Uprooting your family to another country can be one of the best decisions you make. But it isn’t an easy one. It requires a lot of research, planning, and organizing. In the research phase, here are some things to consider when moving your family abroad.
Cost of Living
As an expat with a family, the last thing I would want to do is increase my family’s living expenses. How about you? So the cost of living in a country is very important.
When planning for your move, you need to evaluate what your living expenses will be in your host country. Let’s say you’re motivated to move abroad for a new career opportunity. Will your living expenses be less than, equal to, or more than what they are now?
The place to start is by comparing day-to-day living expenses in relation to what your employer will be providing in your remuneration package. Day-to-day living expenses would include the cost of food, fuel and/or public transportation, utilities, and entertainment (cable, TV, Internet, etc.).
What about rent, child care or school fees?
A major benefit to working abroad is that employers will provide you with a housing allowance and relocation and settlement allowances. The former is paid monthly and the latter are paid out onetime, usually within a month of starting your job. Having your housing covered by your employer apart from your salary is a great feeling. It allows you to save and focus your finances on other things (e.g. starting and investing in your own business).
If you will not have an employer providing any of these benefits, then you must factor housing into your cost of living expenses. Along with that are child care costs and school fees for your children. Childcare cost can be significantly less or more in comparison to your home country. And perhaps, you have never paid school fees. However, when moving your family abroad, you may have to pay for your children’s formal education.
Reducing your living expenses is a key to creating a better lifestyle for your family.
So if the cost of living will be higher than it is in your current country, how much of a dent will it put into your earnings? Will what your employer is offering in benefits balance out and allow you to save while improving your quality of life?
Quality of Life
Moving your family abroad is a great way to start a new life. And for many, it is a chance to improve their quality of life.
Let me take a moment and share something with you.
When I first moved abroad, I felt like a load was lifted off my shoulders. Back in the U.S., it really felt like everyone was running in a rat race. With a lot of Americans participating in society and a labor market that stresses them out. Or some working at a job they don’t really enjoy to pay back the lifestyle they have financed. So I was so happy to break away and try something else. It was the first time that I felt I could genuinely have a work-life balance.
On that note, here are some determinants that will affect your quality of life and questions you need to answer before moving your family abroad?
Personal safety. You need to define what is considered safe and unsafe. In addition, ask yourself if there are any major security issues in regions of your host country. What concerns you most — petty crimes, gun violence, political issues (frequent protests that could turn violent), neighboring countries making nuclear threats, or presidents who lack diplomacy and tweet on Twitter? Perhaps, you are hoping for an absence of all of these.
Work-life balance. This is a subjective concept, but I’m sure you desire to have a healthy one between your work and family life. So you need to figure out what that balance is and if you’ll be able to enjoy it in your host country. Do you enjoy working short or long hours? Are long hours okay, if you get a lot of vacation time and holidays offs? Having flexibility and time are important, especially if you want to capitalize on your move abroad, travel frequently, and experience the world with your family.
Health and well-being. Will you have access to affordable, equitable and quality health care for you and your family? What about environmental conditions? Air pollution is an issue in many countries. What is your preferred climate? Long, cold, and snowy winters can be depressing for some. They are also an obstacle for kids to get in and enjoy outdoor playtime.
There are other factors that can influence your quality of life when moving abroad. Some of them have to do with whether or not you can adjust to living in a different culture.
Ease of Settling In
Five years ago when I first decided to move overseas, I had two work opportunities. One was teaching at a university in Saudi Arabia and the other was teaching in a public school in South Korea. Both of these countries are vastly different from my home country. And I had to ask myself, “Do you think you can adjust to the local culture?”
The opportunity to go and work in Saudi was very alluring. That is the remuneration package and professionally, it would have been a better career move. However, I reasoned that South Korea would be easier for me to settle in as a first time expat. Why? I felt I could more easily make friends and have a social life. At that time, I didn’t know much about the expat community in Saudi Arabia. Whereas, I had learned from my research that Korea had an active, diverse, friendly and close-knit expat communities.
I share that to say that ease of settling in is an important consideration because it relates to quality of life. If there are too many challenges to overcome in your host country, then you or members of your family will find it difficult to adjust. Making friends and having a social life is also important to our wellbeing. If you don’t have them, then you make feel lonely or alienated in your host country.
A major challenge to settling into a different culture and that shouldn’t be overlooked is the presence of a language barrier. Are you willing to learn the local language? If so, then this maximizes your opportunities to connect and make local friends, as well as, genuinely experience the culture. Even knowing a little bit of the native language in your host country helps. It shows that you have an interest in integrating. As a result, the local people will make you feel more welcome.
These are just a few things to consider when moving your family abroad. When you move abroad, you are choosing to live life outside of your comfort zone. I think this is a great thing because you get to start a new life, create a new normal, improve your quality of life, and perhaps live the best life you never knew you could have. So look for what will suit you and your family and then, go for it.
Are you planning to move abroad with your family or start a family when you moved abroad? Where are you planning to relocate? What concerns you most?