My moving to London was to some extent planned – I was already in the course of looking for a job here. However I have never thought that the final decision will be that spontaneous and I will only have 2 weeks to prepare! That’s why I decided to share some basic tips on how to successfully go through the prep process before you leave to your new destination. This post will focus on moving by yourself – other detailed posts to follow 😉
Read about your destination
What I found very useful before I actually moved to London was to get familiar with the city map, some bigger areas and their names as well as get the basic understanding of the main transport routes in the city (it was the tube map in my case). This will help you navigate in your first weeks. Especially while looking for a flat – you will find it easier to look for a place when you have the general idea of the district’s names.
What I used to always have in my handbag was a paper map of London – I never actually used it, but it made me more confident and safe in case I got lost and my phone stopped working.
Practice your language skills
If you are moving to a country speaking the language you know well – make sure to practice before you go there. Listen to the local radio, watch films without subtitles, read some local press. Why? Because even if you are fluent in the language, but have never lived in a given country for a longer period of time, you will need to get familiar with the local customs, slang and lifestyle – the sooner you start preparing the easier it will be when you get there!
If on the other hand you decided to move to a country with a national language that you don’t speak, make sure to practice your English – to increase your chances of a smooth start. In addition, I would strongly recommend learning at least some basic expressions in the local language – people usually appreciate this gesture and in some countries it will definitely open many doors for you.
Accept the culture
Another must-read is the information about local culture and habits. In some countries it will not make a big difference. In some others it may either totally ban or easily open some new opportunities. The fact that you know something about the local culture already may also be a great conversation-starter. Try gathering some information about the cuisine, tv shows, local entertainment opportunities.
Talk to your friends
This might seem really obvious, but talking to your friends who are currently living or have recently been living in the country you are planning to go to are a great source of knowledge. The information you might find useful while doing the move are for example:
– the paperwork that needs to be done before or right after you arrive in the new country
– names of the local shops/supermarkets corresponding to the type of shop that you have in your country
– prices of the typical flat rent
– common practices of renting flats, eg. What you should expect, what you need to watch out for while talking to agencies etc.
– fun places to go to and visit
All the above are small things, but make you feel more secure when you’re going to a new place. We like what we already know well.
What you also need to think of before you leave is to wrap up all the things that you are leaving behind. Here are some examples of To-Dos that you might find useful:
– book the tickets for your travel
– cancel the flat contract in your current location
– cancel your Internet/TV/phone contracts
– cancel any newspaper/groceries/ etc. deliveries
– collect any documents you will need for the travel and first days in the new destination (passport, ID, visas, medical certificates, bank statements…)
– check if you need any plug adapters for the devices you will use in your destination
– buy travel insurance
– plan your budget – try to estimate the primary expenses in your new destination to control how much you spend; Decide whether you want to keep your previous bank account or maybe transfer all your money to a foreign currency account that you could be using during your first days abroad
– check if you need any vaccinations before you leave
These are the absolute basics you may try to make yourself a bit more comfortable before you leave. I hope you will find it useful!
The book that turned out to be really helpful and easy-to-read before making this move was Breaking Through Culture Shock: What You Need to Succeed in International Business by Elisabeth Marx. The book has a business focus, but the language and ideas described were really clear and to the point – great for someone who needs a quick inspiration and advice, even if they are not moving solely for business reasons.