Wanting to move around is one thing. Actually moving is another. So far my wife and I have moved over 15 times between 4 countries (some of them more than once).
There are two types of expats and/or perpetual travelers I know of – these that move to countries and they just hang around there for some time (notably, sometimes even for decades :)) and do so without thinking much of formalities that would allow them to be there legally, and there are the other guys – these that actually formally settle down.
The first ones have it easy – as long as they don’t overstay their visa, or travel back and forth across the borders to renew the permitted time of their stay – they can live in the place for a long time. There are many expat-like like this – I came across some in Thailand (the guy from US I spoke to runs a business in Chiang Mai for 15 years despite not having a working visa). Many nomads celebrating their life on the internet use the very same approach, except they often change places traveling dozens of countries in a short period of time, picking up random jobs and getting by using their savings, charm, and luck.
The second ones are definitely the boring ones 🙂 – that’s us – the relocation is well planned and there is already at least one job waiting at the other end. While the process may look straightforward, and easy (sponsoring companies often engage relocation companies that provide a full assistance with the move, including tasks like advising on local culture and looking for apartments), the challenges associated with the legalization of your stay in a new place can give you a headache, and by far make it for a much harsher experience when compared to a country hopping.
The short-term issues you will face are:
- finding a new apartment
- getting through process of being vetted by agents/landlords
- getting utilities sorted (water, electricity, gas, heating, phone, internet, etc.)
- sometimes registering with the local authorities
- registering with the local health services
- registering with the social security services
- opening local bank accounts
- localizing your driving license
- paying for the TV license (this may be ‘new’ to many people not accustomed to it)
- getting new mobile phone numbers
- researching local neighborhood to find amenities
- sometimes getting to know your concierge/porters
- changing addresses and phone numbers in all the previous places you stayed before (and that you dealt with) so that they can send you latest or closing statements (banks, utilities, etc.)
- notifying your friends and family about new address/phone number
- some people like to redirect their mail, so it’s yet another thing on the list
- keeping an eye on your bank accounts abroad
- keeping an eye on your bills abroad (if you didn’t manage to close all accounts before the move, it’s important to keep an eye as you may get subscribed to the services for another year if you don’t cancel!)
The less obvious ones that will affect your long-term plans:
- the second half may need time to find a new job, sometimes it’s not possible
- you need to keep track of all your documents and never ever shred/throw away any – it is usual for the governments, landlords, sometimes even companies to demand proof of address from last 5-10 years; this is why it is the best to have utilities bills shared between yourselves if you are a couple; if possible, shared bills are even better as it establishes a full history for both of you across all the places
- you have to keep an eye on the stuff that looks unimportant today, but one day will probably become the most important (f.ex. pension)
- you have to keep your balance sheet constantly updated – if you keep money in different currencies you need to manage money so that you can avoid losing if the rate of one of the currencies drops significantly
- you need to know everything you can about local taxes – in some countries you can get tax allowances and if you don’t know about it, you may be losing money
- if you have kids, you need to take it into consideration how your moving will affect their education and future
Also, many of these activities will cost quite some money – lots of fees (including hidden fees that will only become apparent when it comes to paying), and there will be lots of long-distance calls (use VoIP!) as well. And last but not least – this will cost you a lot of time. The legal aspect of being a law abiding citizen means the burden of proving to that new government, landlord, company that your presence in the new place is justified is on you. You will get used to filling in lots of forms (always keep copies!), providing employer letters to whoever asks, fighting with the catch 22 situations where you can’t open the bank until you have a proof of address, but you can’t get any until you find an apartment, etc. etc. I will cover more of this in next posts…