As I have started (somewhat) settling into my new home, I am reflecting on what it took to get here. The cost to pack up my life in one Country to start up life in another. There is a lot I did not consider when I signed up for this expat position. Some financial; some personal and emotional cost of moving my life across the pond was more than I had anticipiated in some respects. Thought it might be worth sharing some of the costs I have incurred to become an expat. None of this is intended to discourage you if you are considering a similar move, just something to add to the equation.
1. Close out costs. When I threw my name in the hat for a position in a foreign location, I knew I will have to pay a fee to get out of my lease. I did not realize there were lots of add on to those fees that were not necessarily outlined in the lease agreement i.e. my apartment complex required a month rent plus eighty-five percent of one-month rents which they tagged as a reletting fee plus a fee for giving less than sixty-day notice.
2. Cost of living in your new home country. I knew moving to London was going to be more expensive than Dallas (obviously), but there was so much I did not consider in the budget. For example, council tax in addition to rent; and tv tax for owning a TV (say what ?). Thankfully, I had a few contacts who had gone through the process and were able to advise me before they move. They saved me from a very rude awakening.
3. The timing of paycheck. In contrast to the U.S., my paycheck is now monthly not bi-weekly. That one took some getting used to and proper planning to make sure I did not spend my paycheck before the bills came due. Plus, my first paycheck (& moving allowance) did not get paid until the last day of my first month of work. That meant I needed to foot a lot of my moving cost and living cost. Thankfully, I got a decent price for my car to cover the moving costs.
4. Store; sell; donate or move. Deciding which items to donate; sell or move with me was a tall order. I knew I could not take any of my appliances - the voltage and electric plugs are different. I was very attached to my possession, and debated storing some items - after doing the math for two years of storage vs. repurchasing the items - I chose to repurchase when I return state-side. Everything with value was sold - clothes; appliances; furniture; electronics - this was very handy to alleviate the stress of point three. Every item in my home had been carefully curated and several items held sentimental value. Having to part ways with those via donation/selling was hard for me.
5. The cost vs benefit analysis. I do this with just about every major decision. List out the cost and the benefit and decide if the benefits are worth the cost. Beyond the financial cost - there is an emotional and physical cost for packing up the life you have for the unknown and unless the scale tips in favor of benefits - it is hard for me to encourage pursuing the decision. In spite of the things I have had to give up to pursue this - I am hopeful the benefits personally and professionally will be worth the emotional; physical and financial toll (still too soon to tell).
6. Style Cost. I know this seems vain and odd to include, but hear me out. Working in the U.S meant business casual for work and jeans on fridays. In most other countries - the preferred work attire is business professional five days a week. In addition to the other cost highlighted above, I had to revamp my closet. Besides the work requirement, the weather also paid a major part in the wardrope change. The weather in London is drastically different from what it is in Dallas. My winter wardrobe needed a major overhaul.
7. Immigration Cost. You cannot ask too many questions to the lawyer in this process. You want to make sure you are clear on any restrictions. If not, it might cost you some money. After getting here, I had to leave the Country for a few days to then return to validate my work visa. I got to spend a few days in Paris (so I am not complaining, too much). The cost of that trip was not anticipiated.
8. All The Deposits. I don't remember having to pay a significant deposit when I got my first apartment in Dallas. I may have paid $200 but that was it. Living in London, in addition to rental application related fees, most rentals require a minimum of six weeks rent as a deposit. Because it is London, you are looking at a minimum of $2,500. Thankfully, my employer has an interest-free loan program that came in handy with rent deposit.
9. Relationship Cost. I am a very guarded person and I don't cultivate friendships easily. It took over a decade to cultivate my community stateside. I think more than anything, the cost of losing my community of friends stateside has been the hardest bit and I fear by the time I find a community here, it will be time to pack up and head back to Dallas.
10. Expectation vs Reality. To be honest with you, this move has not been a bed of roses. Lots of dashed expectations and if I can only give you one advise - it is this. Make sure you are clear on what you are signing up for. Get it in writing if you must. I had some expectations that are yet to pan out and that has been very dissapointing and difficult to manage.
11. Cost of starting over. To an extent, the expat life is starting over. I worked almost eight years in Dallas and during that time, I built a reputation of work ethic ; discipline; effectiveness etc. Taking the expat role has been (in a sense) starting over to build that reputation. Similar to the relationship cost, I fear by the time I have built the rapport, it is will be time to say goodbye.
Considering the expat life ? Leave me questions/comments - I will be happy to share my insights. If you have already been there; done that - your advice will be greatly appreciated.