A theme I come across often in Facebook posts, is where people, after moving abroad, say that they are surprised by the weather/taxes/how people live, etc., in their new countries.
Research is SO important. I understand that you can google temperatures and weather and still be blindsided by what it really feels like. And I know that there are things you never consider because they’re simply not within your “realm of normal”. I get that.
BUT, a lot of surprises can be avoided by doing research.
Things To Research Before Moving Abroad
Here’s a list of the most important things that you need to research before moving abroad:
There are so many sites online that will show you daily weather for the last year, temperature averages, hours of sunshine per month, and rain days per month. You can compare different cities across the world with each other by annual average temperatures, by month.
Ask those who live there how they cope with the weather. If you are active and willing to try new winter sports you will, for example, be much more likely to adapt to longer, colder winters.
Use Google images, maps, street views, etc. to get an idea of what suburbs look like. Yes, in many countries houses are much closer (and in some much, much, much closer) than in SA.
It isn’t bad, it is just different to what we’re used to.
In some areas you will be able to get more space by living further out of the city or by living out in the country, but this may not be an option for you.
We rented a house in Ottawa for a year. It was convenient, close to the park, lovely neighborhood, BUT we knew that it would be temporary as we needed more space to “breathe”. So, we KNEW that my husband would have to have a longer commute to work. If this weren’t an option, we would have made the best of it until that could change.
Read online newspapers, listen to radio stations, research the political system and understand how it works.
If you are very conservative in your political views, then going to a country that is very left-leaning will probably not be for you.
Check the level of education, but also get an understanding of how the school system works.
If you are all for the South African “short back-and-sides”, strict uniform rules, etc., then you will need to be aware that it is unlikely that you will get that in your new country. You will have to adapt or pay for a private school that meets those needs for you.
Research if sports are part of school, or usually played in clubs outside of school.
Years ago, there was a letter written to Huisgenoot by “Mev Dr. in Koue Kanada.” She voiced her severe disappointment in there not being any cricket and netball for her kids in the rural prairie provinces of Canada. A little research would’ve gone a long way!
If sports is super important to you and your kids: Go to a country where they can play that particular type of sport.
Yes, rugby is growing in Canada, but if rugby is your passion there are probably other countries that are better. Or be willing to try something else 🙂
Yes, club sports is more expensive than doing sport at school. So, prepare to budget for that.
Cost of Living
The Numbeo website is excellent for researching cost of living. It isn’t always 100% correct (for us and how we budget and spend), but it is an excellent place to get a good idea.
Pets usually have to be in quarantine for a while after moving abroad. Find out what the cost of that will be.
Also check how pets live, costs, vet costs, pet insurance, etc., in your new country.
Some countries, like Canada, provide universal health care. Other countries, like the US, do not, and health care and health insurance can be very expensive.
Find out if there is federal/provincial health care. Make sure you understand how it works, and what the costs are, etc.
Find out not only about income tax, but all those other “hidden taxes”, like sales tax, property tax, etc.
I’m sure there are a million other things but those are the big things off the top of my head.
Where To Get Information
To do your research, hit up your favorite Internet search engine. But be careful. Try to verify information with official sources and watch out for scammers.
Ask pointed questions in expat groups on Facebook if you have concerns. What may be a concern for you, may not be an issue for someone else, so they may never mention that. If you’re considering Austin, Texas, join South Africans in Austin (Texas). Other good groups are South Africans living overseas share their good and bad experiences and Immigration USA.
Good luck to you. Moving overseas can be tough, but it can also be the best move you ever made!