Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
We’ve all dreamed the dream: dropping all of our responsibilities at home and moving abroad, traveling to new places and living a different kind of life. It’s a deeper commitment than a short-term vacation and it can be frightening – even if you stay connected back home – but the experience is often rewarding. What’s the best way for you to prepare for such an endeavor?
There’s more to moving abroad than simply hopping on a plane and winging it, at least if you want the experience to be as smooth and pleasant as possible. Without doing the proper research, your dream of moving abroad may become more of a nightmare. You don’t want the next few years of your life to be a miserable mess, do you?
In addition to these free international travel guide websites, what can you do to prepare yourself? Consider the following tips to best set the groundwork before leaving your homeland.
Expat Explorer is probably the best online resource when it comes to research places to move abroad. It’s a global independent survey of thousands of expats all around the world that amalgamates all of that data into a single interactive website. At a glance, you can see how various countries rank against each other in terms of expat preferences.
The main feature, however, is that you can input your own set of criteria – social inclinations, healthcare requirements, diet preferences, etc. – and the map of countries will dynamically change to accommodate your needs and wants. When you’ve boiled down the list to a select few countries, you can compare them side-by-side in a deeper level to help you make your decisions.
This service is still young so you can hope and expect that Expat Explorer will only improve as the years go by and more data is collected.
Like Expat Explorer, Numbeo is a way to compare countries around the world. However, the difference is that Numbeo is a collection of user-contributed data. It may not be perfectly scientific, but their database has over a million data points across 4000+ cities by 120,000+ users and the site is updated daily. In other words, it’s a great resource.
Numbeo is absolutely fantastic for researching a country’s cost of living, which covers all types of pricing inquiries: rent, groceries, transportation, leisure, and more. You’ll also find indices that cover crime rates, healthcare, pollution, traffic, and quality of life.
For a site that relies solely on user contributions, the risk of false or outdated data is always there, but with such a large sample size and regular activity, you can rest assured that most of the numbers won’t be too far off the mark.
For those of you who want to read anecdotes and personal experiences from people who are currently expats, or were expats in the past, then Expat Forum is where you want to go. It’s a community with thousands of active members who discuss the expat life, which is a great way to see first-hand what people think of their countries.
If you’re a reader, you can search through the forums for relevant topics (e.g., “healthcare price in Germany”) and do most of your research passively. If you have specific questions, you can always ask them in the proper subforums (e.g., “Germany Expat Forums”) and get a direct response from someone who has answers for you.
One thing to be wary of is that anecdotes and experiences are always subjective. One person’s land of honey is another person’s land of agony. Those who are happy, tend to exaggerate what’s good and those who are unhappy, tend to exaggerate what’s bad. Keep that in mind and don’t let one person’s opinions sway you too much.
Take A Trial Vacation
Are you thinking of moving to France, Japan, or New Zealand without ever having actually been there before? A lot of countries might fit your criteria for being an “ideal country to live in”, but there are many cultural subtleties that you’ll never discover from books, websites, and anecdotes.
Culture shock can really throw you for a loop, even after months or even years of dedicated research from afar. Before committing to a move, you should take a “trial vacation” to your destination country and give it a taste for a couple of weeks.
There’s obviously no way to get the full evaluation in just a few weeks, but at least you’ll be able to gauge what the next few years might be like. If you hate your vacation, it’s probably a good indicator that you won’t enjoy living here in a more permanent capacity.
All of this depends on whether or not you can afford a trial vacation, but if you can, it will provide the best insight into what the new country has in store for you. For example, there are some technical considerations before traveling abroad that you won’t really know about until you’re actually out there.