Practical Advice for Achieving the Expat Life in Portugal.

Move Me Abroad

Top tips for moving to EuropeWhen moving abroad there are always tons of things to plan and consider. There are plenty of places to get help and speaking to other expats who have made the move really does help.

Sometimes though, there are just some very simple tips that will make your move just a bit easier. Here are my top 5:

1- Rent before you buy – now a lot of people would disagree with this because potential expats usually know the place they are moving to quite well, due to holidays etc. But as we all know, a holiday is nothing like day-to-day life. You may find that the area you move to isn’t quite how you imagined or worse that your new home is a builder’s nightmare. Personally, I thought I’d be able to cope living in an apartment because I was close to the sea, but I was wrong! I knew that I probably should have tried to hold out a bit longer for a small house with a garden but we were worried about rising prices and in the end chose a location that my other half preferred, rather than a property I liked. If we had rented I’d have known pretty soon that the setup wasn’t for me and we would have had time to look around more thoroughly. Similarly, many people originally think they like the idea of living near other expats until they move in and realise that it wasn’t such a good idea after all. So consider whether renting (short term or long term) might be a better idea for your family.

2- Make sure you won’t get bored – Tied to the first tip as well, because this is quite a lot to do with location. Ask yourself this – is there really enough to keep yourself occupied in your chosen location? If you are retired this is even more important, that holiday feeling soon wears off and it’s easy to get into a downward spiral of doing nothing. It’s easy to slip into bad habits such as starting drinking at 10am in the morning, never travelling outside the location they’ve moved to and, with what seems like a real expat community problem, having affairs!

3- Learn the language – sure everyone says this and most people do try a few words and phrases thinking they’ll get by, and in quite a lot of places (especially if you retiring) it might be enough. But, you’ll never really integrate in society. You’ll miss out on all the local newspapers and TV and making new friends in your chosen country. There are so many places now on the internet to start learning before you leave (for free) and plenty of places to get really stuck into advanced courses. Even though this may cost you money it will definitely be worth it. Once you’re in your new country make as much effort as you can to try out your new language skills, even the smallest attempt is usually appreciated. If you still don’t think it’s worth it then check out these 5 reasons to learn the language.

4- Make sure you have enough money to live on – when I lived in Portugal there was an expat over there who had moved out with the intention of only living on her pension. This was the UK state pension, not a private one. Of course, when she first went everything was OK but then all of a sudden prices started going up and then the pound crashed and was a parity with the Euro for a short while. She had, in effect, lost a third of her income. She wasn’t the only one relying on UK income but she was an extreme case. Most people forget that they are at the mercy of the exchange rates and seem to rely on them forever being the same, but as we have seen in the last 5 years, they certainly don’t. Only one couple that I knew of had converted a huge chunk of their savings into Euros (but that’s another set of risks and another story), but still, these sort of changes and their effects must be considered before you make the move. The other issue is one of work – don’t assume you’ll just find a job. Even before the recession it wasn’t that easy to find work and many people were trying to without even learning the language first. From my own experience – if you’re not moving with a job – then give a thought to being self-employed, check out the portable careers series for some ideas.

5- Do your homework! – yes moving to some countries look really cheap on paper but what’s the reality? Portugal used to be a great place to move to because (outside of the southern Algarve) the cost of living was low, houses were cheap and the exchange rate was good (oh how things change!). But, one thing that was very, very expensive was the prices of cars. Factor that into the equation and things start to look differently. Make sure when you do your budgeting that you include everything you’ll need to live on, including the costs of local taxes etc. Don’t leave anything out or you could be in for a shock.

Moving abroad is amazing and I would recommend it to anyone, but make sure you know what you’re letting yourself in for!

What are you top tips for expats to be? Please leave a comment below: