The decision to move abroad can be daunting. It's probably not for everyone, although I do personally believe everyone has something to gain from seeing the world from another vantage point.
It's incredible how many different ways there are to do things and there isn't a 'right' way to do them, despite what many tell you, which is why I left the questions open ended. In my experience those who never have ventured out of their comfort zone tend to be the loudest in letting you know their way is the best. Some things work for certain people and not for others.
I've frequently been asked about considerations and for tips on starting a life in another country. Many of these things apply to living anywhere in the world when moving internationally. I'm not an immigration lawyer or expert, so I don't have the answers to all of those questions, but this list may help in putting things into perspective.
If you're trying to immigrate to the United States check out Visa Journey or enter the green card lottery.
- Missing family, friends, foods, and certain aspects of 'home' is difficult on the emotional end. People say the will visit and don't, they may not understand your life, and they may fall off the face of the earth. Dealing with a substantial time change makes contacting people difficult and it's not uncommon to be the last to know the latest news among family and friends. Thankfully there is skype, instant messaging, emails, and snail mail. You'll quickly find out who remembers you. At times it can be disappointing, but make the effort to keep in touch with those you care about.
- Be prepared to never feel fully 'home' again. You'll most likely always miss someone or some thing once you've moved. This is probably true in moving city to city, but more noticeable when dealing with other cultures as well. There are high highs and low lows, so just prepare yourself for that. Or at least make yourself think you're prepared for that.
- It's not vacation every day. Sometimes things become common place and the excitement can wear off once the everyday life sets in. Believe it or not there are still chores to be done and bills to pay, occasionally the seemingly easy (hello, washing machine) has suddenly become difficult.
- Some people are sent abroad for jobs, some fall in love, and some simply find a city that they dream of living in. These considerations will apply to everyone, although some circumstances make things much easier:
• What will you need to do to apply for a visa (x-rays, police records, translated official documents, etc)? How long will it take to process? What are the benefits and limitations of specific types of visa, and can you choose from different visa options? [If moving to Germany read this]
• Is there a possibility to obtain dual-citizenship? How long does it take?
• Are your passport, driver's license, job certifications, other forms of ID, shots/vaccinations, etc are all up to date before you apply for a visa and especially before you move? Applying for renewals from abroad is a big hassle. Sometimes it must be done in person.
• Is there are reciprocity for exchanging a driver's license to the locals license? Will you have to pay money or take courses?
• Do you have copies of important papers including notorized or apostilled copies of marriage licenses or transcripts?
• Does the country have any particular rules pertaining to expats, ie. having to hire a certain number of local employees (cook, gardener, maid, etc)?
• Do you need a work visa before entering the country or can you get one after you arrive?
• If moving for your job or transferring with the company what issues will be important to you to negotiate?
• If married, will both partners be allowed to work? Are there job perspectives for both partners? If one partner can't work, what are their other options?
• Are spouses or partners invited to workplace functions?
• If you lose your job is there a distinct amount of time before you are forced to leave the country?
• Will you have access to the (public) healthcare system? If not, what can you expect to pay in insurance, and what will this insurance cover, and when?
• What types of medications difficult to find or illegal to bring?
• What kind of immunizations / vaccinations will you need before going?
• Is it okay to drink tap water or from a distilled bottle even though it doesn't look clear?
• Are there cooking ingredients that are not available that should be brought?
• What type of measuring system do they use for foods? Should you bring measuring cups or a cook book of their ethnic dishes in your local language?
• Are you able to drive in your new country? Rent a car?
• Is it pedestrian / bike friendly?
• Is there a subway / public transport system? How expensive is it?
• Can/should you ship your car? If so what are the additional safety/enviromental regulations? Are there road taxes?
• For the city/region, how's telecom (generally)? Is it typical to have your house phone/internet up and running within a week or two or is the wait more like 6-8 weeks, in which case are wireless cards/keys worth it?
• Will your electronics work there or will you have to buy tons of adapters + convertors?
• Is there a book store with publications in your native language?
• Are your DVD's or games going to work over there (region free, etc. )? Does your DVD player have a 'cracking' code?
• What are the area's religious views? Will this change the way you practice your own faith? Will you need to wear special clothing to blend in with others?
• Do you want to potentially have children there? What is pregnancy and childbirth like in this country?
• Would the child / children have the ability to gain a second citizenship? How do you register births with your homeland(s)?
• What kind of educational system is there for children?
• What kind of activities/after-school programs are offered?
• How will the school communicate with you (for those who don't yet speak the language)?
• What is expected of you as a parent (as in contributing volunteer hours, etc)?
• What holidays do children celebrate? And how do they celebrate them?
• Which medications are over-the-counter and which will you need to obtain from a medical professional?
• Will your child be able to get medical care the day you arrive? What about dental care? Eye-care and glasses?
• Can you transfer pets to this country? If you get a pet in your new country, and want to move it to another country later, what would you need to do?
• Is the country/city pet-friendly? Will it make renting a home or apartment more difficult?
• Is there an option to board pets when you want to travel?
• Does the country quarantine - how long is mandatory and how expensive is it?
• How easy is it for you to travel home from there?
• Is there an expat community present?
• Are there organizations to get involved with for volunteer opportunities?
• Is this a country where you can meet and interact with locals, or will you mostly need to rely on other expats?
• Are there lots of other expats in the area, and is there an active network?
• Are special programs available to foreigners to learn the language?
• What are different areas known for and what areas are most desirable to live in?
• What is the crime rate and some of the local laws?
• Are there local customs that you should be aware of, including holidays?
• Can you bring your things? How much would this cost? Are there customs restrictions? How long would it take (approximately) for your things to arrive at your new house?
• What type of living arrangements will you have access to?
• Can you choose your own accomodation, or does the company choose for you?
• What can you expect to spend on accommodation?
• Is it safer to live in an expat neighborhood/compound?
• Can you buy, or do you need to rent?
• Can temporary residents get a mortgage?
• If you own a home what will you do with it?
• What will you be expected to pay in terms of taxes? Will you receive any government benefits?
• Are you paying for things you won't have access to, or can you get a rebate?
• Are there any partner banks that offer benefits in the new country?
• How often will you be paid and in which currency?
• What about retirement savings? If you can/must put money into company/government pension schemes, can you take that money with you if you leave the country?
• Will you be eligible to get the country's social security?
• Will you have to pay taxes in your home land even while you are abroad?
• Will you/can you transfer money to your "home" bank if necessary?
Expatistan - cost comparison between cities
If it were my Home - very interesting country by country comparisons
Expat blog - a directory of various locations from an ex-pat perspective
Internations - a community of expats with local chapters around the world
Spotted by Locals - tips from locals around European cities
If I forgot anything please leave a comment and I will add it to the list!