Last week, I told you about my journey from a small village in Germany to the city of Austin, Texas in the United States during an international assignment as part of Dell’s Marketing Rotation Program. I have a few takeaways for anyone considering an international move.

Chalk board with Glad You Are Here! Welcome to Austin! written on it

Summarizing my journey, here a few things I learned:

  1. Take chances: When an opportunity like relocating or even an exchange for a period of time knocks on your door, take it! Inform yourself about opportunities within or outside your company. It is a great opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and to get new perspectives.
  2. Prep: Make sure you take time to prepare in advance – and I mean at least three months. Lists and a checklist will really come in handy, trust me.
    1. Insurance: Check all insurances and contracts you have made at home. Some can be put on hold, depending how long you will be gone. Some need to be terminated and have certain termination policies. Now what you terminated at home, you need to set up in your new place. Familiarize yourself with healthcare options and insurances you need. Get started stat!
    2. Visa and passports: Check what visa you need and if all your family members’ passports are still valid.
    3. Healthcare and vaccinations: Depending on where you go there might be additional vaccinations you want to get. In any way, check if you need a refresh and schedule before you leave. Also, do you need any specific medicine on a regular basis? Check if it is available in the new country. If not, ask your doctor about alternatives.
    4. Driver’s license: I assume that unless you move to metropolitan areas with an excellent public transportation network, you will need a car. Some countries accept foreign licenses, others require additional tests. Check local policies, too. In the Unites States, every state has different regulations.
    5. Bank account: Set up a bank account as early as possible, especially when you’re moving to another country. Get yourself familiar with the system, what account is best for you and what you need to set it up. If you move with a company, ask if they have any recommendations or contacts that can help.
    6. Secure housing: Don’t move before you have housing secured. Decide if you want to rent or buy. Is an apartment sufficient, or do you need a house? Do your research on neighborhoods that suit your family situation and living standard. Consider things like distance and traffic to and from your work (and school if you have children). Also when researching, check if things like water, electricity, internet, trash are included or are on top of your base cost. And always remember that most places want to have a deposit.
    7. Let go of things: Make a list of things you absolutely need and what you can leave behind. Yes, it will be hard. Although I moved quite a bit, it is and probably always will be hard for me. After all, you made yourself a home with things you love. But it’s necessary - you can’t take it all. So, I regularly throw give-away-parties with your friends and family. Believe me, it will make you feel better knowing that your beloved memorabilia, clothes, plants and furniture find a great new home. And, of course, donate to shelters, the Red Cross, or whatever your charity of choice is.
    8. Culture and etiquette: moving to a new country can result in so-called “culture shock.” People do things differently. They might speak another language or even a dialect you haven’t had to cope with before. They might have a different way of standing in a queue. It can be very simple things you’ve been taken for granted that will shake you up.

Remember, you are foreign here – and this is the biggest and maybe scariest opportunity of it all. Embrace it. Join a local group around a hobby you enjoy, and oftentimes there are groups of international descendants that know exactly what you’re going through. You’re not the first one doing this. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to ask for help. In my case, being in the MRP with other folks having done it before me or relocating at the same time helped to exchange tips and just talk things through. Open up. It will widen your understanding, empathy and, hey, maybe even make new friends. Being different is not bad; it is really, really good. How boring would the world be if we’re all the same? Come on, jump in and enjoy it!