Things to consider before becoming an expatriate

Moving abroad from the UK is big step in anyone’s life. The decision should not be taken lightly and there are many things to be taken into consideration. Here we will go through some of the main things to be thought about before you take the life changing decision.

Why are you are contemplating a move? 

When asked, many expatriates cite reasons such as a change in lifestyle, better weather, opting out of the rat-race and so on. Some people characterise these reasons as ‘escapism’ – in other words, an assumption that things in the above areas are automatically going to be better overseas.

The good news is that they might well be, however, are you absolutely sure? For example, in most situations as an expatriate abroad, you are still going to be facing bills, living expenses, medical issues from time to time and possibly frustrations with colleagues and neighbours once there. So, be sure you understand your real motivations and that your chosen location and society is going to deliver what you are looking for.

Is your family fully supportive? 

This is a frequently overlooked area. Remember that if you have children much above a certain age, they may be resentful of being removed from their school and circle of friends. If they are, that may predispose them towards integration difficulties in their new school and unhappy children in your new home are unlikely to help you settle down and make a success of your move. Work hard to make sure that everyone in the family is enthusiastic about the move and try to avoid ‘steamrollering’ things through.

Research local laws, customs and regulations 

There is a vast amount of information on the Internet on things such as expats forums and you should make sure that you are, as far as is possible, an expert on your chosen destination and all aspects of living there before you arrive. That is critically important in the context of property purchase, ownership and inheritance laws. It is worth seriously consider renting a property. It may be brave and in some cases foolhardy, to simply sell up in the UK and move immediately to a country and location that you either don’t know very well or have only visited on holiday. Remember that a holiday experience is not comparable to living in the country concerned. If your financial position allows it, it might make sense to rent somewhere in your chosen area and live there for a few months before making an irrevocable decision to purchase and settle. During that period, it might be wise to keep your UK property – just in case things don’t work out.

Are you sure of your finances? 

In many countries around the world, including those in Europe, property prices are typically much cheaper than in the UK. So, you may be able to sell up and buy a property leaving yourself mortgage-free. That might be a huge achievement and one of your dreams but how are you going to cope with other living expenses that hit you on a month-by-month basis?

Unless you are fortunate enough to be independently wealthy, you are likely to need income and obtaining income overseas is by no means easy – particularly if you are living in a country where English is not the spoken language. Remember that if you do not have a balance between income and expenditure abroad, you will just as quickly get into  financial troubles as you would have done in the United Kingdom had the same been the case.

Do you understand local taxes? 

You may be surprised to know that income related taxes in many countries around the world, including some of those in continental Europe, may be much higher than you are used to in the UK. Do not assume that you will be able to obtain income in your new country and pay tax on it through the UK at UK rates. As a general principle, international law requires you to pay your taxes in your country of residence even if your income is being derived from the United Kingdom. It is best to take financial advice on this.

Are you clear on medical cover? 

Outside of European Union countries, you may not be entitled to automatic health care in your chosen destination country. Even in Europe, your UK-provided reciprocal cover might be limited over what you’re used to. In other words, you may need to find substantial amounts of money in order to provide you and your family with appropriate medical insurance. This might be critically important to you in due course and it should be researched thoroughly before you depart.

Do you have an exit strategy? 

Nobody should move overseas with the intention of running back to the UK at the first sign of difficulties. Even so, things can go wrong and if you did decide that you needed to come back to the UK, how would you do so? Travel is expensive and what would you do for accommodation once you arrived back? It might be sensible to have an emergency contingency fund, ring-fenced to cope with such a situation. 

These are some of the main things you need to consider before making the move abroad. Do your research properly and take the right financial advice and the move will be the life changing experience that you dreamed it would be.

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