Moving Countries - What you need to know and do

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June 5th 2016
Published: June 5th 2016
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Moving Countries...

Going on holiday is one thing - packing your bags, having an adventure and returning home to the people you love and the life that you know.

Going travelling is another - perhaps quitting your job and packing your life into a backpack for a wonderful adrenaline-fuelled trip around the world, before winding up back with those home comforts again.

Moving countries is little different. There is a bigger gamble, a bigger uncertainty and a bigger risk. That said, there could also be a bigger gain!

Moving countries - Yes you still have to pack your life into a bag, but this time you can’t leave any of it behind for safekeeping. Yes you have to quit your job, but then you have to find another one, in another country. Ultimately, you don’t know quite when your return home will be and whether you will be moving back or visiting home like a tourist. The people you leave behind have no time stamp on when you will be back and have to wave you off. They often say it’s harder for those left behind.

Here’s what I have learnt in the last few months, along with some helpful tips, about my second attempt at moving countries. Nine years ago I moved away for the first time from the UK to Hong Kong. I went for a year, but had a blast and one year became eight. This time, I’ve shifted from Hong Kong to Sydney with a lot more risk than there was when I was 21 and post-University eight years ago.

Moving Countries: Before you go

Make a list

Write down all the pros and cons of staying and leaving. No matter how small or insignificant, add it to the list. You don’t have to show it to anyone so be honest. You’ll get it off your chest and will be able to rationalise the ones that you know are not weighty in your decision. Look at the list, and decide which items have a big impact on your decision to move, and which items are small and insignificant. I’ll give you an example from my list. I loved my yoga studio and my yoga teacher, but it wasn’t a big enough reason for staying in one country for the rest of my life! There will be more yoga teachers, more yoga studios and you never know when your favourite yoga teacher will leave anyway!

Budget and Plan

Be realistic. Sure, we all want to quit our jobs and hang out on the beach for a while, or land in a brand new city and land a top job in the first two weeks. This might happen, but hey, it might not! Save save and save. You want to be able to enjoy your new location and be able to survive for a while before you do get a job. It’s already got the potential to be a stressful time in your life, so why make it more stressful by running out of cash too soon.

Plan ahead and make some connections before you go. Reach out to the people you know and spread the word of where you are heading. You never know who your friends might know! I landed a super flatmate (and flat) in Sydney because I was friends with her Auntie in Hong Kong. Connections are key. Get onto LinkedIn too, you might have connections in your new location that you weren’t aware of until now.

Don’t burn bridges

In a similar vein to planning ahead and using your connections, it is important not to burn any bridges. This is true for most things in life anyway, but when you move countries, leave on good terms and leave the doors open. You never know if you may want to move back, or you might be able to help out someone else new in town after you leave!

Accept the feelings and the fear

A good friend of mine gave me some excellent advice one morning when I was worried about leaving Hong Kong – she told me to accept all these feelings as part of the process. If I didn’t feel sad to leave or worried about a new adventure then that would probably be abnormal!

Yes you are going to feel nervous/scared/worried/stressed/busy and a whole lot of other emotions. Remember - this is normal. Let those feelings come, and go and come again. It will happen! In a way, if you’re sad to leave, it just shows that you’ve had a great time and that it has become your home. I was devastated to leave Hong Kong, yet I also knew it was the right move for me to have a change.

De-clutter and “Let that shit go”

I remember that clearing out my room in Hong Kong was a two-stage process. Round one was quite easy as it was the stuff that had been hiding under my bed for over a year, or a few dodgy fancy dress outfits I was not going to need again in a hurry. Clear out your belongings and recycle it, give it away or bin it depending on the condition!

Step two is a little harder – you’re moving countries and unless you’ve got a huge conglomerate paying for the whole thing, you’ll need to resize your wardrobe and “let that shit go”. Helpful tips – Have you worn it in the last six months? No – bin it. Will you be able to buy a (cheap) replacement in your new location? Yes – bin it. Can you live without it? No – keep it. It’s time to de-clutter. Don’t get rid of anything you will regret, but do get rid of the things you think that you need, but in reality you don’t at all and can live without. Also, the whole “it’s only small so I can fit it in” doesn’t work. This is your whole life in a bag remember!

Moving Countries: Once you arrive

Be a “YES” person

Within reason of course – I am not suggesting you walk into a dodgy part of town and say yes to the first thing you are offered! However, it’s important to go out and do things. That’s how you’re going to create your new life and how you’re going to meet people. Say yes to new opportunities.

I remember one Friday evening in Sydney I was quite tired, happy chilling at home with Netflix and a nice dinner. Then I had a text from a new mate at 10.30pm saying that they were about to watch a live band at a bar not far from my flat. With my PJ bottoms already on, I had to engage the “YES person” in me and got up and went. When you’ve made a good enough friend who is inviting you to something, appreciate it and go! (Just FYI the gig was great and we had a fun night – no regrets!)

If it’s a dinner invite and you only know one other person, say YES. If it’s a social club you want to try out but you don’t know anyone, say YES. If it’s a job interview for a role you think doesn’t suit you, say YES – you never know what else can come of it.

Part of being a yes person is joining or attending social groups. Thanks to the internet it’s easy to find out what is going on in most big cities now. If you have a hobby, and there is a social group for that hobby - chances are that some other people in that group will be like-minded! Boom – there’s another contact/friend for you. I practise Spanish for fun, and found a Spanish language group that meet in Sydney each fortnight. I went along, and yes it was daunting in more ways than one – not only was it a room full of strangers, it was a room full of strangers speaking Spanish! I like to make things difficult for myself, but I met people and had a good time.


Every encounter is an opportunity. Remember that – even when you’re tired and homesick or just don’t want to introduce yourself and tell your story for the 62nd time that day. It might be the 62nd time that makes a difference! Talk to people (Part of the “say yes” plan means that this will happen anyway).

It takes energy to network, more than you might realise. If you don’t know anyone in your new location you will have to introduce yourself a lot, you will have to tell your story a lot, but that’s part of your new experience, rebuilding your persona in a new location and attracting the people who are similar to you. What you give out you get back. This is a bit of a cliché, but if you do stay home and watch TV and maybe meet one or two people at work, then that might be the lifestyle you create, but if you put the energy in, and make the effort to meet people, listen to people, give people your time, then you will gain a whole lot more from the interaction and the experience. I also believe this one goes for life in general! Be yourself, and you will attract like-minded similar people.

By networking, I also mean – in real life! The internet is a wonderful thing, and LinkedIn has a world of connections, but nothing is more valuable than face time. Whether it is networking for a job, making friends and connections, or going on-line dating, meet people face to face rather than having a cyber-relationship. We are humans, and we need real interactions.

Stay in Touch

You’re on your new adventure and you are busy meeting people and saying yes to everything, but don’t forget to stay in touch! Your loved ones will appreciate it, and it will keep you going in the tougher/quieter times. It’s not that hard with Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, email and a good old fashioned postcard - it just takes a little bit of time. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your new adventure, but it is also nice to talk to the people who know you very well and don’t need your introduction or your back story. It’ll keep you grounded when you might feel a bit lost at times.

Be open to Change

Of course you’re going to be open to change if you are even thinking about moving countries to start with. Once you get there, it’s all part of the journey to experience new things and see how another country works, how the people are, and what habits and behaviours are different. I love the little things – like how I kept standing on the wrong side of the escalator because in Hong Kong it is the opposite to Sydney! Hong Kong had the added language factor which was fun and challenging, but to be honest there have been lots of funny moments with my friends in Sydney due to Aussie vs. British accents!

The Rear-view Mirror

I think this is an important note to finish on. Try not to spend all your time looking in the rear-view mirror, especially when you first arrive. You’ve made your decision and you are in your new home - make healthy comparisons, and appreciate or acknowledge the differences, but don’t get hung up on it or frustrated by it. Yes it’s different – that doesn’t mean it’s better or worse – just different. Most of all – Don’t look back and enjoy this new opportunity!

Good luck and enjoy the journey!

This is by no means a definitive guide to moving countries, and everyone's journey is different, but maybe it will be of use to some! Meanwhile I'll keep saying yes and learning new things here in Sydney!


Additional photos below
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5th June 2016
A little bit of HK in Sydney

Just Say Yes!
Excellent advise, and good luck in your new country! It really takes an adventurer to relocate--as you said, it's not as easy as traveling--so much more of a commitment. I loved the way you also took lots of little journeys exploring Asia from your HK home. It will be interesting to see where your explorations now take you.
6th June 2016

Great tips!
Moving to a new country can be daunting, but I think you've got it well sorted!
9th June 2016 of luck for you to new country
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