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The Keys to International Moves

Successful Relocation Requires Mutual Understanding

A work permit for one usually leaves the other to fend for themselves in a new culture. Upon arrival, the couple moves in two directions: the working spouse resumes a regular working routine and the dependent spouse must readjust his or her schedule and incorporate into it the challenges of day-to-day chores, like grocery shopping. What looks like a golden opportunity for one may be just that—an opportunity for one.

A successful move first depends on the strength of the relationship. A thorough discussion of the following issues will help ensure a decision that satisfies the needs of both parties.

How will the move impact your careers? If you are a professional couple, consider how an international career move will impact both careers:

  • Find out the rules for obtaining work permits and working in specific fields.
  • Consider how developing one career can cause another to slow down, stagnate, or even end.
  • Discuss how having a chief breadwinner may change the balance in the relationship.

If there is no guarantee that you both can work, are there other things that the non-working spouse can do? This may be the perfect opportunity to review career choices, explore freelancing opportunities, try a distance learning program, develop new hobbies, or volunteer. Regardless of destination, all communities need volunteers, and volunteering is a valuable way to meet new people and keep your resume fresh.

What are the employer’s job expectations? Because employment customs and laws vary from country to country, learn as much as possible about the job expectations beforehand. What about work on holidays, weekends, and evenings? Ask the employer about social opportunities provided by the company. Some companies have extensive networks to help families integrate into the new community. Others don’t.

How will new salary compare to cost of living? Even if you’re contemplating living abroad for the experience only, determine your spending power in and out of the country. If you’re moving for the money, find out how your new salary compares to the cost of living.

When household income is reduced to one source, you may be worse off than at home. If you can visit the country before accepting the job, seek out the local haunts. Visit a grocery store and compare the prices to those back home. Ask your spouse to discuss housing costs with the employer. Check to see if the job offer includes a housing allowance and a cost of living adjustment in addition to the salary.

What will be the living arrangements and costs? Research housing costs. If you need to bring furniture, what kind? For example, leather furniture doesn’t do well in hot and humid climates.

If a relocation consultant is part of the deal, ask lots of questions before arriving. Ask about services and utility charges. Knowing what to expect limits frustrations and gives you time to prepare contingency plans, like opting for gas instead of electricity.

Relocation Checklist

When deciding upon an international move:

  • Careers: Have you considered how important career development is for both parties?
  • Relationship: Have you discussed how the dynamics of your relationship may change?
  • Home Comforts: What things or services are essential for you?
  • Cost of Living: What is the cost of living at the potential destination and what is against the potential income?
  • Isolation: Can both of you handle leaving friends and family behind?
  • Healthcare: Are you aware of potential health risks and how existing conditions will be affected (e.g. allergies, asthma)?
  • Sports and Hobbies: Are there facilities for your current activities? Are you willing to take up new ones?
  • Pets: Have you made appropriate arrangements for moving your pets to new homes (either with or without you)?
  • Religious Practices: Will you have access to a choice of affiliations?
  • Transportation: Have you determined the most efficient mode of transportation?
  • Find accommodations.
  • Set up utilities.
  • Open a bank account (remember to note hours of operation).
  • Buy a map and explore your community.
  • Firm up transportation.
  • Find out about normal business and shopping hours.
  • Ask for insider tips (e.g. discount shopping days).
  • Get involved in the local community: Go to the library, or other public institution to discover ways to do it.
  • Hobbies and Activities. This may be the only time in your life when you won’t be working, because you can’t. Will you be able to do the things you enjoy? Find out if yourfavorite activities fit your budget. Finding your own outlets will prevent overdependence on your spouse. Seek out diverse activities that involve members of the local community and thus maximize your international experience.
  • Healthcare. Aside from ensuring proper health insurance, get necessary inoculations beforehand and stock up on recommended medicine. Be prepared for the physical side effects of the new location, and don’t forget to check the availability and affordability of the things you need to stay healthy.
  • Family Planning. An international move may be a good time to start a family. But before conceiving, consider things like isolation from family and social networks, medical coverage and facilities, schooling and daycare.
  • Keeping in Touch. Think about how important keeping in touch with friends and family is to you. If it’s very important, weigh this into your decision. Your decision to discover a new world will invariably lead to mixed reactions and limited understanding.
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