A checklist for moving internationally

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An expat has many things to prepare before and after moving abroad: finances, pensions, estate planning, culture shock and more. [Contributed by ING Belgium]

Banking in Belgium – INGInternational mobility is on the rise since many years. Whether it concerns students, managers of companies or migrants there is a lot to prepare for when doing so. Within the European Union it is pretty easy on paper to move countries because there is no need for a work or residency permit. Yet even then, and also if the language of the country you go to is the same as your mother-tongue, surprises are to be expected.

Luckily there are experts to assist companies with the international transfer of their employees from A to Z: relocators. In Belgium there is an association of relocators: ABRA.

Still not all international mobile people receive relocation support from their company and some prefer to do the relocation themselves. That is a big challenge. Those people search for the checklist of things they need to do to comply and 'fit in' in the host country. The laws and regulations of any country are already difficult to understand for the natives, imagine the difficulties for newcomers. Furthermore cultural differences can hinder the fast integration many migrants are hoping for. Of course one's own attitude as a migrant can make a big difference too: learn the language and culture of your host country and accept that you are a guest.

After a few months the international mobile person is installed in the new country and exactly then the 'cultural shock' is hitting him or her. It is the moment when the 'expat' understands that he or she is not a tourist in this new country but that it is actually going to be his or her home country at least for a few years. Around that time homesickness may hit hard. It is a time where one should strengthen the bonds with new local friends to get over it. It is probably not a good idea to take a long leave back home at that time. Service providers should be there to comfort them and help them find their way.

Once the cultural shock is behind, it is still important to inform oneself on the important projects and life stages in the host country. What about buying real estate there, how can you manage your pension matters or estate planning abroad? Why not set up a business there or study if you're the trailing spouse. There are information seminars around, many of them even free of charge. Be informed beforehand. Eventually one gets used to the life in the new country and starts to see many advantages.

Many expats who came to a new country for a short period of time end up spending a long time or even their whole life in the host country. However if you are a career expat and move countries all the time, it is even more important to keep your administration in order country by country, particularly on the pension side.

Contributed by Dave Deruytter, Head of Expats and Non-Residents / ING Belgium

ING Bank Belgium


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