You have accepted a position overseas. Either you have asked for, or your company has arranged for, you and your spouse to visit your new assignment city so you can prepare for your move. How do you get the most out of this trip?
One thought that may have crossed your mind is this: do you sell your home in the States and move everything over? Or, should you keep your house in the States for trips home, if you can afford to do so. And another option is to rent it out while you are gone. If you choose the first or last option, you will need to make arrangements for the furniture. This orientation trip could help with your decision.
If your company can arrange for a local person to take you around, that would be preferred. Local individuals will also know where expats tend to live, their support organizations and the types of accommodations they prefer. Even if you decide not to live in those areas, it’s good to know where they are, as often some of the comfort things from home are imported to stores there.
Things to Consider
Furnished or Not Furnished
As we started to look around, we opted to see both furnished and unfurnished places. Several of the furnished places were also “serviced”, which means they came with a regular cleaning service. As we would both be working when we got there, we decided to take the furnished, serviced apartment. We knew that having everything in place would allow us to hit the road running without a lot of cycle time dedicated to organizing a new place. This option is not only for apartments; homes often come this way as well.
The next thing to focus on is location. Be sure to fit the place to your needs. I mentioned areas frequented by expats – this can be particularly nice if your spouse is not working and can meet friends who are experiencing the same new things. On the other hand, in our situation, we were both going into high travel jobs and wanted a place convenient to the airport and our major work location. You may think traffic is bad where you live, but foreign cities have rush hours too. You don’t want to spend most of your time going to and from work.
As it is at home, it’s good to have major conveniences such as grocery stores, shops and restaurants close by. Look around for the kinds of things you like and see how far away they might be.
This is also a good time to acquaint yourself with the things you will need to do to live in that country. Can you use your home country’s driver’s license, or will you need to get an international license or a license in that country? What other modes of transportation might be available to you, such as trains? Is there a monthly pass that would be beneficial to you?
If you have children, this is the time to check out child care and schools. Some people prefer that their children experience the local school, however, if they don’t speak the language or if their current curriculum is vastly different from the local one, you may wish to consider an international school. This will also assure that they can return home into the next level without skipping a beat.
What You’ll Get From This Trip
This trip will also allow you the ability to assess the speed with which you will need to become familiar with the local language. Many cities and countries around the world do have English spoken in many places as they educate their children early on it. In that event your fluency with the local language is not as urgent. Depending on your business, being conversant in the local language can also be more or less important. In our instance, we were in the IT field and almost everyone spoke English, not only in our Belgian office but in customer situations as well. This is not the case in all businesses.
While you are there take note of what people wear and how they conduct themselves. It will help in your planning of what you bring with you and what you will need to buy. It is always better if you can blend in with the local population and not look too much like a foreigner.
The Must Haves
Some of the many things in the buy category are anything electrical. Not only do electrical voltage and current levels differ from country to country, so do the plugs! Don’t waste your money on transformers that try to change the voltage. Most don’t work well at best, and at worst they can create a fire hazard. Almost everything portable can now be found in multi-voltage format. Look for devices that 110 to 240vac. And do look for universal travel adapters such as the one shown here. These nifty little items are a must-have for international travel, deftly adapting any plug to any socket.
To buy many of these things, you will need to buy it with local currency, which brings us to the next item, banking. While you are there, you will need to establish a relationship with a local bank. Most of Europe used debit cards and automatic drafts long before they became popular in the USA, so not only can you begin to establish credit, but you can also arrange for efficient handling of any recurring bills at the new location.
And finally, if your favorite airline does not fly to your new location, be sure to sign up for the frequent flyer program of the airline that does. You might be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you will be rack up those miles!