A lot of people have said “I wish we could do it!” in response to our move to Spain, both in person and in comments on my blog and social media posts. I’ve said the same in the past to friends who had moved to far flung sunny locations, and I looked at Instagram posts with longing when reading about how other people had made the move.
The thing is, moving permanently to another country isn’t a totally impossible dream. We haven’t won the lottery or had a big inheritance, nor have we landed amazing high powered jobs with companies who have moved us abroad. We just got bored of dreaming about living in the sun ‘someday’ and sat down to work out how we could make the dream a reality. We joke that we’ve had a bit of an early midlife crisis!
Emigrating is full of challenges and it wasn’t a quick process, though because we kept it quiet until it was a done deal many people think it was something we just suddenly decided to do one rainy afternoon! This move has been over 2 years in the planning with a lot of research, even more stress and lots of sleepless nights.
If you dream of relocating abroad, I thought I’d list some of the things we had to work through to make moving to Spain a reality. Who knows, maybe you could take the leap too?
So if you want to move abroad but don’t think it’s possible, here are some problems to get round before moving to another country…
We don’t have enough money to move abroad!
I’m not going to pretend that moving abroad isn’t expensive. With the cost of shipping your belongings, flights, finding somewhere to live, buying new furniture, maybe a car, etc it does all add up quite quickly.
If you’re lucky enough to own your own home then you might be able to sell it and put some money in the bank. Or, it could be worth looking into renting out your property as this could give you a decent monthly income.
We chose to sell our home and with the profit we can buy a bigger house in Spain with a very low mortgage. If your property sells for a decent amount you could well be able to buy a property in another country without having to get a mortgage at all.
If you have a car then it could be worth selling that as well. In Spain it’s not really worth having a Right Hand Drive, it’s a hassle being on the wrong side of car park machines and toll booths plus it’s quite expensive to change your plates from UK to Spanish.
Think about what else you could sell. We sold most of our furniture as it was cheaper to replace a lot of things than to get them shipped over. Plus a lot of English furniture doesn’t really fit in a Spanish house.
If leaving the UK to live abroad is something you really want to do then make the effort to save some money each month. It can be hard to find any extra cash after all the household bills and childcare, but if you are serious about emigrating there are lots of ways to cut back and save some cash. It might not be fun while you’re saving but it will be worth it in the end.
We cancelled subscriptions, scrimped on food shopping, stopped buying clothes and spent less on days and meals out in the run-up to moving to Spain so that we could put as much in the bank as possible. I also took on extra freelance work around my usual job and the husband worked overtime which meant lots of late nights to earn some extra money.
What would we do for work?
How to find a job abroad is one of the scariest parts and one of the more important things to do when moving to another country. Start job hunting early on to see what’s available, how high (or low!) the salaries are, and if the qualifications needed are any different to the UK. Email potential employers to make some contacts and see if they have anything available.
Speak to your current employer – if your job could be done online from anywhere in the world would they consider you keeping your role if you moved abroad? When I handed my notice in I was very surprised to be given the opportunity to do my job on a contract basis rather than the company replacing me.
Think about what jobs you could do online. If you freelance at the moment could you just do the same work from another country? My freelance clients don’t see any difference since we moved abroad, I can still do Skype calls and am only 1 hour ahead. There are plenty of ‘side hustles‘ to make extra money and anything to do with social media and blogging is always a good idea. Here in Spain, there are also lots of expats who work as online English teachers.
We don’t speak the language
If the main language in your dream country isn’t English this could put you off from taking the leap as you might think you’ll never be able to get by. Start lessons way in advance of moving and you might be surprised at how quickly you pick it up. Once you start learning a new language it doesn’t seem quite so scary.
There are lots of great apps, websites and books you can use to learn a new language as a family.
If it really worries you, think about moving to an area with a lot of expats to begin with as you will be able to get by with very basic knowledge of the local language.
It would be too much disruption for the kids
This was my biggest worry when we were looking at relocating to Spain. Look into the schooling options available, you’ll most likely have the choice of an International School (fee-paying) or a local state school.
We picked a Spanish school as we just couldn’t afford to pay the fees of an International school which are roughly the same as private schools in the UK.
If you go for an area where there are other English speaking expats then your child won’t be the only non-native in the school. Speak to the school and see what they say. Our school wasn’t phased by Little H not speaking Spanish yet, and everyone who we have spoken to has said their kids were fluent within 12 months. We decided that a few months of possible struggles were outweighed by the long term benefits of having a bilingual education.
We don’t know how to relocate to a foreign country
Depending on where you want to move to, there might be paperwork or visas that you need to apply for or certain restrictions around work and tax. It’s important to do your research so there are no nasty surprises when you move over – especially to find out what rules will change after Brexit.
In Spain, they love their paperwork and there are lots of things you need to apply for if you want to live and work in the country legally. By finding out about this in advance we managed to apply for some things before we moved, and made sure we had all the necessary documentation before we got here. Although it is an extra expense we’d recommend paying someone to help with your applications, especially if forms and meetings will be in a different language.
How will we find somewhere to live?
If emigrating is something that you are seriously considering, plan a visit to the area to scope everything out. We’d been visiting this part of Spain for almost 10 years so knew we loved the area, but we still came over to visit the schools and look around properties to make sure it was definitely what we wanted.
Visit a local estate agent and sign up to their property alerts. Keep in touch with them so they think of you when they take on a suitable property. Join Facebook groups where properties in the area are advertised, you can find some good deals that don’t make it to the estate agent websites.
Consider renting for 6 months to both make sure the area is for you and also to give you time to find the right property.
We’re just not sure if it’s the right thing to do
The best motivation to do something as big as moving to a different country is to speak to other people who have already done it. I joined lots of Facebook groups for Expats in Spain and talked to lots of people in the same boat – especially those with school-aged children.
Once other people start telling you that they did it and it’s the best thing they’ve ever done, it makes you realise it’s not an impossible dream. I won’t list all the Facebook groups here but if you are planning a move to Spain drop me a message and I’ll send you the links to the best ones.
We’re just too scared!
You get one life and you have to make the most of it. I have always dreaded getting to old age and regretting not doing all those things I really wanted to do. Packing everything up and leaving the country is so unlike me, but I got to the stage where I realised it was now or never – maybe that’s the result of nearing 40!
Be brave and make your dream happen, no one else is going to do it for you. And if it doesn’t work out then you can just go back to the UK, it might be embarrassing for a bit but at least you tried!
Hopefully, from this post you can see that moving abroad isn’t impossible and you don’t need to have a lottery win to do it – just some research, planning, and stepping out of your comfort zone! If you have any questions or want to pick my brain feel free to get in touch.
Have you emigrated to another country? Do you dream of moving abroad? Let me know in the comments!