Thinking about moving to Europe? Well I can’t say I blame you. This has been a goal of mine since I fell in love with Spain a couple of years ago. But moving to a new country can be hard, right? Whether you are moving temporarily for work or family, or even if you want to live somewhere forever, acclimatising can be difficult. Things you took for granted in your home country are no longer simple, like needing a work visa and managing your money. These together with getting used to the massive cultural differences and way of life are reasons for some people not to move altogether. Well worry no more! As a native European and active traveler across the continent, here are my top tips to consider before you up sticks and make that big move.
Moving is Not Easy
I know this might be a bit of an obvious point to some but I think you can never stress this enough! Modern media has romanticised traveling and living overseas. How many times have you seen pictures of friends or family living abroad on Facebook and thought “aren’t they lucky?” What you see might be paradise and you might think it is effortless and easy, but in reality, moving and living abroad is stressful and challenging. I’m not saying it’s not worth the hassle because it most definitely is! It will just be that little bit easier if you accept that moving with be difficult and approach every challenge head on with a positive attitude.
Get to Know Your Location Beforehand
Nothing is worse than going through all the stress of moving into your new place and then realising it’s not what you wanted. So do your research! First, know what you’re looking for and choose your location. Europe may be tiny compared to Asia and America but its culture varies dramatically from place to place. Language, foods and customs can all change with just a few kilometers so visit each place before deciding to move there. You may love Spain but would you prefer the sleepy South or the bustle of Northern cities such as Madrid? If the UK is more your cup of tea, will it be the rural rolling hills of the Scottish Highlands or the urban energy of cities like London?
Secondly, spend some time traveling, or living and working in the place you would like to move to. I recently spent 2 months living and working in Malaga before traveling up to Barcelona and Madrid. Even though I knew I wanted to live in Spain, it wasn’t until I lived there that I realised that the North was more for me (even though I had previously only been to the South!). Spending time in each place as a local instead of a tourist, meant that I really got to know each place, the people and their customs. My love for Spain only grew after living there and assured me that I was making the right decision.
Learn How to Manage Your Money Abroad
Ahh the most confusing and frustrating aspect of moving anywhere but your home country! As laws and regulations are so different between each European country, I’m just going to give you a few tips to consider when you move anywhere.
Be prepared for the price – Depending on where you are moving from, the price difference may not be as much as a shock to the system. However, if you’re moving from somewhere like Asia for example, be aware that everything will cost a lot! Your days of paying ฿20 for a taxi in Thailand are behind you and be prepared to pay €20 instead. But things aren’t all bad – most of Europe is on the Euro which means traveling is a lot easier with much less money exchanges!
Become a genius at currency conversions – I don’t know about you but dealing with foreign currencies makes my brain hurt, and when you’re spending money that doesn’t feel like “real” money, it’s easy to overspend without realising. How to overcome this? Learn to internalise the value of your local currency by comparing it to your home currency and more importantly your new wage. For example, if you’re an American moving to Denmark, you know you would spend around $5 on lunch so expect to pay 35 DKK. However if you’re moving from Asia, where all the prices are 5x lower than Denmark, you have to bear in mind that your wage has increased proportionally.
Related: How I Survived Europe on a Budget
Resources: Use budgeting apps like Trail Wallet which will help you keep track of all your expenses by setting a daily budget and logging all of your transactions.
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Learning the Language Will be Rewarding
Learning a language is difficult, so don’t make the mistake of thinking it will just happen over time. Start off easy and learn the basics such as “hello, good-bye, thank-you, please, excuse me, I don’t understand, and do you speak English?” Soon you will build up the confidence to use more and will not be able to stop talking! When I first started off with Spanish, I was very shy and didn’t have the confidence to use it. Now I know that the locals really appreciate you trying and really don’t care if you get it wrong (unless they are French, they will just look at you weird). When you use it everyday, you will quickly improve and your confidence will build. So don’t just rely on books, join a club, go out frequently and make a fool of yourself with the locals! Making a true effort to speak the local language will go a long way, trust me.
Resources: Use language learning apps like HelloPal, Duolingo, Memrise.
New Friends Will Make it Feel Like Home
Jump in head first and make friends! Not only will this make getting used to a new place less scary but they’ll really show you how to become a local. The new home you think you’ve explored will suddenly be unlocked as your new friends show you the best places to eat, hidden bars you didn’t know existed and areas of natural beauty that you had never thought to look for. To meet locals, you can even sign up to expatriate groups on-line to find others in similar situations. Getting out and making friends is extremely important when moving to another country as you never know when you’ll need that support system.
Less Really is More
In simple terms – get rid of all your crap! Obviously this doesn’t apply as much to people who are moving abroad for good, but for the travellers and expats, keep the stuff you bring with you to a minimum. Sell the rest of your stuff or give it to charity, trust me you will feel a sense of liberation not having so many earthly possessions. Plus, the main aim of moving away is integrating into your new culture! You can buy clothes and shampoo wherever you are and it will probably be cheaper too.
Moving Abroad Will Change You
Without getting too Eat, Pray, Love on you all, it is worth pointing out that travelling and living abroad will change you and your perspective. It will teach you to be independent and responsible, and will give you a different sense of respect and appreciation for the people around you. Accepting this before moving will allow you to be more open to different experiences and allow them to shape you into the person you’ll become. Whether you want to or not, these challenges of learning a new language and adapting to a different culture will change you for the better.
So go forth my friends, enjoy Europe in all its glory, learn new lessons and grow as people! If you stay positive and accept the cultural differences for what they are, moving abroad will be a piece of cake. After all isn’t it the challenges of moving that make the experience all the more rewarding and memorable?