Is this the city of your dreams? Is it time to move?
You went there for a holiday. But it felt like home. So should you move there permanently? Living somewhere else can bring a whole new world of experiences and opportunities. But moving city is a radical upheaval; moving countries an even bigger one. This new chapter of your life could be the best one yet. Or it could be the point at which you completely lose the plot. Tourist and resident are two very different hats to wear. So how do you decide which hat suits you best? Does everything in your life cry out for you to relocate? Or should this city remain a glorious two-week-long holiday, not a long-term home? Ask yourself these questions to decide:
Do I like it enough?
So you’ve found somewhere wonderful. It’s beautiful, it’s sunny, it’s clean, it’s cheap and everyone is ten times better looking. But how can you tell if you’ll really prefer this place to home?
Firstly, make sure to visit in the off-season. During the summer, the place might be a buzzing hub of activity but, come winter, a total ghost-town. Then do your research into quality of life there. Things you can’t tell from a short trip such as commute time, crime levels, air quality, healthcare, and so on. Look into neighbourhoods. As a tourist, you can afford to stay in the centre; as a resident, prices may force you into the suburbs where life looks slightly different.
Then ask yourself, will this city really make my life better? Will it allow you to do things you can’t currently do? Cycling, surfing, eating out more, maybe pursuing a newfound passion for opera – if your current city can’t support this dream lifestyle, then maybe you have found a better option.
Ultimately it comes down to this. As you board your plane back from holiday, does it feel as if you’re going home or leaving home?
Am I ready to move?
So you’ve decided this city is the one for you. But is this the right time to move?
Yes, you say. I’m bored out of my mind.
So expand your horizons locally first. Explore new areas of your city, try a new commute. Small changes can make a big difference. Imagine if you relocated across the world when all you were craving was a change of sandwich at lunch. Or, if work’s the problem, perhaps a new company could change your outlook on your city.
But if complaining has become a full-time occupation, then perhaps moving is the right choice. When everyday grumpiness turns into bitterness and anger with everything – the food, weather, traffic, prices, the rent, the people, the politics, all of it – it’s time to go.
Do I love the city or do I love someone in it?
If you’re moving for a loved one, take note of this sobering statistic: a survey by HONEYCOMB found that 43% of people who moved for love wouldn’t do it again. So ask yourself if you really want this. If you take your partner out of the equation, is there anything in the new city to tempt you? You may well end up resenting your partner for making you move. Plus, you should discuss the long-term future with your partner. If the thought of doing so makes you want to cringe and die, then it’s probably too soon to move.
Can I even afford it?
Relocating is expensive. Packing, shipping, broker fees. Visa costs, plane tickets, deposits on a new place.
And then there’s the question of a new job. Ideally, this new place should offer more opportunities in your particular industry than your current home. If not, research what industries are big there. Start applying before you move. You may hear tales of people rocking up in New York with nothing but a suitcase and immediately landing their dream gig. It probably won’t be you. Create a clear jub hunt plan. Will you have to live on savings for a while? Experts recommend having enough saved for a minimum of three months.
And what’s the cost of living in your new dream city? Research housing, transport, healthcare and food costs and draw up a realistic budget. Compare this to your predicted salary. Feasible?
Will I find myself totally friendless and alone?
The truth is: initially yes. The question is: is the initial loneliness worth it?
Nattavudh Powdthavee of the University of London did a study that showed that you need a raise of $130,000 to compensate for the happiness you will lose by moving away from friends and family. Pretty shocking, right?
But the answer is obviously just to make new friends. Do you have mutual acquaintances in the city? Maybe make use of that alumni network or work connections and start reaching out. You may feel lame doing so but you’ll feel a whole lot lamer with a social calendar that is empty save for a visit from your mum.
And while making friends requires a bit of effort, you’ll be amazed by how quickly it happens. Join clubs, go to events, say yes to everything (or most things). Befriending locals can be a challenge but get involved with the expat community. They can provide a great support-network as you get used to your new life.
Can I handle the instability/incomprehensibility/insanity of life abroad?
Every new place means starting from zero. You’ll need to register with a bank, find a doctor’s surgery, get a new driver’s license. Find a good supermarket, a gym, learn how the transport system works.
Communication is hard when you don’t yet speak the language. And everything will take much longer than expected. Prepare for endless administration and totally illogical bureaucracy.
You’ll feel homesick. You’ll miss small things. Like understanding the difference between different brands of milk. Or how ticket machines work. And the bad news is that this particular article says it takes 2 years to feel at home.
But that could also mean that for two whole years it feels like a holiday. And all that hanging out outside your comfort zone does wonders for your self-esteem.
And ultimately, you gotta trust the stats. According to the results of an ongoing expat survey, 85% of expats feel they made the right decision when they moved abroad. Plus, there are 232 million people currently living away from home – compared to 73 million in 1960. So many people can’t be wrong, right?