There are few opportunities more exciting in a person’s life and career than the opportunity to move abroad with a career. This experience can be particularly thrilling when you are single and able to embrace this adventure with a complete sense of freedom and independence.
While the experience should be something to look forward to, there are some considerations one should make before moving internationally as a single person. Specifically, one should focus on issues related to living in a new country with a unique culture, adjusting to a new work environment, and building a new social network.
As a relocation consultant that has aided many single people through this beginning period of their stay in a new country, I’ve learned a lot about what leads to a successful and enjoyable relocation, and am sharing what I believe are the five most essential tips to make the transition enjoyable.
1. Do some deep research on the location before taking the assignment to make sure it is a good match
It always surprises me, but in my experience helping clients to relocate I’ve met many people that got so caught up in the excitement of moving abroad that they failed to do enough research about how their new home might fit with their lifestyle. These people would fall into the trap of perhaps remembering a vacation spent in this locale or watching a few videos on YouTube to help shape their conception of the place. After arriving they realized that living there was a lot more complex than what they were expecting and the assignment either got off to a troubled start or failed quickly.
Some locations are known to be outstanding for single people in terms of the important lifestyle factors such as culture and social opportunities, but some cities don’t quite match the expectations or necessities a single person might desire. Is the city safe? Does it offer an ample social life? Are locals accepting of foreigners? Can a new person get by without speaking the local language? It’s really important to do your research and ask questions to people with experience living there to ensure that this new location is a good match for what you are looking for.
It’s also absolutely necessary to check out how your salary will support your lifestyle. One of the last things you want to face after moving to a new city is to not be stressed due to the costs. For example, when moving to a city like Zurich or San Francisco the price of rent can be prohibitively expensive. In Sydney the cost of a pint of beer can exceed $8 while in Bratislava a beer costs 1.50 Euro. A meal out in New York may cost over $20 while in Bangkok it may cost less than half that amount. A metro pass in Prague costs the equivalent of 12 Euro per month while a metro pass in London can require taking out a personal loan to purchase. All of this adds up and a rough calculation of your monthly living costs should be made before making the decision to move.
To get an idea of your expenditures, take a look at a cost of living information site such as Expatistan or read reports from Living Abroad and see how your current city compares to the new city you are going to in terms of living expenses. These types of websites give a rough expectation of just how much you should be making in salary to meet your goals, but should be supplemented by advice from locals to give you a more nuanced perspective of prices.
2. Go for an exploratory “look and see” trip to your new city
It can be invaluable to take an exploratory trip to your prospective new city and see how the location and new work environment matches with your needs and expectations. Seeing the city up close and getting a better feel for it will give you the confidence to go forward with the move while also helping you start taking steps to set up your arrival.
One of the services that is highly recommended is to take an area orientation tour with a local relocation consultant. This custom-made, several hour tour of the area will allow you to accomplish a lot in terms of getting to know the city one a more detailed level. On your tour you will get a view of different neighborhoods, see the location of your office, visit shopping centers or gyms, and ask questions to your consultant about the pros and cons in terms of culture, nightlife, access to public transport, and so on.
The company wanting to hire you, or that is transferring you, to this new location should normally be willing to allow you to visit the company premises before moving there, so requesting a tour of the office while on this “look and see trip” is something you should push for. This is a great opportunity to meet with your potential future colleagues and meet with your manager to discuss the immigration process.
Don’t be shy to ask the company HR professional you are communicating with if they can put you in contact with an individual at the office that has a similar background to you. Meeting this person will allow you to ask questions about what to expect in your new city and to learn more about their personal perspective of working at the office.
While you are at the office you should also make an extra effort to try to make a few social connections. Invite some of your colleagues to come out for lunch or a drink after work so you can begin to build bonds that will help you once you’ve made your move. Having these connections will add a few key people to your network that can provide information and assistance both before and after your arrival and will give you a head start on making friends at the start of your relocation.
3. Once you’ve decided to make the move, immediately start to focus on your property search
The big priority to focus on once you’ve decided to move is to get your housing situated. The home search can be a stressful and long lasting ordeal depending on how competitive the real estate market is in your new city, so the earlier you can start the process, the better you’ll be able to handle it.
Being single gives you added options when it comes to renting a place to live. Your choices depend on your budget level, of course, but most single people will opt for either a 1br apartment or even a flat share.
Renting a room in a flat has a number of advantages for people just arriving in a city. Most room rentals do not require a long term contract, but operate under shorter notice periods since you are typically subletting the room from another tenant. This allows you to not be committed to a longer term lease while you determine whether the job is a good match for you and also gives you to familiarize yourself with a specific neighborhood before eventually renting your own place. Finally, and not inconsequentially, renting a room tends to be much cheaper than renting your own apartment and can lead to building friendships with your new housemates. So for clients with a lower budget for rent and for people wanting to get a feel for the city before diving into a long term lease on their own apartment, a flat share is a great way to get started.
When you are ready to find your own property to rent, it’s a huge advantage to take the guidance of a relocation consultant to coordinate your home search. This consultant can provide local knowledge on the best neighborhoods to match your budget, lifestyle, interests, and desired commute time to the office. They also can tell you which neighborhoods are considered safe or are best to avoid.
After you’ve established your search parameters they’ll set up the viewing schedule and once you’ve chosen a property they’ll ensure that the lease agreement contract is standard and correct. This assisted home search is a certain time saver and will likely lead to finding the best available property at the best price in the best neighborhood.
If you have the luxury of having access to temporary accommodation it can really make things easier as you get started in your new location. Having this arranged place to stay at the beginning of your assignment will take some pressure off by allowing you to focus on work and the general adjustment period you can expect to face, rather than immediately dealing with an exhausting home search. It will also give you an extended amount of time find the right neighborhood for your long term stay as you get to know your new location more intimately. Definitely speak to your Human Resources representative about having this temporary accommodation included in your relocation package, if possible.
4. How to build a social network after you’ve relocated
Once you’ve finally arrived in your new area it’s critical to try to create a social network as soon as possible. Having people to socialize with and to help you with any issues that may arise is a critical part of a successful adjustment to a new location. This is why making friends is especially important for single people that arrive on their own.
A few places to focus on for meeting new friends include:
– Your workplace: The people at your office are the ones you will speak to and relate with more than anyone else, making it a natural place to build your social network. When you are first arriving at the office, people are generally interested in the new person and will give you ample opportunity to connect. Really try to focus on making a good first impression and don’t be afraid to ask people to join you for lunch, to go for a drink, play sports, or attend an activity, as this initial period to get to know people can be the most critical. Companies usually are aware of the necessity of building bonds between colleagues and will organize regular events to help ease the process. Feel free to ask your HR representative if your company offers support in this sense as you get started.
– Facebook groups: Now in almost every city on the planet you can expect to find several groups on Facebook that are designed to bring people together. These are often organized according to language, nationality, or according to certain unique activities. These pages can typically be found just by searching “Expats in (your new city)” or “(name of sport) in (your new city).” Within these groups you should get plenty of advice, information on events, and have opportunities to meet new people.
– Meetup.com: This online community website goes directly to the point when it comes to creating events to meet new people. The site is home to over eight million members across 100 countries and offers planned weekly activities for pretty much whatever interest you’ve got, categorized according to sports, book clubs, outdoor activities, film clubs, and much more.
5. Dating while living abroad
Being single while on assignment means that you can expect to experience cross cultural dating. Having an understanding of the social mores of this culture will help you on your journey, and maybe even help you to find the love of your life.
Each culture has its own unwritten rules to adhere to when it comes to dating, relationship building, or even making friends, so it can be immensely helpful to enroll in a cultural training course upon your arrival. In this training course, a local expert will provide you an interesting, highly detailed, and often entertaining look into the culture you’ll be entering, and can give you advice on dating that could be the difference between finding love or heartbreak.
Taking a language course can also prove itself to be invaluable. Not only will this communication aid your day to day interactions, it will most certainly help open a few doors when looking to meet a potential significant other. Even if you don’t become fluent enough in the local language to sweep a local guy or gal completely off of their feet, a few charming words spoken in their native tongue is certain to impress.
There’s a lot to prepare for before your move abroad, but hopefully these tips have helped to prepare you for what should be one of the great experiences of your life! Good luck and enjoy the ride!
Gerson Relocation can help individuals with a wide range of relocation and moving services. To learn more check out www.gersonrelocation.com and get in touch with us to start planning your relocation!
Nick Young writes for Gerson Relocation and his website www.relocationwriting.com.