All new experiences have a learning curve. Moving abroad is no exception. It could easily be said that moving to a new country is on a whole different spectrum. When I first met David, one of the first things he told me about was his plan to practice chiropractic abroad. This interest was sparked by his younger sister, Robyn. At age seventeen, Robyn did something most people that age would not consider. She left her home in Colorado and hopped on a flight to Paris. She traveled in and around Europe, meeting interesting people, and having incredible experiences along the way. Later on, she settled down in Amsterdam, where she met her future husband Julian, and became a certified massage therapist. Now, the four of us are on this incredible journey of self-discovery.
Most people dream of the possibility of moving abroad, and a lot of the time that is all it ever is, just a dream. The possibility of living in a foreign country was always something I knew I wanted to experience, but after just moving to a new state for a new job, it was not in the front of my mind. You can imagine my surprise when David asked me to go with him. For over a year, we prepared for this adventure and before we knew it, we had arrived in the Netherlands. Several missteps were encountered, but it is all part of the learning curve. You can never be fully prepared for all scenarios. Below I have outlined some tips to help you on your way to preparing for the adventure of a lifetime.
Before you go
- Anytime you plan on moving to a country where another language is spoken, take the time to learn basic words and phrases used in daily conversation. I spent at least one year beforehand learning Dutch in my car on my daily commute.
- Research the immigration procedures thoroughly. This may seem obvious, but immigration is a complex process. The procedures vary depending on your personal situation. In the Netherlands, the immigratie- en naturalisatiedienst (IND) is the Dutch immigration authority. The IND can be difficult to work with, so be patient. Their website describes the various procedures for obtaining residence and work permits.
- Locate any personal documents needed to legally enter the country. This includes your passport, birth certificate, education degrees, and transcripts. Depending on where you are from, immunization and other medical records may be required. The IND has a list of these countries on their website. It is also not a bad idea to carry copies of previous rental agreements or bank statements. It may be handy when the time comes to look for a residence.
- Read up on the banking system. The Dutch banks will not issue a bank account if you do not have a Burgerservice nummer (BSN), or Dutch social security number. You cannot get a BSN number without approval from the IND. Be sure to plan ahead and convert some of your money to euros if you cannot get immigrated immediately. One Dutch bank, ABN-AMRO, has a special account for expats. You can open an account without a BSN, but they will ask to see your passport and proof of residence. More information on it can be found here.
- Deciding what personal belongings to bring can be a difficult task. First, decide which items you cannot live without. For us, it was our bicycles, laptops/computer, and photos. Try to limit the amount of clothes you pack and remember that clothing is replaceable.
- The climate of the country is a helpful factor in deciding what clothes to pack. The Netherlands is quite rainy with a mild temperature, so most of the clothes we brought were polyester, or water-resistant. We did learn how windy Holland can get, which made me wish I had brought my leather jacket. We live and learn every day!
- When booking a flight, read up on the luggage allowances for the airline. Originally, we planned to ship our belongings via cargo ship, but it was too expensive. The cheapest way to ship our stuff was through the airline. With twelve boxes and suitcases between the two of us, it added up to a few hundred dollars, but it was much cheaper than shipping it abroad via a cargo container.
- Research their customs procedures to give you an idea of what you can and cannot bring into the country. The last thing you want to do is draw negative attention.
- Try to sell as many items as possible. Having some extra cash to help fund your relocation will not hurt. Whatever items you cannot sell, donate to charity, or give away to friends and family. Do not put this off. You always wind up having more stuff to get rid of than you realize. The last thing anyone needs before a big move is the stress of running around trying to get rid of your stuff.
Time to go
The last few weeks may be difficult and emotional. There may be many moments where you feel overwhelmed and scared. You may begin to question why you are doing this. These feelings are normal. You will miss your friends and family, get homesick, and maybe cry. Remind yourself of the reasons why you are doing it. Life will be different, but it will be exciting.
Take the time to say goodbye, or as I prefer “see you later,” to your friends and family. Take comfort in knowing that there are people who miss you and love you. Remind them that you are only a plane ride away, and they will have a good excuse to travel somewhere new.
Moving abroad is no easy task. If it was, more people would do it. There will always be reasons not to do it. Instead, ask yourself these questions: in five years, will you be happy where you are? Will your life be any different? Do you want to keep driving down the same streets day after day? Life is about taking chances. You will never know if you do not try. If you have even a slight inclination to experience living abroad, do it! You may wish you had done it sooner. The experiences you have will stay with you for the rest of your life.