An International Move? I Can Do That With My Eyes Closed.
Just kidding. A move to a different country is always challenging, especially when it involves several people in different stages of their lives.
My mother-in-law, who lives in NY and is over 80, moved 3 times in her life. So far, I moved around 20 times and at least 10 were international moves. My first move came when I went to university in Warsaw at the age of 19. And then there were several moves within the city and later between cities, countries and continents.
I’ve learned many things during my moves, and one thing that I’ve realised is that if you want to have a successful move, you need to do a lot of preparation.
One of the most important things before the move is to learn about the new country: the language, the culture, the customs. When I moved as a student to Arkansas in the US in the 1990s, I learned about basketball culture in a small college town.
Before my move to Frankfurt, many years later, I got to know the neighborhoods I wanted to live in and the school system. It’s different when you move as a single girl in her 20s and an expat mom with kids.
Before moving to Frankfurt, I was lucky to have a colleague who was a Frankfurter and could give me some information about neighborhoods and the culture of the city. He also told me about the Apfelwein but somehow it failed to become a delicacy for me.
So heres’ my list, in no particular order, to prepare before an international move:
1. start on pre-arrival networking: talk to people in your husband’s office to learn anything you should know beforehand; spend some time in the new place; attend a Meetup or two; learn about the new place online; 2. research schools for your kids: local, international; 3. learn the basics of the local language; 4. make sure to have all the important documents handy: marriage and birth certificates, valid passports and driver’s licences; 5. find out about driver’s licence and tax requirements in the new place; 6. get medical records from your local doctors, dentists and pediatricians; 7. contact a rental agency about the house or apartment you live in now. Enquire about any renovations you need to do in the existing place before you move out; 8. rent or buy a place in the new country; 9. contact a moving agency to make sure your packing will be handled professionally; 10. tell the post office to send your mail to your new address; 11. join Facebook and other social media groups for foreigners in the new country; 12. cancel your phone and internet subscription and gym membership; 13. open a bank account in the new place and only later, close the bank account in the previous country; 14. discuss the move with your children, if you have kids, and prepare them for any cultural, linguistic and other differences; 15. decide if you want to have a going-away party or not; 16. enquire about professional or business opportunities for yourself; 17. if you have you own business, discuss transferring it from one country to the other; 18. write a plan for your life in the new country: what you want to achieve, how will it enrich your family; what it means for you as the boss of your life and family; 19. if possible, visit the new location with the whole family: wander around your future neighbourhood; talk to locals; 20. be patient and forgiving to yourself and people around you when something goes wrong. An international move is a massive operation and hiccups may occur.
So far I’ve only moved to countries where no vaccinations are required, but your new destination may need you to immunise yourself and your family. Also, we have no pets and we don't need to deal with quarantine or medical checks for pets.
Have I missed anything? Probably.
Just like there are different expat moms, each move is a bit different, too.
Please let me know what you would like added to the list.
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