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In the Fall of 2015 I quit my job, packed up my room, said bye to my friends and moved abroad with my boyfriend.
Ever since I was a child I imagined myself exploring the world (book in hand of course). The opportunity to move to the Bahamas fell into my lap at a precarious time. I had successfully started my own personal training business (check out my biz tips here) and was seeing traction in my career and finally feeling grown. And moving abroad flipped everything upside down for me. Related: My Thoughts on Expat Life
Moving abroad on your own is an adventure in itself, but moving with a partner is even more work! Adjusting to entirely new surroundings there will be roadblocks and hurdles no matter where you go. We moved to one of the prettiest places in the world and it was hard. Moving abroad is a great experience but it is NOT a fairytale.
Here are Ten Tips for Moving Abroad with Your Significant Other
written by both Sonny and I:
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1. Save up more than you think you need.
Have an open and honest discussion with your partner to see what savings goal is viable before you move. Having more set aside than you need will give you some breathing space for the eventuality of teething problems.
Some part of the process will be drawn out, tedious and infuriating. So you’ll need that bit of cover, whether it’s for the few nights in a hotel because a cockroach the size of Chewbacca has moved his family into your kitchen drawers… they’re common in the Bahamas… or for a new brake pedal as your old one fell off while driving the car you’ve had for 3 days.
2. Find out how the real estate system works.
Search for apartments online within your budget from a good few listing websites, leaving plenty set aside for your early months, due to the inevitability of shit-hitting-the-fan (see reasons above). Research online how the estate agent system works out there.
For example, any Bahamian estate agent can access any listing on the island, as it is a MLS (Multi Listing Service). This is both good and bad. It can be convenient just communicating with one person, but it can be infuriating if that person is slow to get back to you and you’re doing the chasing. Island-Time is a real thing and it shows up in lots of ways. Get in contact with some agents beforehand.
Referrals and word of mouth are best. Arrange a day shortly after you arrive in your new destination for the agents to show you around, in a place like the Bahamas they will pick you up and drive you. Be extra clear about what you need. Keep them on track with budget, number of rooms and facility requirements. Be firm and don’t let them upsell you, believe me, they’ll try.
Most importantly, research on the tenant-landlord laws in the place of your destination. (There are info-graphics on google to show where on the ‘landlord vs tenant’ scale the law lies – Bahamas law is pro-landlord). While living in the Bahamas we (and a few friends) had a few nightmare experiences with negligent landlords because landlords basically do whatever they want, like not making sure you have working air conditioning, oven, etc. We aren’t joking. Also, keep a record of all communication you have with your landlord. Can you tell we have too much experience in this department?
3. Research the immigration policies for that nation.
The Bahamas is difficult and expensive, as they have education and employment issues, meaning jobs must go to Bahamians first. If you are from anywhere else in the world, it will be really hard to get a job. Like, next to impossible, unless you want to fund your own work visa, which can be $9.5k a year. Of course, if you marry a Bahamian that will help your visa process, but if you do plan on living there long-term, you should consider applying for a “Permit to Reside”.
If you can reside in a new country due to your work, find out the documentation requirement for your partner. If your partner is interested in getting immersed in some work/study/activities right away, it is worth researching backup options to legally immigrating I.e. Volunteer work/studying visas. These can sometimes be obtained easier than the standard partner visas, especially if you are an unmarried couple going to a religious country.
Ok so this one is easier said than done since men suck at communicating and women expect men to read their minds.
Moving abroad is fun, but it comes with its own sets of challenges. Everyone’s relationship functions differently as well. But something that most of us can agree on is that effective communication is the key to success. But actually listening to listen and not just to respond.
Since you are both venturing on this journey together you have each other to lean on for guidance. The moving process may be easier for one of you versus the other.
5. Arrange Storage for Personal Items
Because lugging things around the world that you don’t really need (like your 4th grade scrapbook) is expensive and not worth damaging or losing. I would say to go through your things and find out what you absolutely need and what you can live without. I made the mistake of bringing waaaaayyyy to much stuff with me to our first move to the Bahamas and I ended up having to leave or donate at least half of it when we moved to England. Sad times. Related: What To Expect When Moving to London
Choose a reliable family member or friend to store some of your personal belongings and make sure you sort through it all BEFORE you leave to make sure it’s stuff that’s really important to you. In terms of furniture, there’s no point in storing anything you bought for the low at Ikea. Unless its one-of-a-kind items, it’s pointless to pay the storage fee or even transport it overseas to your next destination.
Upon leaving the Bahamas I had to be super brutal when it came to my stuff and got rid of most of my wardrobe because a lot of it I didn’t absolutely love or I knew I could get in England. What’s the point of paying the overweight baggage fee for something you won’t miss or like in a few months?
On another note, it’s also wise to research on what kind of shopping is available in your next country and what the duties and import taxes are. Importing and shipping things into the Bahamas was extortionate and it was difficult to find certain items as a result of it being a religious country and all 😉
Anytime I came home I made sure to stock up on toothpaste, deodorant, makeup, etc because in the Bahamas it was next to impossible to find specific brands or it was double the price. In England, it’s been difficult for me to find stick deodorant since aerosol sprays are more common here.
6. Find out how efficient the transport systems are
And whether or not you need a car. This can be an important discussion with your partners, e.g. Evy and I drive in two different systems, UK and US. One is right and one is wrong LOL. Ok they’re both right, one is just WAY easier. Once you work out what transport you will need, find out the relative cost of buying a car/passes for public transport.
For example in the Bahamas leasing a car was next to impossible, so you were forced to pay upfront for a car, always overpriced and often in need of work as the island roads can be very harsh due to poor standards of maintenance. Furthermore, depending on what make of the car it could be extremely expensive or difficult to get parts for it.
Public transport was not recommended for expats who lived there, except for the #10 bus line (touristy line), which we frequented very often. Cabs were very expensive as well. The solution in the Bahamas… sellers would leave their cars on grassy banks of roundabouts and next to main roads with for sale signs and a contact number, sometimes a price. Literally that simple. The alternative is going through the classifieds in the newspaper. There can be good deals with either method, e.g. family needing to sell asap due to moving overseas.
Now that we are both in London we are enjoying the access to public transport here. Muni in San Francisco has nothing on London transport whatsoever. Just a warning, in terms of cost it’s quite pricey depending on which zone you live in and whether or not you travel during peak hours.
7. Get your Annual Medical Exams Prior to Moving
Depending on what visa you have it can be quite difficult to see a doctor in the next country of your destination. Also depending on what health insurance you have, you may only be covered in the event of an emergency. Sign up for travel insurance and make sure you are completely stocked up on things like medication, contacts, birth control etc. Sometimes prescriptions don’t transfer over to new countries.
For example, my contacts prescription doesn’t work in the U.K. because it’s not specific enough. I wasn’t able to see a regular doctor in the Bahamas and when I did the visit + medication etc. was over 200 dollars for a stomach virus. Related: 5 Helpful Tips on Choosing International Health Insurance
8. Bring an Unlocked Phone
If you are going to follow any of these tips at all this is THE one that will save your life. The worst is being in a country where you can’t communicate with anyone because your wifi isn’t set up yet and neither is your cable. This has been a game changer for me everywhere I’ve traveled recently because I’ve just been able to switch sim cards and be able to communicate with who I needed to, as well as use Google Maps.
9. Come up with a Plan
Upon deciding to move to the Bahamas we both knew that it wasn’t going to be a long-term move. But we were open to changing our minds based on whether we fell in love with it or not. In the end, we stayed there for the amount that we initially planned on.
My career was a priority for both of us despite finding other creative outlets, like starting this blog (post about that here) and social media management, so we knew that we were not interested in being somewhere where I was unable to use my talents. Initially, it was great because I really needed the break. I had been working hard and going to school for years and a year in the Bahamas was quite the vacation for me.
Having a timeline of how long you plan on being somewhere and a backup plan if you do end up wanting to come home is important. If you end up moving back home, what career options will you have? Do you have family/friends to stay with upon your re-arrival?
10. Prepare yourself for the Climate
So obviously the Bahamas is really hot and London is really cold, so we’ve had to have tons of clothing options. Prior to moving to the Bahamas, we had to stock up on lots of shorts, flip flops, bathing suits, and sunscreen, which we then ended up having to give away when we moved. Because you don’t exactly have a need for many swimsuits for a winter in London.
Furthermore, a lot of people assumed that the Bahamas was ALWAYS hot and it wasn’t. From November to about March/April, especially during winter, it wasn’t very warm at all. Many of the locals deem the water to be too cold to swim in, so we didn’t get much beach time prior to the move.
Unofficial Tip: Enjoy it 🙂
Living abroad is something that so many people dream of but don’t actually attempt to do. It’s not as easy as these travel blogs make it appear. There’s a lot of planning and sacrifice that goes into it.
One of the things that I forgot to do was to actually let myself enjoy it. I was too caught up in I quit this, I miss home, I don’t have my car etc. Instead of just living in the moment. It’s easy to let your fears and skepticism of others get the best of you.