Moving to a new country: where to look for help
If you’re moving abroad, you’re leaving the world you know and making your way into a new, strange and often baffling environment. It stands to reason, therefore, that the first thing would-be expats ask is “where can I turn for help?” Happily, there is no shortage of advice and support out there, and we have listed the principal sources that you may use as you start the process of moving to a new country.
Ask the expat community
Other expats are typically the best source of support, and their direct experience is not only valuable but willingly shared with others. Expat communities are most easily divided into online and offline groups, but the distinction often blurs since few expat communities will exist without an online presence.
- Online communities
Often inspired by the personal experiences of former expats, a number of blogs and online communities are available that contain a lot of information and support. Some focus on specific countries, some are simply personal memoirs of experiences abroad, but they are a rich source of information for expats and well worth a look. A few examples include:
These links will offer a lot of broad advice, but they are also an excellent starting point and will often lead you to very focused groups and communities that deal with your specific destination and circumstances.
As the world’s favourite social media platform, Facebook also has plenty to offer in the form of expat groups. (Although be aware that Facebook is not as ubiquitous as you might think, as Western expats moving to China may realize.) The easiest way to find them is to search within Facebook, or to check out some of the lists of useful groups, such as this one provided by the International Expats Club.
- Local ‘off-line’ expat communities
Once you arrive in your new host country, you will tend to seek out other expats for support (at least at first), and some of the online research you have done may lead to some useful contacts ‘on the ground’. There are also communities built around schools (especially non-local-language schools), sports and neighbourhoods. Your decision on where to live (or where the accommodation agency suggests) will often be based on previous expat experiences, so the chances of living near other expats is high. Also look out for newspapers in your language, commonly available in larger cities; they will include plenty of information on where to find expat communities and other valuable resources.
Another good angle to consider is to seek the advice of expats making the reverse journey, ie people from your future host country staying in your current home country. They clearly have in-depth knowledge of the place you are travelling to, and are in an excellent position to compare the two. Another advantage is that these often tend to organize in groups, online and offline. Making it easier for you to locate them and get in touch. Just be sure to get in touch before you move.
Talk to colleagues and customers
Many expats are invited to relocate by their employer, in which case this is an obvious and (hopefully) highly-organised support resource. But those who travel independently will nonetheless often be working – whether this is part-time or in a freelance capacity. The colleagues and customers that you come into contact with can be extremely useful, especially for professional advice.
Check out resources in your new host country
There are also resources provided by your new host country. Tourist information services can be extremely useful, and many countries have other services dedicated to helping expats thrive while in their country. It is of course in their interests to be as welcoming as possible to foreign investment, which is in effect what you are. Local business communities and Chambers of Commerce are also often available.
Another source of support that is often misunderstood is your national embassy or consulate. They are there to represent the interests of a country overseas, but strictly from a legal and sometimes political viewpoint. Embassies will be able to help with certain scenarios, particularly involving administration such as lost passports or legal difficulties, but they are not there to ‘bail you out’ if you encounter problems. Since they often comprise just a few staff members serving an expat community that can number in the thousands, they are often overworked and reluctant to get involved in non-urgent matters.
Get advice from your mover
One of the advantages of using an experienced, certified mover is that they are not just there to move your belongings. They can advise in a number of different areas, ranging from how to pack and what to take with you, to managing the first few days in your new home, and dealing with much of the red tape, customs clearance and administration. For FAIM certified movers, this kind of support and advice is all part of the service.