Every year thousands of Americans decide moving to Europe is the best move in their lives. Of the group that says they want to go, a smaller percentage actually makes the trip, and of those that make it across the Atlantic, even fewer can make a sustainable life for themselves abroad. The modest success rate among Americans moving to Europe is based on preparation more so than any other factor. If you see yourself as someone who could succeed in Europe you will need to adopt a regimented approach to preparation.
When planning a move to Europe it is important to categorize your priorities in preparation; you will need support at home, support in your new home abroad, and all the physical tools to guarantee access to that support. At home you will have to enlist someone you trust to facilitate a correspondence and administrative housekeeping. Abroad, you will need a network of expats to help you learn the ropes in your new home. Finally, you will need to be confident you have all the documentation and products you need to make your transition a smooth one.
Moving to Europe
The decision to move for any period is both stressful and exciting. If you are planning on moving to Europe, you have probably begun your preparations already but there are undoubtedly more than a few things you have not thought of. Relocation based on employment comes with employer support in sorting out paperwork and finding a residence while those traveling to Europe with a less structured plan will need to play a more aggressive role in preparation. Regardless of your situation it is better to cover more bases than necessary than too few.
WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW ABOUT MOVING TO EUROPE?
Americans moving to Europe implicitly accept the daunting challenge of juggling logistical obstacles back home, integrating with their new communities, and avoiding scams aimed at foreigners. You will need to develop a plan for maintaining your administrative housekeeping practices from afar in coordination with your network of friends and family at home. You will need to be prepared to function in your new country. This involves establishing contact with some friendly faces in Europe and researching every detail of life in your new home city.
WHAT TO KNOW OF IF YOU’RE MOVING TO EUROPE
The topics you need to address before moving to Europe differ slightly depending on which country you will move to. This is especially true of countries in Eastern European or countries with significant political instability like Russia or Kosovo. You should be sure to know of any abnormalities in the policies on visas and migration relevant to your destination but the information below provides a preparatory framework for moving to Europe in all cases.
1. YOU ARE GOING TO NEED A POINT PERSON BACK HOME
To find an expedient resolution to any logistical challenge while living in Europe, you will need a trusted family member or friend back home to assist you. This is, in part, because you will need a permanent mailing address state-side while you are away, as international post is a venture for the brave and foolish. In case any pressing documentation arrives at your American mailing address while you are away, give your point person power of attorney so they can sign documents and perform simple clerical tasks on your behalf.
2. DOCUMENTATION MUST BE IN ORDER
The most stressful portion of any trip occurs when things go wrong and you meet the situation with insufficient preparation and panic. You can take the stress out of the situation by assuming something will go wrong and preparing ahead of time. You will want to have photocopies of the identification page of your passport, any relevant visas, vaccination information, banking information, and some extra cash. With this documentation emergency kit, you'll be prepared no matter what you lose or who you have to produce documents for, and if you lose everything, you'll have cash to get to the U.S. embassy.
3. VISA REQUIREMENTS
Months before you depart for the continent you should apply for the visa or visas you need to enter and remain in the country you are traveling to for the duration of your trip. If you are moving for work, your employer will probably work out the visa situation on your behalf. Similarly, if you are going to Europe to study abroad, your university likely has help available for outgoing students. Regardless of your circumstances, it is best to double-check your visa status as wait times are often long and fees for expedited visas are exorbitant.
4. REAL ESTATE IS A PREDATORY INDUSTRY
Do not rent an apartment in a foreign country sight unseen, ever. Americans unfamiliar with Europe are prime targets for morally flexible landlords who can take advantage of your distance and your lack of familiarity with local prices. It is always better to plan for a week or two in a hotel upon arrival. From there, you can get a better idea of which neighborhoods in your new city will suit your needs and walk through apartments in search of cockroaches and faulty laundry facilities before you put a chunk of money on the table.
5. HEALTH INSURANCE IS LIMITED
American health insurance policies are of limited value outside the country. If you don't have an employer that will provide you with insurance while abroad, it is important to purchase a supplementary policy that covers treatment you receive in other countries. When you choose a policy, be sure to research the coverage, out-of-pocket costs, and applicability in the country or countries to which you will travel. It would also behove you to learn as much about the medical facilities in the city you will live in so you have a plan should any medical issues arise.
6. PRODUCT AVAILABILITY CHANGES ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE POND
Hopefully you will be too enthralled in your new, fabulous life abroad to allow for enough time for your mind to wander back to all the things you miss from back home. Whether it is a box of Goldfish or tickets to a Yankees game, the products and experiences available to you will change. While you should throw yourself into your new life, we all seek comfort in the familiar. Stock up on things you know won't be available to get across the Atlantic and catch one more football game, drive-in movie, or whatever trips your trigger.
7. YOU WILL WANT A CREDIT CARD
Not unlike the documentation emergency kit, a credit card with no international transaction fee is a great tool for keeping peace of mind and navigating a crisis like a seasoned traveler. We do not recommend credit cards for day-to-day use while you are living in a foreign country but, in the event of an emergency they are useful. If you need an immediate flight back home, a train ticket to the nearest embassy, or cash for an unexpected hospital bill, an internationally flexible credit card is essential.
8. YOU NEED CONNECTIONS
Once you arrive in your new, if only temporary, home, you will have a lot to do. Literal and figurative navigation through your new city and your new life will take time and insight. One of the best ways to circumnavigate this complexity is to make connections before you arrive. Larger European cities have an expat community of some sort you can connect with and glean wisdom from. Expats frequently provide informed guidance to their fellow countrymen regarding housing, employment, strategies for saving, and, they may even become your friends.
9. YOUR PHONE WON'T WORK
Depending on how long you plan to spend in Europe, you might cancel or suspend your cell phone service. Keep your phone and SIM card with you, you can purchase a new card in Europe, insert it into your phone, and continue to pay for service limited to your country or the European Union depending on the plans available in your new country of residence and the particular plan you choose. This option is much cheaper than the premium on international service charged by mobile carriers in the United States.
10. YOU WILL NEED TO GET AROUND
When moving to Europe, it's easy to lose sight of the simplest issues as you apply yourself to the most onerous challenges. For many travelers transportation falls into this category. When you arrive, you will need a ride from the airport. Chances are you don't have many friends in Budapest willing to drive out and get you. Taxi drivers in European airports often overcharge foreigners or take unnecessary detours to drive up the rate. You should get acquainted with the public transportation to and from the airport and around town. It will save you a small fortune.
As you make your plans regarding moving to Europe, keep in mind our tripartite approach to efficacious preparation. Long before you go make sure your have all your visas in order, documentation copied multiple times, and a trusted source to handle your correspondence while you're away. You should also reach out to expats in the city to which you are moving and establish a point of contact.