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Last updated on April 4th, 2024 at 08:44 am

Multiracial senior couple standing on the street holding a map

Exploring Your Options: 6 Considerations for Choosing To Where To Live Abroad

As a college student, Whitney Marin knew she wanted to live in France. She had already studied abroad in Paris (as well as Mumbai) with the plans of taking her media career abroad as soon as possible.  In her interview with the Global Chatter podcast, she shared how she needed to get the legalities and her finances settled first. She found an opportunity to work as an au pair and eventually found a full-time job in her industry in Paris.

Moving abroad is a big step. It’s exciting, but it also requires a lot of planning and preparation. If you’re reading this, you’ve already decided that this is the life for you. Choosing a country to move to is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when planning your move abroad. 

Nowhere is perfect for every Black person.  There are too many individual nuances to say that certain countries will meet the needs of every Black person. There are also over 200 countries and territories in the world. Chances are more than one place might fit your needs. Unless you are moving for a relationship, work or unanticipated circumstances, there are plenty of factors that need to be considered before making the final decision on where to relocate.

Find a country that fits your lifestyle and interests

Perhaps the most fun part of moving abroad is getting to experience different cultures, languages, and cuisines. You may find yourself drawn to a certain way of life or culture.

Latrice Shepherd chose Paris because it fit with her desire to learn French. She was absolutely determined to learn the language and what was a short stay turned to her living in France for the long-term.  Maybe the history and architecture of Paris or the slow pace of life of the Italian countryside captivates you; if so, follow that interest and explore what each country has to offer.

It’s also important to choose a country where you can live the way you want to. Make sure your new home will be amenable to your existing lifestyle and hobbies.

Consider the climate and geography of the country

Globe on table in front of bookshelf to represent choosing where to live abroad.
Image: iStock

When you’re considering your options before moving abroad, it’s important to think about the climate and geography of a country.

Climate can affect your health, happiness and productivity. Because of this, a poor climate in one place may not be offset by other benefits that country has to offer. For example, Peace Bailey and her family chose Spain because after 19 years of cold UK weather, they wanted a change. They made the move after several continual visits to the country. 

If you’re someone who likes hot weather all year round, perhaps Canada isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you love spending time outdoors and don’t mind the heat, then Australia may be a great option to consider.

Geography is another important factor to consider when choosing a country to live in. Think about what type of terrain you would like to live in, or if this matters to you when choosing a new home.

Do you prefer to be near the ocean? Or perhaps the mountains? If you’re looking to live in a city, do some research on the major cities in each country you’re looking at.

Check out the country’s economy

One of the first things to look for when considering a country is its economy. Look for a country with an economy that’s open to foreigners and one that has good trade relations with your home nation.

In general, countries with strong economies tend to have more job opportunities than those with weaker ones; countries with high rates of unemployment also tend not to have many opportunities available either (unless they’re offering incentives like free housing).

If you’re looking to work abroad, one of the most important things is to make sure the country has enough jobs for foreigners. This can sometimes be difficult to determine, but oftentimes jobs will be listed online.

You can also look for companies based in your home nation that have foreign offices in the country you’re looking to move to. This gives you a better chance of obtaining a job in your first language. However, if you’re bilingual or looking to improve your fluency, try looking at jobs that are for bilingual speakers, or in the language of your new country.

Maybe you’re done with full time working and looking for your money to stretch farther. One of the main reasons Devon and Lawanson Austin chose Costa Rica was because it was affordable for their fixed income. Devon says, “After nearly four years of research it became obvious that, financially, moving to Paris would be impossible.” Her husband eventually chose Costa Rica because they had researched locations with comparative costs of living outside of the US.  For similar reasons, retiree Joyce Barr chose neighboring Panama. After leaving a successful career, she found Panama as a great option to live her post-work life and retirement income.

Research the social and political climate of the country

When you’re considering a move abroad, you’ll want to research the social and political climate of each country on your list. Researching a country’s history can help you understand its culture and how it got to where it is today.

You should also look into the  crime rate and what types of crime are prevalent.   You want to know how often there is political unrest (this is more common in cities) and the general reasons that cause it. It’s important to know if there are any political protests planned in your prospective new home before moving there – this can affect not only your job prospects but also whether or not you feel safe staying in that city long-term.

You should also consider social factors such as laws regarding divorce and marriage; these might have an impact on whether or not someone would want to move there. This also means understanding what rights citizens, residents and visitors may (or may not have). Subsequently, understanding how the legal and penal system is worth understanding. What may not be an issue or problem in one country might cause certain problems in another. 

The Ease of Obtaining Legal Status

While we might say ‘the world is your oyster’, the truth is being properly legal in a country is going to differ based on a myriad of issues.  These issues can be complicated depending on your passport, desired locations and the complexity of immigration process for each country on your location list.  

There are several types of visas, including for the purposes of tourism, work, immigration and education. These are generally for short-term stays and almost always have to be renewed. There are also residency permits that allow a foreign to stay in a country for a lengthy or indefinite period of time. They are often renewed at less frequency than a visa. 

You may not know how difficult it is to just immigrate to your intended destination until you actually start to probe into the process.  For example, Mahlena-Rae Johnson shared how it took several applications (and a few years) for her family to move to Canada. Canada is often a country Americans tend to think it’s relatively easy to immigrate to (based on proximity), but as Mahlena-Rae shared, it really isn’t.

One way to gain legal status is to have an employer sponsor your work visa or residency permit. There are pluses and minuses to that, but if you are moving for a career opportunity, this may be on the table.

Otherwise, if you are managing the immigration process on your own, you may want to work with a reputable legal professional, such as an immigration attorney,  that understands exactly the laws and requirements for the country you’re moving to. 

Evaluate tax rates for yourself, your family and employees

Taxes are a big consideration when moving abroad, especially for business owners. Taxes vary by country and can be quite different from those you’re accustomed to in the United States. Some countries have no taxes at all, while others charge income tax on top of sales taxes (VAT).

Individuals should consider the overall cost of doing business or working in each country they’re considering before making any final decisions about where they want to move abroad.

Final Thoughts

Choosing a new country to live in is complicated, but there are ways to narrow down the choices. Consider the climate of a country before you move, as well as the economy, culture, and tax rates. Researching these things ahead of time will help ensure that your move abroad goes smoothly. By following these steps and doing some research on each country’s laws and customs, you’ll be well on your way to finding the right place for you.

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