There are few better experiences than living overseas. I can vouch for this as I have lived and worked abroad in five countries over the past 20 years. It has given me a great sense of the world and I appreciate Australia so much more.
Living abroad is becoming much more common: at any one time, there are around a million Australians living overseas. Europe is the most popular destination, attracting almost half our expats. This is followed by Asia, which draws almost a quarter of all Aussies abroad.
It doesn’t always work out
Despite the allure of an international experience, many people decline the opportunity. A report by Brookfield Global Relocation Services shows that 62 percent of people refuse an international posting due to family reasons.
These reasons include: children's education, family adjustment, partner resistance, partner's career, host location, quality of life, lack of practical support and personal security.
Over a third of expatriates also return home prematurely because of family reasons.
It’s your move
These are the five key things you should do before you move, or in the first 30 days of arriving in your new country.
- Take the opportunity to declutter
They say that, when you travel, you should take half the stuff you initially wanted to, and budget to spend twice as much. This applies equally to short trips as it does for longer term postings.
Moving your things – by ship, air or otherwise – can be very expensive, especially when you add insurance. Even if your company is paying, you will be surprised how little of your existing furniture, books, clothing and gadgets you really need. You may also take a while to find permanent housing, which means you may have to fork out extra money for storage - and, again, insurance.
“Moving is a great opportunity to edit your belongings,” Joshua Fields Millburn from the website The Minimalist said to Forbes. “As a minimalist, everything I own serves a purpose or brings me joy. It is much easier to move… One way that I don’t have excess is by asking this one question over and over: does this thing add value to my life?”
There are plenty of websites where you can sell the stuff you do not need, earning some extra cash for your travels. Or you can donate the unnecessary goods to charity.
- Get tax advice before and after you move
Make sure you see an accountant or financial advisor in Australia, and one who is licensed in the country where you are moving. What you pay in tax will vary from place to place, and the rules are likely to be different. There are also tricky and technical tax implications when you move overseas for the long term or permanently. Having an expert explain the rules and guide you through the process will help prevent future problems. They may also save you a lot of money.
Other than taxes, the only other guarantee in life is death. Make sure you have an Estate Plan – and, most importantly, a will. Have it vetted by a lawyer in the country where you will be living.
There are laws – and taxes – that you may not be aware of. For example, in the US, you have to have to pay a death duty. This was abolished in Australia in 1979, but it may be as much as 40 percent or higher in the US.
- A bank account can open doors
If you are staying in a country for an extended period of time, make sure you set up a local bank account. It will act as a form of identification and can open doors to other financial services and providers such as utility companies. It may also be crucial to getting a home, making it easier to transfer bond money for rental accommodation.
Some banks may be able to help you set up an account before you move. In each case when I moved abroad, as a Premier customer, HSBC was able to help me set up a bank account and credit card before I arrived in the new country. In the US, HSBC also used my existing credit history to establish a credit history abroad. Otherwise, establishing a credit score would have taken much longer.
If your bank in Australia is unable to set up an account for you in your new country, it may be able to recommend banks overseas or provide advice on what personal documentation you need to set up an account in another country. Another option is contacting a bank in your new country in advance for similar advice.
- Health matters
Save yourself a lot of difficulty by making sure you have copies of medical records for you and your family before you move. Get a list of the generic names of any prescription medication you need. Some brands may not be available in certain countries.
Before leaving Australia, also try to check what health services are available to you in your new country. Health insurance can be expensive, especially in America (although many employers include health insurance as part of a benefits package). Regardless of how healthy you are, it is sensible to budget for additional healthcare costs.
It is also a good idea to try to find a family doctor soon after you arrive. Finding a doctor you are comfortable with may take some time and effort. Being organised will also reduce stress and panic in a medical emergency.
- Just say ‘yes’
As a guest in a new land, you have a real incentive to say yes to people and experiences, especially those you may have been inclined to refuse in the past.
“At first, say yes to everything,” Stephanie Sadler writes in her travel blog Little Observationist. “Go to that party, try that food you've never tasted before, go for that weekend trip with a new friend; it will help you meet people and prevent loneliness,”
* Source: The ‘moving house’ research mentioned in the introduction was originally commissioned by ‘Portable On Demand Storage’, 2007.
About the author
Nhan Chiem is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Breakaway Brands, a boutique public relations agency in Australia. He is based in Sydney, is an expert on international communication and a seasoned expat, having also lived and worked in Hong Kong, Sweden, the UK, the USA and Vietnam.
This article doesn’t take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consult appropriate professionals or experts before making any financial decisions. This article’s content or any copy of it cannot be altered in any way, transmitted, copied or distributed to any other party, without the prior written permission from HSBC. Issued by HSBC Bank Australia Limited ABN 48 006 434 162 AFSL 232595.