Leaving for a place in the sun

Thinking about upping sticks and heading for paradise? Follow our guide to moving abroad and daydream no longer...

“I wish I could live abroad!”  How many times have you heard yourself utter those words? 

When really you should be asking yourself: “What’s stopping me?”  Well, I’m too old, I don’t speak the language, there’s the mortgage, pension, the kids, my secure job... those are just a few of the excuses we come up with to stop us pursuing that dream. 

But more and more people are doing just that for a variety of reasons – apart from the obvious weather benefits, there are also plenty of economic benefits.

House prices in the top three European choices (France, Spain and Portugal) are half to a third cheaper than in the UK. 

In addition, the cost of living is cheaper and the lifestyle more relaxed.  The fact that the average European working week is shorter is also an added bonus!

If however, you’re moving with idealistic expectations, do think twice! There will always be cultural and economical differences, however slight – and remember that two-week holiday experience you had is a far cry from the reality of working and/or living in that country.

If you’re thinking of working as well as living abroad, a good rule of thumb is to use your existing skills and remember that  EU  member countries recognise professional qualifications from all other member states. Nonetheless, be prepared to diversify or even take a less well-paid job. 

Try to find a job before you actually travel. Good sources include specialist magazines, agencies and the internet. 

A good way of using your existing skills is to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL).  This has become increasingly popular over the years. 

As a native speaker you’re already an ‘expert’ and your skill is a valuable asset in other countries. People of all ages and backgrounds should be able to find work - how easily you pick up work depends where you go. 

In China and Africa for instance, you don´t generally need a  qualification, being a native speaker is sufficient.

In Europe, other parts of Asia and South America you’ll probably need at least a TEFL certificate and/or a university degree.  The good thing is that you don’t need to speak the local language as TEFL courses are designed for you to teach English in English.

I’m not suggesting that you don’t learn the local language though.  Quite the contrary, you should at least do a three-month course for life outside the classroom!

I’d definitely recommend a TEFL qualification regardless of your background - whether you're a backpacker travelling around the world, a career-breaking professional, a bored office worker or an adventure-seeking retiree, a TEFL qualification can be a very valuable asset giving you the confidence to teach practically anywhere in the world! 

You can do an intensive TEFL course in a month – prices vary considerably so shop around. You can pay anything from a few hundred pounds to about a thousand pounds.   The latter are ‘in house’ one month long courses, usually the CELTA TESOL or TRINITY TESOL.  These two are the standard qualifications accepted by the British Council abroad as the required TEFL qualification for teachers teaching abroad in accredited schools and colleges.

However, individual employers abroad will set their own criteria when selecting a teacher.  

My girlfriend and I chose a cheaper option and did a weekend intensive course with ITC tefl.co.uk for £210.00 and then a home study follow up for £120.00 each.  

We then registered for free on a TEFL website  tefl.com and two months later we were on our way to Chile, South America. We had a great time teaching there for an academic year and even managed to save money to travel around South America for a few months. 

“But I love my job!” I hear you say.  Well speak to your boss, they may just be prepared to give you a sabbatical. 

Like the old saying goes, ”If you don’t ask you don’t get” – you’ll be surprised how many employers will bend over backwards to keep a valued member of staff.

So I’ve convinced you to finally pack your bags, good!

Now let’s turn those dreams into reality.  Whether you’re going for a few months, a year or a lifetime, here’s a checklist to help you on your way.

Visas 
 
If you’re moving within the EU you won’t need a visa but you may need to prove that you can support yourself financially. Once you get to your destination you should  register with the local authority and actively seek employment if you intend to become a resident. For all other countries it is best to contact the embassy for comprehensive advice. 

Insurance

Before you leave make sure that you have suitable insurance - shop around and ensure that the policy you get pays for all treatment including transportation back to the UK.  Remember that even if you have an E111 form doesn’t you for cover non-essential medical treatment.

Banking

If you’re planning on living abroad long term then it is essential that you open a bank account in that country. This means you'll get easy access to your cash but if you still want to hold money in the UK keep your existing bank accounts open and if they have internet banking, which most do, even better!  The post office also allows you to transfer money through ‘money gram’ at a cost.

Mortgage

If you’re a homeowner one of your biggest worries will be what to do with your property – “to sell or not to sell?” 

If you don’t want to commit yourself fully why not rent out your property through an agent? The agent will  manage your property, handle any repairs, find new tenants and so forth. You could initially let the property out for a six-month trial period, so if things don’t work out, you can always come back! 

Another alternative is to release the existing equity in your property. This is particularly good if you need money quickly. You never know, you might even be able to buy a cheap property abroad and still have a bob or two to spare!

Pension and Benefits

If you’re retiring abroad, make sure you inform your local authority of your plans and give them the details of where you want pension to be paid, for example, a local bank or post office in the town or city where you are intending to live in. Also, check whether you state pension will be frozen if you move abroad.  Call The Office of Pensions Advisory Service (OPAS) on 08456012923 for further information

The dreaded P word

This is always a difficult one, but try and take an objective look at your possessions. Decide what goes with you and what gets left.  Of course this can depend on how long you’re going for and where you are going.  Are you going permanently?  If not do you need storage or can relatives/friends keep a few things for you?  Are you trekking/travelling before settling in one place? Those are just a few questions you need to ask yourself.

If you need a removal company,  ring around well in advance for information and prices as key times of the year can be very busy. 

Make lists of everything that’s being stored and also label all the boxes as this makes it much easier when you’re unpacking.  If you’re travelling with children, get them involved in the move – make it exciting for them by allowing them to pack some of their things and draw plans of their new rooms.

Also consider travelling during the summer holidays - that way they have time to settle down to the new country or culture before starting school again.

And finally...

  • Make sure you have returned all rented items.
  • Check that you have nothing at the dry cleaners.
  • Verify your moving in date with your new landlord/estate agent.
  • Notify the post office, your friends and family, as well as your insurance and credit card companies of your move.
  • Prepare a ‘first day survival box’ for your new home.  This should include food, cutlery, a can opener, plates, towels, sheets, toilet paper, kitchen roll, cleaning materials, a screwdriver and anything else you can’t do without.
  • When you arrive, get the local Yellow Pages (or equivalent) you’ll need it a lot in the first few weeks. Also, get to know your neighbours and expats, they’ll have invaluable information for you.
  • And most importantly... don’t forget to enjoy yourself!