What country should I move to? Things to consider before moving abroad

I’ve always dreamed about moving abroad. When I was a little girl I had the usual American dream almost everyone has around here. Then, when I was in high school, I decided I wanted to live in Canada in the future. Everything seemed so much better over there. And seeing how things are going right now, I couldn’t be happier with the country I’ve chosen.

Everyone has a different reason for wanting to move away from their home country. But ultimately it’s because we want more: we want new adventures, we want better adventures.

Things to consider before moving abroad

There are so many factors to take into consideration before choosing a new host country, but don’t get overwhelmed just yet. Ask yourself some questions, take a pen and some paper and start making lists. Everything gets better and it doesn’t seem so impossible anymore when you have a clear list of steps to take in front of you.

Where to go next?

If you really have no idea where to relocate, think about your own country. Make a list of things you like and things you don’t like about it. Then, look for places that are filled with things you like. It can be anything from stunning nature or proximity to the sea to universal health care or a good public transport system.

But don’t limit yourself, sometimes the bad outweighs the good. I decided to move to Canada to study. I’m not into cold winters and snowstorms and I wanted to go live in Vancouver. But I was genuinely interested in child and youth care and I got into my first choice school, which is in Toronto. So now I’m getting really excited to move there and wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.

Can I live and legally work or study there?

If you want to spend more than a couple of months in a country, chances are you will need a visa. You need to check if you’re eligible to get one and which type you’ll need. There are a lot of different types of permits, so make your research!

If you want to study in the country you’ve chosen, you’ll probably need a study permit. Sometimes that comes with a work permit, sometimes not, sometimes you can work for just a certain amount of hours when school is in session. It all depends on the country. You should check their government website, where all this kind of info should be listed.

Can I afford to live there?

After you’ve made a list of places you think you’ll enjoy living in, and you find out you are eligible to get a visa to study or work there, you should check the cost of living. Rents, foreign exchange, salaries, taxes, the price of groceries and public transports. On The Earth Awaits you can find the perfect city for your budget.

I know that being abroad just for the sake of being abroad is not for me. I want to see new things and meet new people. Most of the times, the most popular destinations are the most expensive and they will leave you without money and time to go explore around your new host country. For example, a lot of people move to London to work in restaurants or shops, but they end up working 10+ hours shifts and making enough money just for rent and food (because those things are super expensive there and pounds are still stronger than euros).

So maybe you want to look into more unique destinations. But if London (or any other expensive major city) is your lifetime dream, go for it. If you really want something, you’ll find a way to make it work.

How is the education system?

If you want to study in your new host country, you should check if you have the right requisites to apply to schools there. You will probably have to have your transcripts and other documents translated and notarized, so be prepared to make copies and pay extra fees.

If you’re staying just for a semester or a year, be sure your college or university will accept the credits you’ve earned abroad. There’s no use in paying international tuition fees and study hard for exams if you’ll have to retake them when you go back to your school. If you want to go back to your home country right after graduation, you should also check that your diploma or degree is valid there or that you can get your qualifications recognized.

Are there job opportunities?

If you’re moving abroad to work, you want to go where your skills are needed. Or, if you also want to reinvent yourself and start a new career, you should at least pick a country where there are opportunities for foreigners and a solid job market.

Do I know the language? Can I learn it?

Do they speak your first language in your new host country? Can they speak and understand English there?

If you want to get in touch with the local community in your new host country, you might want to consider learning their language. This will be a wonderful opportunity for you. You get to learn something new, to make friends and to get the real experience.

Are you thinking about moving abroad to work or study? Have you taken into consideration all these factors?


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  • Kitty Limon

    this is such a great post, I’ve considered moving abroad in the past and didn’t know where to start, I now have a better understanding of what to look for 🙂

    • Thanks for reading, Kitty! I am happy this was helpful 🙂

  • These are all great things to consider. If I could move abroad I would probably go to Europe.

    Amanda || http://www.fortheloveofglitter.com

    • Thank you for reading, Amanda! Europe is full of beautiful places and countries, which one would you like the most?

  • Interesting post. I would add the cultural side /religion of this new country. Thanks for sharing

    • Yes! You’re absolutely right! It’s so important to research the culture of your new host country to understand if you’d feel comfortable with their traditions and how to adapt better once you’re there.

  • This is such a good article! I moved to Japan a few years ago for work and am thinking of moving to Canada next with my Canadian boyfriend!


    • Thank you! I think I’m a little biased here, but Canada is a great place to move to 🙂 I’m sure Japan was great as well.

  • lesleysullivan4

    In the near future we’re packing up our family and moving to Guam. Of course this is a little different circumstance, considering we’re Navy, but it’s still a huge change. I am looking forward to new experiences and giving my children unforgettable memories. Wherever you’re thinking of going, whether it’s still Canada… do it! Go for your dreams 🙂

    • Yes, if you have to go somewhere for something specific, the thought process is a bit different. By the way, I have to admit I didn’t know where Guam was, but I just look it up and it seems like a wonderful place for a new adventure.

  • Rachel G

    Visa and work opportunities are so important! We’re American, and we’ve lived in China and Malaysia because those are the places we’ve been able to get work visas and jobs! I’ve grateful for the opportunity to live abroad long term!

    • Wow, China and Malaysia are such cool places! That’s exactly my point: if you plan on staying somewhere for a long period of time, you might want to do something there and you always need a visa wether it’s studying or working. Unluckily there are still some countries that don’t give visas to people with a certain citizenship or the visa approval rate is really low.

  • Hi Sarah, I just came across your blog and thought it was really interesting. I’m a military girlfriend, so moving abroad/anywhere really is always on my mind. There are so many factors to consider, let alone the entire culture shock. Of all the places, I always thought Germany would be really interesting. And it’s beautiful. Great post, love your blog design!

    • Thank you so much! I really appreciate it! I think Germany is a great place to move to, maybe one of the best in Europe.

  • I’ve always wanted to move abroad but it seems so daunting! Thank you for this guide, because I had no idea where to start to even make the first steps.

    • I totally understand you! When I first started doing my researches, I would start looking for some information and after a while I would give everything up because I was feeling too overwhelmed. Taking one step at a time is key. What really helped me was focusing my research on one specific topic and then moving on to the next just when I felt like I didn’t have any major doubt or concern about the first topic anymore.

  • The Frugal Vagabond

    Hi Sarah, thanks for sharing The Earth Awaits (I wrote it)! You nailed the considerations when moving abroad. I’m trying to slowly add some of these more subjective elements (I’d especially like to cover job and education opportunities better).

    I moved to France when I got out of college, and this was almost exactly my thought process at that time. Though I didn’t actually end up working in my usual profession, it was still an incredibly meaningful experience for me. I don’t think I’d be the person I am today without having done it.

    Like you, I can’t “go for the sake of going.” I have to be able to make friends, and really build a life for myself. I understand folks who want the safety net of a large expat population, but I think there are a lot of people who miss out on the richest part of living abroad when you use an expat community as a crutch.

    • Thank you! The Earth Awaits is really an interesting tool and I had fun playing around with it and find out all the different cities I could actually afford to live in!

      I totally agree. It’s always good to know you have a safety net. It can make everything a little less scary. I think it’s important to get to know people who come from your home country when you’re abroad, because they can give you a lot of valuable stories on how they made it and even if it just want to talk with someone who speaks your first language or when you feel homesick. But, in my opinion, people who don’t reach out and make an effort to connect with locals too are missing out a lot.

  • I have always wanted to live abroad, but it’s such a crazy dream seemingly-these are great tips and make it seem more achievable!

  • Dear Sarah,
    I loved to read your article. I moved to abroad when I was 20. I decided to start a new life in England because I wanted more and never find my place in my home town Hungary. Your post is very useful and I am sure lots of people will find it useful as well 🙂 Thx for sharing your thoughts!


    • That’s so cool! I definitely get the not finding your place in your home town. I almost started this post with one of my favorite quotes, which is “It’s been twenty something years and I’ve never been home,” but then it seemed too much of a downer 🙂