Doing your research is quite important when considering moving to a new country with a Significant Other. These are the questions I thought most about prior to moving and the ones that were most important in my decision to come along. (Questions under the cut)
Some context: Before this major decision ,we had both been graduate students and I had dreams (often while watching House Hunters) of living abroad once I had a solid career (...give or take 20 years). I had just began my post-graduate job search while finishing out graduate school and I had major questions to answer: what type of career was I suited to and what city (within the US) to move to? I had some great job prospects/interviews, but I was open to what the future might hold as I intended to move from the East Coast to Midwest/West. A lot of friends were surprised when I was willing to take the jump for my boyfriend as I've always been independent, but I knew that I had little to lose due to my post-grad status (beyond my modest savings) and I didn't want to lose out on a fantastic relationship (and a great experience!) due to distance. Most importantly, I asked myself some very difficult questions and did my research.
The most important questions to think about regarding your relationship:
- Is this relationship is worth moving to whatever country with SO?
- Most importantly, do you love this person? (This is the easy part!)
- What would happen if you didn't move with SO?
- How much do you trust your SO?
- Do you intend to stay with your SO long-term? Have they indicated their intention to be with you long-term?
- Is your SO willing to help you through difficult times emotionally and financially? Will they promise to do so and have they shown that they will do so?
- Will the country you're considering recognize your relationship?
- Are you ready and willing to fully support 100% your SO during one of the biggest transitions of his/her personal AND professional life? (Reader suggested! It can be very stressful on your SO due the fact that their success often determines what happens next and it was their decision that brought you along.)
Next, you need to assess your vulnerability within your new country of choice:
Are you legally allowed to stay in the country for an extended amount of time without a visa?
- If not by default, what is the visa process like and how long does it take?
- Is there a possibility that you can continue working at your current job/studies while abroad?Are you willing to quit your job if this is not possible?
- Can you just visit often while maintaining your current life?
- Do you have enough savings to support yourself for an extended period (6-12 months)?
- Is the city you're considering living in large/small and is it close to any other cities? Are most of the jobs in this area focused on a single industry?
- What are the ideal aspects of a city that you want to live in and what aspects are a dealbreaker? Does this city (or nearby cities) have any of these aspects?
Are you allowed to work legally? (Or do you plan on not working?)
- If so, can you get a job in your field with your qualification as is? If not, how easily can you find work with learning new skills/degrees to supplement your qualifications? Similarly, are you willing to take up a new profession/field if you cannot find work?
- What is the de facto language for business/government? Is it easy to learn and/or how long will it take to learn the language at a proficient level (B1-B2 level using the Common European Framework Reference for Languages)?
- Do you need this language for a job in your profession? At what level?
- Do you have enough savings to support yourself if not working/unemployed for a 1-6 month period?
- Do you find the country and its culture interesting?
- Do you know others in your country of choice? If not, do you often have difficulty making friends?
- Would it bother you if you were separated from your support network (possibly by a time difference)? Are you willing to accept that you might lose close friends?
- Are you close to your family? Would seeing them in person much less often (once a year) be okay with you? Are you willing to accept that they might be upset with you for leaving?
- What is the housing market? Can you afford it? If bringing a pet, are they allowed in most rentals?
- If your relationship fails, what will you do!? Do you have enough savings to head home?
There's a lot of soul-searching that is required. It is good to be aware that reality, at first, is less ideal and more stressful than you realize. When you move abroad, you're often isolated with zero to few friends, vulnerable, stressed, and very dependent on your significant other. It's not a good combination and it's good to know what you're up against if you're considering becoming an expat. You can read more about how to get the best out of living abroad AND make friends here in my follow-up!
I just want to end this post with mentioning that the hardest step is making the decision to uproot your entire life with zero certainty for someone you love. I promise that it's totally worth it once you're in the new country with your partner in crime in a great apartment with lots of friends!