9 Things to Consider Before Deciding to Move Abroad
Updated: Nov 14
There are those of us who love to travel to and learn about different countries...and then there are those of us who love it so much that we'd rather spend a part of our lives in a new country, not just as a tourist, but as a resident.
Every day, it seems I meet someone new who says that they are ready to move abroad. However, vacationing and actually living abroad are two completely different things, and many make the unfortunate mistake of thinking everything will be exactly the same.
If you are considering a move abroad in the future, here are 9 things you should consider before making that move:
1. Why are you moving?
Why do I want to move abroad? This is perhaps the first question you should ask yourself. Many move to escape the "problems" of the U.S., not expecting that they may also find those same exact problems in the country they choose to move.
If you are moving to escape racism, know that racism exists everywhere, not just in the U.S. If you are internally unhappy in the U.S., you will continue to be unhappy wherever you land.
Those who think their problems will magically disappear on new soil usually end up very disappointed and ultimately end up moving back to the U.S..
2. What are the visa/residency laws where you are considering?
While it's easy to say that you are going to "move" to a new country, the fact is that there's a LOT more to it for it to be done legally-- and doing so will take time.
For example, in Mexico, you only have up to 180 days on a tourist permit, and that is at the discretion of the border agent. "Border hopping" is definitely NOT encouraged, as countries do keep track of when you enter and exit and have the right to deny you entry if they feel you are abusing the system to "live" there.
Before booking that ticket, learn what steps need to be taken to become an actual resident of that country-- otherwise you are still considered a tourist and will be treated as such when it comes to resources and the prices you pay.
3. What will you do for work?
If you plan to work remotely for a company in the U.S., you will need to choose a place that has solid wifi available. If you plan to work for yourself, ask yourself whether you can sustain enough income for the long-term, and if you have the savings available to temporarily hold you over if work is slow OR if you lose your source of income completely.
If you plan to work in the country where you are moving, you will need the proper permit to do so legally (otherwise, you risk being kicked out of the country). However, keep in mind that in many places the salaries are MUCH lower than what you would expect to make in the U.S. and would not allow you to live comfortably in the way that you'd like to.
4. Do you know the local language?
Depending on where you want to move, English may not always be spoken and you will need to at least learn the basics native language to get around.
I've noticed that many will come to Mexico and get frustrated that people don't speak English, forgetting that they are not in their own country and that Spanish is the national language. Keep in mind that even if it is a tourist- or expat-heavy environment, remember that it is not up to them to learn YOUR language, it is up to YOU to learn the language of that country.
5. What are your spending habits?
While is true that in most places the cost of living is much lower than in the U.S., if you currently have poor spending habits, it is likely you will continue to have poor spending habits in a new country.
Because things cost significantly less, some make the easy mistake of spending more, or being a little "too" generous when it comes to tipping or paying locals to provide services. Before they know it, their money has already gone out of the window. That being said, you will need to understand and plan your actual budget BEFORE you move. Be well aware of your needs AND wants. Sure, you can spend a lot less in a new country, but if you expect to live like you do in the U.S. with all of your comforts and conveniences at your fingertips, you're going to end up spending just as much as you currently do.
6. What will you do for healthcare?
While most places are affordable out of pocket, you need to decide if that's how you will plan to pay, or if you will instead invest in an insurance plan. In Mexico, for example, hospitals are known to "hold you hostage" until your full bill is paid. In the case of a bigger emergency, you will need to have the funds available (which can be thousands) to pay your medical bill BEFORE being discharged or have insurance.
Look into the public healthcare options and reviews and see whether it is something you are willing to rely on if you need medical assistance. Otherwise, start looking into alternate international healthcare options that meet your budget and needs.
7. Are you willing to get uncomfortable?
The fact of the matter is, things probably aren't going to be as comfortable as you are accustomed to in the U.S. The question is, how tolerant are you of the differences that you'll experience?
Here are just a few of those differences:
In many places, you are not allowed to flush toilet paper but instead must place it in a bin next to the toilet.
Water may not be potable.
Driving laws and habits may be different.
Wait times may be longer when it comes to getting your utilities turned on, or even when you go out to eat at restaurants.
If you look different from majority of the native population, you will sometimes be the center of attention (and not always in a good way).
Views may be different between you and the local community, whether it be views on politics, human rights, or thoughts about "quality of life" in general.
What you consider to be an urgent issue or problem may not be an "issue" to the local community at all.
If you lose your patience quickly or expect to be catered to for anything, you may want to think twice about moving abroad.
8. How do your children feel about moving?
If you are moving as a family, take into consideration the thoughts and feelings of your children-- especially if those children are older. When moving to a new country, your children won't just be moving locations, but they will be uprooting some of the most important parts of their lives. They will be leaving behind their school, friends, hobbies, and other sources of comfort.
Teenagers who were just starting to become financially independent by working may not be able to so in their new country without the correct work permit. They will also need to adjust to learning a new language, making new friends, and figuring out how to fit in with their new environment.
9. What is your backup plan if things don't go as planned?
Of course no one goes into this situation thinking negatively, but things do happen (such as COVID). If you sell everything in your home country to move abroad, what are your options to return to the U.S.? Do you have family or friends who can take you in if you need to return? Will your finances be able to handle a return back to the U.S.?
Moving abroad is certainly a wonderful experience that can be life-changing for those who decide to take the leap. However, it is not for everyone. Before moving abroad, it is highly recommended that you spend several weeks (or a few months, if possible) in the place that you wish to move so that you can get a real feel for what daily life would be after making the move.
Want to see what life is like abroad for us in Mexico? Be sure to follow our journey at Just Me in J in Mexico.
Thinking of moving to Mexico yourself? Don't forget to book your Mexico Relocation Planning Call with me!
If you are a single mom looking to move abroad, consider joining the Facebook group Single Moms Breaking Expectations and Thriving Abroad, a supportive community of entrepreneurial single mothers who currently live abroad, frequently travel abroad, or who someday hope to do one of the above.