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The One Thing People Who've Been There Say You MUST Prepare Yourself For Before Moving Abroad

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As you travel the world, you might hear about the many real and perceived flaws of Americans and America. You have to give Americans credit for one thing, though, between fast food, Amazon Now same day delivery, and on-demand entertainment, America rewrote the rules for service. The rest of the world, though, isn't in quite the rush. A thread on Reddit asked:

What's the #1 tip you would give to someone who wants to move abroad?

 

Because it's social media, there was more than one tip, but the original poster shared a story about patience. The example given was that it took a month to get a stove repaired in Germany. Most of the commenters noted that this example was extreme, but we concur that when dealing with other cultures, patience is certainly a virtue. The number one complaint all international movers receive is the amount of time it takes to receive a shipment. Movers don't benefit from keeping a shipment longer than necessary. Most of the time, the hold up is in the destination country. Employees in many countries lack the sense of urgency that seems to have become part of Americans' DNA. Of course, the slower pace of life is one of the reasons we move abroad, right?

Patience wasn't the only lesson Reddit expats shared, though

Another poster reminded travelers to keep at least one credit card open. The user didn't do that and after returning from overseas, had no credit whatsoever. They had to restart with a secured credit card. 

Here are some other great tips:

Be open to learning at least a little bit of the local language. For the most part, people will cut you some slack if you're learning and it shows respect.

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Prioritise your budget - especially around accommodation, food, transport, and travel. You can afford anything, you just can't afford everything.

We ended up living in a new-ish small home, in a rough part of London. We could have moved further out - and doubled the cost of commuting, or even ended up needing to buy a car. We could have moved to a nicer area - and greatly increased ouR rent, meaning less money for travel.

But we were super clear that our reason for living in London was travelling, so we prioritised our budget around that - lots of friends, including other expats, used to simultaneously be amazed that we didn't have a much nicer home andthat we visited so many countries, without realising the two were connected.

 

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Don’t burn any bridges. Give yourself a tentative time commitment. Have a backup plan in case things don’t work out. Homesickness is inevitable. Don’t try to hold on to a relationship or make it long distance. Invest in good footwear.

 

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Have health insurance in place. I regret not having it as I got suddenly very sick and diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. Currently trying to figure out my options now to get the health care I need while looking for work. I guess bottom line - finances. Be prepared for anything.

 

More than anything, people stressed the need to streamline lives and be financially prepared. One user, though, felt the most important thing was to put worries behind and just do it. 

 

 

The Six Steps You Must Take Before Moving Abroad

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Whether you are in dream stage, or just about to jump the gun and move overseas, there are some critical steps you need to take before you book your airline ticket, even if it's for a relatively short period of time. 

Get your finances in order

The first step is perhaps the most important and definitely the most difficult. Before skipping the country, make sure you have enough money to get you settled in your new home. If you don't plan on working, we advise that you work with a financial planner to determine how much you'll need to comfortably live in your new country. Before leaving, though, it's a good idea to take yourself out of debt, if at all possible. At the very least, pay down your debt to a very manageable level. 

One thing many expats do is plan their destination around their finances. Nomadlist.com is a great place to find the perfect new overseas home. You can choose from several criteria, including cost of living. Hundreds of cities have a cost of living of less than $1,000 a month. Know, though, that the first few months will cost more. You can further narrow it down to other criteria like continent, weather, safety, beach access, etc. Even if you have chosen your destination, play around with Nomadlist. It's a lot of fun. Unless you have a job lined up, plan on having enough savings to cover at least six months. This should be enough to find a new place to live, decorate it, and pay for the move and travel. 

Get your passport in order

If you don't have a passport, or if yours is about to expire, get a new one. Many countries require you to have a passport that will be good for at least six months after arrival. If your passport does expire while abroad, though, visit your local U.S. Embassy or consulate. 

Apply for a visa

Visa requirements vary from country to country, so be sure to visit your destination country's website or even their closest embassy or consulate. Find out exactly what paperwork you need. For example, you might need proof of finances. 

Arrange for healthcare coverage

While most countries outside the United States have some sort of universal health care, it doesn't necessarily cover tourists or expats. Research the healthcare system. Unless you are confident that you'll be covered in your new country, purchase travel health insurance. Most plans cost less than American health insurance. The U.S. Embassy or consulate in your destination should have a lot of information, including a list of medical providers. 

Register with step

STEP is the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. It gives the Embassy a way to get ahold of you in case of an emergency, and evacuation, or if family is trying to contact you. The program is free. 

 

Once all the paperwork is in order, it's time to arrange the move and your travel. Sell or store everything you won't need in your new home. If you are traveling with a pet, check with your destination country to see what the requirements are. Contact your cell phone company and ask for an international plan. Another option is to download Whatsapp, for free texting and calling, anywhere in the world. As always, don't forget to change your address with your banks and credit card companies. 

 

 

How to Navigate a New Country When You don't Speak the Language

Two young people demonstrating a lively conversationImage CC 3.0 via Wikimedia

It's 4:30 on a Friday. Your boss calls you into her office to tell you that you are being transferred to Germany, or China, or Saudi Arabia to open a new office. Your first reaction is excitement. It's an amazing opportunity, a big boost in pay, and a chance to let your children see the world. There's just one problem, though. You don't speak German, or Mandarin, or Arabic and you only have a month. 

What should you do if you don't speak the language?

It would be far too obvious to say that moving overseas, especially to a non-English speaking country, is far more of an upheaval than moving within the U.S., but if you add the lack of language skills to it, it becomes even more formidable. It doesn't have to be. With just a month's notice, you probably won't learn the language before you leave, but you can still communicate. Here's what you should do, both before you arrive and after.

Learn some key phrases

Download an app like Babble to hear proper pronunciations of certain key phrases. The good thing is that apps like that focus on the most helpful phrases, such as ordering from a menu or asking directions. Learning the pronunciations is a big step toward communicating with your new country mates.

Seek out English speaking people

English is the official language of the United Nations, which means that unless you are in a very remote location, you'll find English speaking people. Still, you'll want to communicate in the native tongue, unless you want to be seen as a permanent tourist. Immerse yourself in the culture. You'll find that in town squares, or in coffee shops, or craft classes, that many people will sympathize with your plight and do the best they can to communicate with you. 

Take a language class

While you can learn the language from the privacy of your own home, a class gives you the opportunity to meet people -- even fellow English speakers. 

Download a translator

Apps like Hello Talk allow you to translate in real time. Speak English into your phone and the app will translate for your listener. It works both ways too. The person you are talking to can speak into your phone, and the app will translate it to English. This is only a temporary solution, though. You'll want to learn the language as quickly as you can.

Turn on the TV

You've probably heard stories of people learning Spanish through watching telenovelas. When watched with subtitles, it's an especially realistic way of learning the language. While some language classes lean formal, popular entertainment is conversational. It can teach you the way people really talk in your new home. 

With time, you will learn the language. Unless you barricade yourself in your apartment or house, the language will come naturally. With the tips above, though, you can help speed it along. 

Why Does Overseas Moving Take So Darned Long?

 

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Conventional wisdom is that moving is one of the top stressors in life -- somewhere behind death and divorce. And that's if you're moving within the United States. If you're moving out of the country, well, let's say this might not be the time to let your Xanax prescription run out. With the right moving company, overseas moves get easier, but depending on your destination, you could be looking at months before you see your precious belongings. No wonder the biggest complaints international moving companies hear is that shipments take too long. 

What is the holdup?

When you move from one state to another, unless you live in a large home, your shipment will share a truck with other shipments to be dropped off along the route. This can add weeks to an out of state move, but it also saves customers money. Now, imagine that same shipment going overseas. Your goods won't share a truck with other shipments, it will share a ship and that ship won't go anywhere until it's full. 

If you live somewhere far away from a major shipping port, it might add weeks to the delivery schedule, especially if you are moving to a land-locked area. 

The most unpredictable factor is...

If we could wave a magic want anywhere along your goods' journey, it would be during customs. Customs is the most unpredictable part of international moving. There are some things we can do to help move the process along, but there are so many things out of our or your control. I recall a time when a customer's goods hit London's port on the same day as a terrorist attack hit the city. Customs delayed the shipment for weeks, and needless to say, our customer wasn't happy. 

Sometimes customs delays are random. You might find a customs agent in a bad mood, or perhaps they choose your container as the one they go through with a fine-tooth comb. Either could cause serious delays. Sometimes, though, you will know in advance to expect delays. Australia, for example, has some of the world's most stringent customs restrictions. 

Australia has some of the most stringent requirements for importing HHG’s. To move to Australia, you’ll need an Incoming Passenger Card, along with Form B534 Unaccompanied Effects for items that will be shipped. Most household goods for personal use are not subject to duty taxes. Goods under $900 (Australian) in value may be imported duty-free. You are also allowed 2.25 liters of alcohol and 50 cigarettes. For specific duty rates beyond the personal exemption, consult the Australian Customs Service. Fresh produce and dairy and meat products are prohibited. There are also restrictions on medications and firearms, among other items. Most live plants are prohibited from importation.

All pets being imported must meet the requirements of the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) and are subject to a period of quarantine at an AQIS approved facility. Quarantine periods vary depending on the type of pet and country of origin. Australia also has an extensive list of restricted and prohibited items. Importation of goods that have contact with the ground such as motor vehicles, bicycles, golf carts and even golf clubs must undergo thorough steam cleaning and possible fumigation to remove all dirt, sand and/or debris. Quarantine authorities will inspect these vehicles upon arrival. Those not meeting the criteria will be further fumigated at the clients’ expense.

Source:My Moving Reviews

While there is no easy way to speed up your shipment, we do have tools available to help you prepare. We are familiar with customs procedures throughout the world. We can help you choose what to pack and what not to pack. We'll take a thorough inventory, helping speed items through. 

 

Do American Expats Have to Pay Double Taxes?

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People move overseas for many reasons, but one is to escape the United States' high cost of living. What many American expats don't give a lot of thought to, though, is that they may end up paying taxes in both countries. There are ways around it, though. Of course, you'll want to consult a tax professional and not take our word as legal advice.

The IRS is pretty clever about tracking people down and ensuring they get their share of foreign-earned income. Don't worry too much, though. There are laws in place to prevent you from being unfairly double taxed. 

Foreign earned income exclusion

The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion protects you from most double taxation by excluding around $100,000 of foreign-earned income per year. That amount is adjusted for inflation each year. You can also exclude some housing expenses in foreign lands. If you are a civilian or military government employee, your income is not considered to be foreign-earned. 

If you are self-employed, things get a bit more complicated. You are still eligible for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, but you will be responsible for self-employment taxes. Instead of a housing exclusion, your housing will be a deduction. 

how to qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion

To qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, you need to jump through several hoops. For starters, cut all ties to the United States. Of course, that doesn't mean you have to dump your friends and family, but you'll need to sell your house or end your apartment lease. Cancel ties like gym memberships. Then you'll need to find a home in your new destination. Either sign a long-term lease or buy. You should also establish other signs of residency, such as utilities, a library card, and a gym membership., The exclusion isn't offered to people who jump between the US and another country. Plan on spending at least 330 days a  year (not necessarily consecutive) outside of the United States to qualify. That means that even if you live relatively close, like in Canada or Mexico, jumping across the border to visit family can cost you thousands if you do it for more than 35 days out of the year. Note that the IRS counts any days spent hold up in an airport because of weather delays. If your plane even enters US airspace on the way to another country, that will count as one of your 35 days. 

What about taxes in your destination country?

Whether you'll owe taxes in your destination country depends on a few factors. If you spend 183 days in a country (about half the year), you are generally considered a resident, which means you may owe taxes in that country. If you make your living online, there may be exceptions. Some countries don't charge expats taxes at all:

Some countries — like Costa RicaHong Kong, Panama, the Seychelles, Singapore and Taiwan — have a “territorial tax system,” and only tax income generated within the country’s borders. There are also a handful of countries that have no income taxation in place at all, including Andorra, the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Cayman IslandsMonaco and the United Arab Emirates.

Source:The Points Guy

 

Yes, it gets a little confusing, which is why you should consult a tax professional before leaving the country. That being said, in many circumstances a move out of the country can save you big come tax time. 

 

 

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