If you’d moved thousands of miles across the Pond in 1990 like I did, it wasn’t such a big deal. Television had given us details about many countries around the world so it was hardly an unknown quantity; even less so for me as I was moving to the USA. Although I now know the two countries can be quite different at times, television had made it seem so familiar that there was little anxiety before my move. I often wonder what early nineteenth and eighteenth century emigrants to American or Australia must have felt like – leaving families behind in Europe, knowing that they would probably never see them again and having at best, an unreliable mail service for communication. The Proclaimers’ song “Letter from America” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-OzdiaJZkw) tells such a story.These days, with the advent of the Internet, it sometimes seems like global relocation is no more arduous than popping down to your local supermarket for a pint of milk. Web sites and blogs such as Expat Focus mean that would-be emigrants and global nomads can literally find a house to rent on the other side of the world before setting foot outside their own country. Visa applications can often be tracked online, somewhat alleviating that arduous process. Isn’t it great?
Recently on my Expat Mum blog, I had a request for information from an English woman about to move to the Chicago suburbs. Not only was I able to answer her questions, but by posting her letter on my blog, my readers added to my response. It might not sound like much, but knowing not to bother buying a winter coat in the UK (more expensive and not up to the job) is one less thing to worry about when you’re in the throes of packing your life up into moving boxes. Additionally, she’ll hear from people who have less of a horror about the remote suburbs than I do, and thus will end up with a more balanced picture!
Most travel and expat web sites not only have city and country guides, but forums where you can post your questions, ask for resources and bounce ideas off others. One thing to bear in mind about such conversations however, is that many of the forum participants are not experts. They are helpful and experienced people giving you their (usually valuable) opinions, but when you need real facts, always do your own research. Questions about visas, residency and other official matters should be researched on official government web sites. Commenters in forums can usually add valuable insight as to, for example, delays you can expect and problems to avoid.
My advice to anyone thinking about, or planning for, a global relocation is to take full advantage of what’s out there in the ether. Do your research on the geographical location by first looking at official web sites rather than seeking reviews. Once you have digested the facts, reviews and comments will make more sense, plus you’ll probably find you have a hundred and one questions of your own – and remember, there’s no such thing as a stupid question.
Toni Summers Hargis is the author of "Rules, Britannia; An Insider’s Guide to Life in the United Kingdom", (St. Martin’s Press) and blogs as Expat Mum.