How to move countries without going bonkers

For many people, moving is a thing best to be avoided at all cost. Yet, there are quite a few, that just cannot help it. Opportunities waiting in a different country often weigh out the work involved. Opening a new chapter in your life and diving in to a new culture is very exciting. Even though you will have to put in a lot of work, the rewards are worth it.

We’ve recently moved continents, and it did not go as smoothly as planned. I used to think, distance is just a thing in your head but once you repat from Australia to Germany, you can add at last 50 more tasks to your to do list. I am not sure to be honest, if one can tackle a major move and stay totally calm, but here are a few tips that can help you through.

Give yourself a little time to freak out

This may seem counterintuitive but you’ve got a roller coaster ahead of you, so get it out of your system now! Looking at the tasks ahead of you can feel overwhelming but freaking out is just another form of procrastinating and you really don’t have time for that. Moving day will come; if you’re ready or not. Take a deep breath and get into gear.

Know your budget

Flights, visas or taxes can make up a considerable amount of your budget. Get a good overview of your income, as tax returns or bonds might come in months after your move. You will need to budget ahead for essential items like a rental deposit, furniture or bits and pieces. Plan at least 10% for unexpected expenditures.

Get your paperwork in order

This is really a very important step. Sort, scan, double-check, copy, certify. If you have the time, get your most important documents translated. Think about it this way, you will have to do it anyway, so get as much out of the way as you possibly can. Find the best Bureaucratic You and think backwards. What could there possibly be you need to prove? Be prepared to use at least one piece of your carry-on luggage for important papers. If in doubt, pack some more.


As soon as you’re toying with the idea of expatting, start downsizing. For some, this may be a painful process but it is inevitable. Now that you are aware of your budget, you know how ruthless you need to be. This ties in nicely with sorting your paperwork and you will be super proud when you’re finished.

You grow with your tasks

Don’t run out of steam now, you just got started. Consider yourself your own event manager. Multitasking, innovative, efficient. Now it is really time to get organized, get an overview and start with the real work. If you’re the scrapbooking type, even better. Treat yourself to a new planner, sparkly pens, some washi tape and go nuts.

Pro Tip: invest in some tip-ex.

Plan your weeks in reverse order and try to leave as much room as you can for unexpected events towards the end of your stay. Make plenty of time for packing and cleaning up as well as catching up with friends and family. Research well. Make lists and tick them off, put reminders in your phone, use a proper calendar, hang on to your receipts.

If in doubt, you can always freak out; go back to step one and work your way through. You will get there.

Say goodbye to perfect

Now that you’ve mapped out everything nicely, prepare for Murphy’s Law. Despite your best efforts, a move like this will not go without hiccups. Little things can turn out to be big issues. In our case, it was a lot easier to get a visa, than cancelling a cell phone bill… At the end of the day, as long as you have a passport, you will manage somehow.

You may find yourself getting less hours than you where budgeting with for a month or two. (Not much gets done in Australia around Christmas time.) In case of my better half, you may find yourself waiting at a light, while a car crashes into yours, totalling it one day before it was meant to be sold. You now find yourself out of pocket for towing costs and since you are moving overseas, your chances of getting money from the insurance company fell below zero. You will also spend the day before your flight running completely different errands now… On the bright side of things, no one got injured but keep in mind, random occurrences do affect your budget (and potentially all of your travel plans).

I was a wee bit disappointed that things didn’t turn out as smoothly as they could have. Sometimes we need to take the time to take in our achievements. Of course, it always could’ve been a bit more perfect, but sometimes, good enough just has to be good enough.

Don’t be stupid

Walking around in a house in the dark while you’re moving pays off with a bloody toe, which is not very handy when you clean up your garden. Lifting things that are too heavy, may put you out for months and not packing your warm jackets because you’re going to Germany in “Spring” should be avoided at all costs. Do not misplace your notebook with all the important passwords. Erm… You will make mistakes and that’s okay.

Try not to schedule your expat adventures during times of crises. Once, we’ve moved to Germany during the financial crisis and I remember lining up for strike certificates. You would then do your office runs in a ‘I had done this if I could’ve…’ manner for some months. This time around, Berlin is not coping with the refugee crisis at all and running your bureaucratic errands is a lesson in patience. [Twitch]

Pro Tip: Do not move from winter to winter. The 300 dollars you save on your plane ticket do not make up for a year without sun. Seriously.

The grass doesn’t grow quicker if you pull it…

…or so I’ve been told. It seems, life only lets you do so many useful things each week. Be patient. Be grateful. Sometimes all you can do is wait for a paper, copy it and pass it on to the next office. When this is going to happen, is completely out of your control.

It’s all in your head

That thing called stress is mostly in your head. Your work load may seem a bit daunting but you know why you are doing this. Depending on your life circumstances, it may actually not be that much work. Having the choice to live abroad is a great privilege. It seems life hardly hands you things on a plate, so put some good effort in and it will all (more or less) go smoothly. Everything will fall into place, even if not quite as planned… and don’t forget to enjoy the ride on the way.

Alles wird gut.

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14 thoughts on “How to move countries without going bonkers

  1. I’ve immigrated twice in my life – Once from America to Scotland, and then from Scotland to Switzerland (my home now). I did both moves as a single, which simplified things quite a lot by comparison, but I did it all on my own, too, which put the weight of official paper-chases, packing, getting to and out of the airports with all my worldly possessions, i.a. … the “Decluttering” tip is invaluable if you have to carry it all yourself!! I don’t plan on emigrating ever again, but you never know…

  2. Great post, I’ve got an overseas move in front of me. Luckily I’m moving back to my home country, but it’s still stressful and terrifying! Especially because I’m moving from the opposite side of the world…

  3. Rock solid and thoughtful advise! We’ve moved many times over the years, both near and far, and having your papers, visas, and finances in order are vital.
    Hopefully you will be rewarded with beautiful summer days to compensate for a double winter! 😊

    1. Double winter was a while back but we made up for it this time around. We were really surprised how much extra paper work comes with kids… I don’t know how you did it?!

      1. Most of our moving we did before we had our kids. That was easier, because we didn’t have as many possessions and could fit everything in a small U-Haul trailer! Sometimes I long for those simple days! Our kids were born here and never lived in Germany! 😊

      2. He he, I miss the days when I could move with one car load, too… Try having a kid born in a different country, bureaucratically difficult… but hey, we’re all through now. Phew

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