could try joining a club.

Abigail Simpson

England to New Zealand


Making friends can be tough when you move to a new country, but there are so many ways to meet new people. My favourite is the website meetup.com, where you will find social groups connected by the things they are interested in.

Ashley Howe

UK to Amsterdam


Research, research and research. Banking abroad is totally different from the UK; be prepared for the good stuff (drive thru banking), the bad stuff (no credit rating) and the ugly (getting your head around currency!).

Claire Bolden McGill

England to USA


Don't buy property until you have lived at least one full year in the country. Renting accommodation gives you more flexibility, both financially and geographically. Often the place you have seen on short visits is different for permanent living.

Molly Sears Piccavey

England to Spain


It's okay to get homesick, we all do. But the advantage of being an expat is that we can build a new home that combines the best of where we came from with the best of where we are. That's definitely something to write home about.

Ania Krasniewska Shahidi

USA to Denmark


Make friends with a local. Expats have a habit of just socialising with people from their own country. It is natural to want to be with other people who understand your situation, but making friends with locals offers several huge advantages. Locals are full of knowledge and can show you the true side of your new country. They can explain the customs, help you learn the language, and completely enrich your experience.

Tom Le Mesurier

England to Brazil


Remember that the country you're in is not made for you but for the people who come from there. Make a serious attempt to adapt.

Rachel Japiassu

USA to Brazil


Whilst it's ok to make friends with other expats, try your best to fit in with the locals.

Jack Scott

England to Turkey


The secret is mentally unpacking your bags. Accept that this is home now and settle in. Naturally you'll be making comparisons with your old life, but try not to let that be your first and last waking thought every day. Look forward instead of back.

Karen McCann

USA to Spain


When it comes to costs, expect the unexpected. Give yourself a bit of a financial 'cushion', if possible, and take more money than you think you may need. How much you take depends on your budget and needs, but if you can, take a bit more to cover any of those extra little costs.

Molly Hawkins

England to USA


Don't buy property just because you like it and the price is good. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Do your research, and especially do your research on your future neighbourhood. This can help you avoid many potential problems.

Frank Gallo

Canada to Croatia


If you really want to work in a specific country, your best bet is to move there first. Find an excuse: Do six months of language study, find an internship, do a volunteer project. Once you get there, it'll be much easier to find something more permanent.

Brittany Hite

America to Beijing


If your adopted country speaks a different language, learn it. Even just a few words will open doors and help with things such as searching local listings for accommodation.

Ryan and Angela

America to Mexico


Doing research before you move can avoid a lot of trouble. Check online forums and rental sites to get an idea of property price ranges and amenities in the areas you like, but don't ever transfer money until you've visited. Wait until you've seen the property, met your landlord and potential roommates. It's important to experience the neighbourhood before you commit to a contract. Consider a short-term apartment rental or even a nearby hotel to get the feel for things.

Cat Gaa

America to Spain


When relocating to a new city take as much time as you can to simply explore. Take a map and your camera and start with your new neighbourhood, then just keep walking. Look at the shops, cafés, restaurants and the people. Meander where your curiosity takes you; take photos and soak up as much as you can.

Melanie Haynes

England to Denmark


When you leave your home country make sure you take with you all your documents proving your qualifications and have them translated into the local language if needed. Also, take copies of any professional references. It can be difficult to find a job before you leave, but most countries have online newspapers or job sites where you might find something. The easiest way is to find a company who are renowned for employing expats, as they tend to help you with the move.

Lindsay de Feliz

America to Dominican Republic


When looking for employment in your new country, use all the obvious Social Media channels such as LinkedIn and Twitter to make contact with potential employers. Find out if there are any expat groups, such as InterNations, as these can be a huge help towards making connections. These can offer all kinds of help such as suggesting how to go about finding a job and whom you should be approaching.

Fiona Watson

England to Spain


Utilising local knowledge and networking is crucial to landing a new job in a new city. For those following a partner that already has a job, finding yourself unemployed in a country where you do not speak the language can be frustrating. It might take a while, so it's a great time to engage in further study, and acquire crucial language skills.

Amy Greer Murphy

Ireland to Denmark


In the job market, wherever you go, you'll be tempted to blend in with everyone else. Resist that. Utilise your innate unique selling point; your difference, that you come from another part of the world with all fresh advantages and ideas that are part of your cultural identity. Your employers will appreciate that and you will be glad to retain that part of who you are.

Pete Lawler

America to England


If you are moving with school aged children, consider putting them into a local school rather than one that caters only to expats. Kids are super resilient and will pick up the local language, customs, and lay of the land faster than you'd anticipate. Not only will this be helpful for your own transition, but it will put less pressure on your family to 'fit in' with the new culture because they will assimilate into it from the get-go.

Jessica Galbraith

America to England


Invest in language classes. Some community groups offer these at very affordable prices, or you can seek a private language school. It's not so much about getting fluent as it is about gaining an understanding of the culture in which you are immersed. These classes are also a great way to meet other expats, from various countries, which only adds to the learning experience.

Michelle Nott

USA to Belgium


Be prepared to stand out. Whilst it might complicate the simplest of activities at times, just learn to laugh and smile about it and remember that many locals are simply showing genuine interest in your life.

Chris Osburn

America to England


Visit your doctor before you move to ensure you have copies of the medical records of yourself and your family members. When you move to a new country your new doctor won't have your medical history, so provide them with this information to ensure you can receive the most appropriate medical treatment.

Katie Dundas

Scotland to Australia


You may go through different phases of love and hate with your new country at times, and that's okay. Try to make friends and discover some favourite places as soon as possible so you have these things to fall back on when times get difficult or overwhelming.

Beth Williams

America to China


Speak to your doctor before you move and ensure you get a list of any prescription medication you need. Make sure you get the generic names rather than brands as some may not be available in certain countries. When you arrive in your new home, try to find a family doctor sooner rather than later so you'll already have the relationship in place if a medical emergency should arise.

Alison Cornford-Matheson

Canada to Belgium


Never assume that your debit/credit card from home will always work when you're abroad. Sometimes places only accept cards with chips and other times, your bank will block your card thinking it's a fraudulent transaction. Always have a backup payment option and be prepared with cash.

Diane Wargnier

America to France


From the moment you arrive in your new country try and stop referring to your 'old' country as 'back home.' You will feel at 'home' a lot faster and settle into your new life a lot quicker if you realise that your adopted country is now your home.

Emma Martin

England to Cyprus


At first, say yes to everything. Go to that party, try that food you've never tasted before, go for that weekend trip with a new friend; it will help you meet people and prevent loneliness. But remember to also take time for yourself to reflect on your experience. Be curious and don't be afraid to explore. Go for long walks, take a camera, get lost and find your way home again. Most importantly, keep an open mind.

Steph Sadler

America to England


Moving to a new country is both challenging and an exciting adventure. Pack your patience, sense of humour, openness, and willingness to learn. These will all serve you better than any material items you might take.

Sion Dayson

America to France


Familiarise yourself with the local laws and legislation and do everything by the book. Don't try to cut corners; treat your new country with respect and enjoy the differences.

Jenny and John

England to France


Be patient with your new environment and with yourself; adapting to a new place takes time. Sometimes, it may even seem that everything and everyone is against you - and you'll want to give up. But once you learn to settle into the pace of things, you'll start to love your new home. And that's where the fun begins.

Jaime Tung

America to England


Stay in touch with your friends and loved ones. Don't let your move abroad be a reason for isolation. Start a blog or a newsletter, set regular Skype dates, and really put an effort into keeping those relationships alive. This is important whether your move abroad is permanent, or even just temporary.

Ashley Sheets

America to England


Never lose your sense of adventure. Living abroad is a rewarding experience but it will only be as valuable as you make it. Listen to advice but don't let the negative opinions of others damage your perception of your new country. Surround yourself with people full of enthusiasm and explore as much as you can. Never let the opportunity pass to discover new things.

Zareth Valentin

Caribbean to Egypt


As a newcomer to a country it's wise to have a clear goal along with a backup plan. Choose your new friends wisely and get to know the people, art, culture and heritage of your host country. Seize every positive opportunity that comes your way to develop and be a better you.

Maria Tumolo

West Indies to England


Take advantage of your new country and travel around; living as an expat gives you the opportunity to take the time to really get to know a new place. Visiting small towns and villages in the countryside, away from large metropolitan areas, can often be the best way to really experience the unique aspects of your adopted country.

Nancy Kate Ryder

America to France