Moving to a new country as a single

Tired of the same views every day? Want to expand your horizons and discover amazing new things? Then moving to a foreign country is a perfect way to do so.

I will be talking a lot about my own experience in this post, as I moved from Belgium to Greece in 2018, as a single. The road so far has been amazing and I want to help you get started.

There are some things that you need to keep in mind and I will go over the most important ones in this article.

Things to do BEFORE you move

Consider your finances

Moving to a foreign country is not the cheapest thing in the world. When you rent an apartment you will have to pay a deposit, you will have to pay some fees here and there to get the paperwork done and get your utilities connected properly. If you want to refurbish your new home, this will also be an extra cost.

Most couples have a double stream of income, making moving a bit more manageable. As a single your demands will be lower so that somewhat compensates but you will still need to consider your initial cost and what is left after your savings run out.

If you have a steady income that allows you to work worldwide, this is probably nothing to worry about. If you’re moving to another country as an unemployed single, you should probably create a tight budget and stick to it. At least for the first month.

It all depends on the country you are moving to, of course.

Here’s an example of my costs when I moved to Greece:

  • Flight Brussels – Athens: $ 170
  • First month rent + deposit: $ 850
  • Buying cutlery & cookware: $ 200
  • Bed linen, pillows: $ 60
  • Buying cleaning products/tools: $ 150
  • Internet connection + installation: $ 100
  • Deposit for electricity (as a foreigner): $ 150
  • First-time groceries: $ 150
  • Buying extension cords, power sockets, …: $ 50
  • Local SIM card: $ 15

The above totals at about $ 1900 in the first week. Some costs will be lower for you, some will be higher. Rent is really, really cheap here for a two-bedroom apartment. But it will give you an indication of what you can expect.

So take the time to list all the things you NOW pay monthly and double that to be sure you can survive any setbacks that may occur.

After that, your costs will just level out at the living the standards for the country you are residing in.

Get a job before you move

Unless you are incredibly wealthy (and congratulations if you are), you will need a job. Arriving in a new country and expecting to find employment within a week is a Utopia. You will probably not be familiar with the language and the culture, making it hard to find something worthwhile.

Luckily there are hundreds of recruitment agencies globally, who are constantly on the lookout for new expats. Just reach out to them and they will get your application for the local companies going. Often these jobs have a very international crowd working for them, giving you a great opportunity to meet new likeminded people.

It makes the whole endeavour feel more secure when you already have a signed contract in your bag.

Often these companies will even pay for your flight and accommodation. They will also assist you in finding a permanent place to live or getting the paperwork done.

You can fill in the form below and I will get you in contact with the recruiters that helped me move to Greece.


Secure a place to live

My new apartment living room, after receiving the keys. It’s just an amazing feeling to start this whole new journey. Needed a lot of decorating though…

When your beautiful single self arrives in a new country there will be hostels, hotels, Airbnb to cover your first nights. These are, however, quite expensive and often not available for longer periods. So you need a more permanent place to live, which can sometimes be hard to find.

If you are moving with the help of a company that already offered you a job, I would suggest to wait and let their counselling do the work for you. They will bring you in contact with real estate agents and will cover their fees.

If you are looking to rent something on your own, you should do a thorough analysis of the biggest real estate websites for the country you are moving to. These will give you an initial idea of what to expect from pricing and deposits.

These websites will also often list local real estate agents. It may be better to contact them directly, as they can offer you better advice and perhaps you can negotiate about the price. It’s always worth a try if it can save you some money.

Fix your Visa and documents if needed

Travelling within the EU Schengen zone is pretty simple: one government-issued ID to rule them all. You won’t need anything else.

If you are going international, chances are that you will need some sort of visa or residence permit. These are -super- important! Failing to get the right documents ahead of time can often lead to you being forced to leave the country. Imagine paying a lot of money, just to get deported because you were too lazy to get some documents right.

The best place to get information is the ministry of foreign affairs or your local embassy in the country of your choice. They should also be your go-to for any other questions you may have concerning health risks, expat communities and general safety.

Things to take care of on location

Great, you’ve arrived! You’ve got a nice place to stay, your finances are OK and you’re all ready to get going.

Let’s first go over some things you should really take care of before you forget about them!

Check the health insurance

Most European countries will cover your basics through social security. If you have a job, they will probably offer an additional private health insurance plan after several months of employment. Other countries will require you to register your own insurance and pay whatever the company demands.

You are the only one who is in control of your health, as a single you can’t fall back on the insurance plan of a spouse, so be careful if you want to skip this step. If you can’t afford it, at least get a good idea of what will happen in case of an emergency. Also asking the locals about their experiences is a great way to compare different formulas.

Get your internet, tv and phone connection A.S.A.P

The mobile data on your phone is great to bridge the period of not having your own dedicated line, but it is expensive and inconvenient.

Most telecom operators work pretty slow. If you go to a shop and sign up for a plan it might take several weeks before they actually get you hooked up and ready to surf. Make this a priority, as you will need the internet for a lot of things in your first few months.

On the same day: get your utility contracts signed

Some rentals give you the option to pay costs for water, electricity, internet and gas as part of the monthly fee. At the end of the year, they will present you with a final bill, calculated from your actual usage. Sometimes you will pay more, sometimes you will get some money back.

Others will have you sign these under your own name. Get this done on the day of arrival so they don’t shut it off between rents. It may take an electricity provider up to 5 working days to reconnect a single apartment. That is a long time to be without power.

Clean your place, it will make you feel better

At least, that’s what I did. It was clean enough when I moved in, but there were some things that could have been better.

I spent most of my time giving the bathroom an extra rinse, just to be sure I got all the germs and whatnot from the previous occupants out of there. May sound a bit weird, but it did make me feel more at home immediately.

Previous tenants tend to clean just enough for the landlord to give them back their deposit. There will always be some things left behind in dark corners. Just the idea should give you the motivation to just give it an extra rinse.

Buy bed linen, towels, cutlery, cookware, …

Just buy all these things locally. If you’re serious about moving to another country you might as well start the journey with some nice, new gear. It will give you that lovely feeling of a fresh start. Your happy single life can start with some new cloth and pieces of cutlery, amazing isn’t it?

When buying pots and pans, be mindful of what type your stove is though. Some pans may not be suited for induction or gas fires. Another reason not to be hauling these things with you as you move.

Buying new bed linen in the colour that your love will also give you an immediate feeling of “this is MY bedroom now”.

NOW! Let’s start your journey as a happy single with a few tips from the master.

Take nice, long walks without Google Maps

The Monastiraki central market with the Acropolis in the background high above the city. From here I just spent 4 hours walking around without any map and with the occasional pitstop at a local taverna.

You’re in a new environment, you need to get familiar with your surroundings. That’s really not going to happen with your face pointing downwards towards your phone.

Step out your door, take in the new air and just start walking in a random direction. Take it nice and slow, taking in everything that is around you. Get to know the landmarks for future reference (and finding your way back home).

See something that looks like a nice shop in the distance? Just walk towards it and explore. You would be surprised how many people just sit inside all day, Google something, walk straight over and have never paid attention to where they actually are.

This is your moment of exploration. You’re single too, nobody is gonna tell you where to go and where not to go. Just relax and enjoy!

Reach out to other expats

During a meeting with expats. Honestly, there was a lot of booze and I don’t remember all that much.

Many people travel the world these days. Mostly they are singles, looking for the same things: new experiences, a happy life and meeting new people. That’s why expat communities exist in every city in every country.

You can also ask them about their experiences. This will give you a nice and personal overview of things to do and things to be wary of. A great aid for any explorer!

Often the expat communities will organize special events. These could range from a barbeque on the beach to a board games night. All in good fun.

Make a fool of yourself while learning the local language

Locals will always love you for trying. They will often laugh at your ramblings and correct you where needed, but it’s meant in a good way. You are new to the country, you have to learn to adapt to their culture and language is a huge part of that.

You never have to become fluent, unless you really want to, but knowing some basics is always handy. Especially in an emergency situation. And it’s just fun.

Don’t try to see it all in one week

Remember, you’re not a tourist. You’re a single who is taking his or her own time to explore. Don’t rush things, you have so much to see and so much time to do it in.

It’s tempting to go crazy on the first days. You’ve got your place set up, everything is looking great and you’ve got that amazing feeling inside yourself. It’s called happiness, enjoy it! Just spread it out a bit. This way you will have new things to discover every week or month. You don’t want to get bored with your new location, right?

Go to local bars

He heard me talking in English on the phone, thought I was American and I was going to make his kebab restaurant world-famous 😀 Gave me a free drink for it too.

With other expats, with friends from work, alone, it doesn’t matter. The best stories are made at local bars. The often colourful locals will amaze you with their rituals or music, the drinks will be new and tasty and everybody will be smiling.

It’s also a great way to meet new friends, who can help you with a lot of practical things if you would require it.

Make your home your home

Even if it’s a rental, don’t be afraid to decorate to your own taste. You’re the one who is walking through that front door every day and experiencing the interior.

It’s frankly amazing what a new carpet or some posters can do to an otherwise empty and sterile room. We all want to feel at home when we are home, right?

Just don’t go spending crazy amounts of money on things if you’re only planning on staying for a year or less. Those things need to be sold or moved, which is an extra hassle.

Work on a craft, start cooking, get a new hobby, …

You can make a LOT of new friends as a single expat, but you will also be spending quite a bit of time being alone. Nobody can live from bar to bar, 24/7.

So why not use your freedom and your new home to pick up a new craft, try out some new recipes or finally work on that project that you always wanted to?

Footnote

As always, thank you for reading! This is written from my experience as a happy single in a foreign country. I can advise it to everybody. If there are any doubts holding you back, feel free to ask them in the comments and I will answer them to the best of my knowledge.

If you want to share this article, it would mean a lot to me.

Thank you!

Yannick

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