Moving to a new home can be daunting even when you already live in the city and speak the language.
Add in a new place, a new country, and a new language—and the obstacles can seem overwhelming. But if you break down the process into actionable steps, you can find your new digs faster than you can say, “Su casa es mi casa.”
Here are six things to think about when moving abroad.
There are quite a few variables that will affect what kind of home you’ll look for, including:
Thinking through your must-haves versus wants will help you target your search.
You will probably want to start off renting until you get the lay of the land and are comfortable with navigating the buying market.
Check out those travel guides and do research online. Suss out English-speaking local publications. Get a sense of where you’re moving to, and also the specific neighborhoods you might be interested in. Check out local crime stats, if you can find them. Or school options for your kids. The more research you conduct, the more informed a decision you can make.
Assuming you’re moving for a job, ask for relocation assistance. Many companies have free or low-cost housing options for a short period of time, so newcomers can acclimate and not move into a sight-unseen place. Perhaps your employer will fly you over before you start the new gig so you can get a head start on the house hunt. It’s in your employer’s best interest to see you settled before your first day at the new office, so you can be fresh, focused, and unworried.
Consider your network. Do you know anyone who already lives in your soon-to-be new homeland? Expats are often willing to lend a hand to colleagues, or locals to open their city to visitors.
If you don’t have contacts, ask your future office or school if it could put you in touch with your future (local) colleagues. It might offer tips you hadn’t thought of. Maybe it’ll even know someone in need of a roommate, or with a flat to rent.
Seek out online expat forums, where you can read tips and ask questions. If you’re already in the country, try coffee shops or other places popular with expats, where you can scour community boards or talk to folks.
Craigslist went international ages ago, and English remains the language of choice. It’s always best to vet the lodgings first, if you can, as scams might be more prevalent when conducting international transactions. But you can rent from afar, especially if you know the area you prefer. Local newspapers also have real estate classifieds (including in English), and sites such as Airbnb offer longer-term stays. (You can even try before you buy!)
You probably won’t find perfection, especially from afar. Some of this may be the result of cultural differences. Or you may have fallen in love with a city when you visited, only to find that the tourist spots you enjoyed exist far from where you’ll actually live.
The number of available rentals or houses may be limited, and language and cultural differences may complicate the negotiation of leases. Have patience.
You may want to sign a short-term lease at first, if you can, until you know you really like your new place. That said, try to give the place a chance. You’ll have a lot to get used to in your new neighborhood.