In 2020 I’ve officially moved back to the desert, after spending 8 months in Poland. The year 2019 taught me a very valuable lesson: home is not always a place where you were born and raised. Home is where you feel most comfortable, where your family is, a place you long to come back to (even if you never thought you would!). A discovery I made after moving back to Poland was a big one, too: I didn’t feel exactly at home there anymore. The memories of my childhood and how things used to be were still there, but I felt detached from them. I felt like I’m on a trip down the memory lane, instead of starting a new chapter in life. Sort of like watching a movie about my own life, with this slim, attractive, and childless girl in her early 20s playing the main part. 😉
What I can say now with complete certainty is that my adult life really began when I moved to the Middle East to join my husband. We’ve created it exactly like we wanted it to be. I was not there along for someone else’s ride, but it was something I’ve built with my own pair of hands. And his is why I was so excited to go back and resume the life construction activity. 🙂
What did not excite me, however, was the perspective of shifting myself and the boys to a different country… again. Luckily, I was experienced enough to be able to make the process less of a hassle for all of us.
Are you about to make the big move too? Here are some tips to help you survive it with a smile on your face!
1. Before you start packing, go around the house and collect all the documents which you’d like to take with you.
Things like family medical records (translated to English if necessary), birth certificates, kids’ school reports, your own diplomas & certificates, work-related documents, etc. Make sure you gather everything you might use abroad. If you’re moving somewhere far, it would be a huge inconvenience to wait for someone to send the papers over to you later on! Personally, I keep all important paperwork in Poland in one cute box (thanks, Ikea!), so I just dug through that before packing.
2. Make a list of items which might not be available (or are very expensive) in the country you’re moving into, and stock up!
It was pretty easy for me, because I knew exactly what I was missing while living in Doha, so I was sure to bring all those things with me. 🙂 Think about it and do some research: do you take any medicine that you might not be able to find there? Is there any local skincare brand you use that you’re not willing to replace? Are your favorite treats easily available at the local supermarkets? My list would look somewhere like this:
— a yearly supply of contact lenses (terribly expensive in Qatar, also, low availability of certain brands!),
— some traditional Polish food (not available in Qatar at all),
— organic skincare products for kids (again, the price tag in Qatar is hefty),
— certain over-the-counter medicines (not available in Qatar, but at the same time not restricted!)
— clothes from my favorite European brands (I tend to take a minimal number of clothes with me, as they can be bought in Doha. However, there are certain brands which I love, but can’t find in Qatar. Those I always try to stock up in Poland 🙂 ).
3. Make sure you give a proxy to someone in your country of origin, to be able to get things done for you.
For me, it’s my Mom. Back in 2017, we went together to a notary public where I signed a proxy allowing her to act on my behalf in most of the everyday matters. It’s quite important, you don’t want to be forced to travel back to attend to simple tasks which could be completed by someone else. It’s also something that most people don’t think about, being busy with packing and arranging things related to their travel. Don’t be like them – prepare yourself. 🙂
4. Join relevant Facebook group(s) and network with fellow expats.
As funny as it may sound, Facebook can prove really useful to you. I would suggest you find and join the following:
— a group set up by people of the same nationality as you, residing in the country (or city) where you’re planning to move,
— the most popular group for all expats residing in this country (city),
— any other groups which you might find useful based on your personal situation (parents’ group, working moms group, events group, job hunt group, etc.).
5. Figure out how to go about getting everyday matters done.
Ideally, you should complete this research before you leave. Some practical matters which you’ve done somehow automatically in your home country might look completely different in the place where you’re moving to. How to obtain a permanent residency permit? What about health insurance? A bank account? The list goes on. Browse the Internet, or ask on the Facebook groups you’ve joined (I told you they’ll prove useful! 🙂 ). Once you’ve moved, you will have plenty of other stuff to worry about. So, it would be a wise thing to move as much as you can out of the way in advance!
6. Research the “dos and don’ts” of the country you’re moving to.
I’m talking about two separate matters here:
I. The culture.
Are there any behaviors that are normal in your home country, but would be frowned upon in your new home? (Think: dress code, public displays of affection, smoking in public, etc.). Or the opposite: are there things that might shock you, as you’re not used to experiencing them in your life? What can you do to avoid accidentally offending people?
II. The law.
There are bound to be differences in the legal system of your home country versus the country you’re moving to. First and foremost, check what kind of behaviors might get you in trouble (and how much trouble exactly 😉 ). For example, drinking alcohol in public is strictly prohibited in Qatar. Also, know your rights when it comes to other people’s actions towards you. For example: begging is an offense in Qatar (the country has a well-functioning public charity system), if someone bothers you asking for money and you want them to leave you alone, tell them you’ll notify authorities, they will disappear instantly.
7. One final look at the situation in your home country: cancel whatever you won’t need!
Things such as telephone, internet connection, or utilities. I’m pretty sure not all of them will continue being useful to you after you’ve moved! Contact the providers and cancel all the services you won’t be needing. Also, have a look at your bank accounts. Before I left for Qatar, I canceled all my Polish bank accounts except for the savings one – that one I would need, obviously.
8. Figure out where you’ll stay…
…or at least do basic research regarding what is your budget, which neighborhood you would prefer, and what kind of accommodation would suit you. If you are planning to move to Qatar, I’ve done the work for you – you can have a look at A Comprehensive Guide to House-Hunting which I’ve put together. You might find it applicable to other Middle Eastern countries, too. 🙂 If you don’t want to “go in blindly”, I’d suggest you book yourself for a month or so into a serviced hotel apartment (The Curve hotel is a good option in Qatar, if you are looking for a decent standard, but don’t want to spend tones of money).
9. If you have kids, think about their school.
Many schools start receiving applications for the following school year very early. For example, in Qatar applications for school year 2021/22 in some schools opened as early as November 2020! Check well in advance what is the situation in the country you’re moving to. Is there anything you can do to secure spots for your kids in a school of your choice, before actually setting foot in the country? Or do you have to be there (and have your residency status sorted) in order to apply? Also, find out how hard it would be to get your kids into a school in the middle of the school year. If Qatar is where you’ll be moving, you can have a look at the Comprehensive Guide to Private Schools which I’ve published earlier this year.
10. Make sure your financial situation is secured.
I put it as the last point because I assume that since you’ve decided to move, you know what you’re doing. 🙂 This has to be mentioned, though. There are three situations that you might relate to:
I. You’re moving to join your spouse or another family member.
In that case, money is usually not a problem. The person who you’ll be joining will secure your financial situation. 🙂 You can still look for a job if that’s what you want to do, but there’s no urgency. Moving to another country with someone you know already established there will always save you a lot of hassle!
II. You’re moving for work, and your job is already secured.
Before you accept the offer, make sure it’s reasonable! What seems like a lot of money in your home country, might not be much in the country where you’re moving. Will you really be able to support yourself with that particular salary? What about things such as insurance, school cost, accommodation, etc. Will your employer take care of those expenses, or are they all on you?
III. You’re moving to look for a job.
Obviously, in such a case you need to have enough savings to be able to support yourself. Always consider the worst-case scenario: that you won’t be able to find anything anytime soon. Plan properly. Check the balance on your savings account and calculate how long you will be able to live on that. Set aside an amount to cover a plane ticket back home, just in case! And of course, consider how long are you allowed to legally stay in that particular country on a visitor visa. 🙂
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