Moving overseas is one of the most daring and exciting life transitions that someone can make. But keep in mind that it is just that, a life transition, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Sometimes people are too eager to leave their current situation and end up making mistakes when moving overseas. Here are the most common mistakes made when moving internationally.

A permanent vacation?

Vacationing in a foreign country is not the same as living in a foreign country. If you are a tourist on a trip abroad, you have a week or two of new sights and sounds and attractions lined up for you. The reality of permanently living in that same country is probably pretty far from that tourist experience. You also tend to enjoy your vacations, which can lead you to see everything through rose-colored glasses. Just because a place is a good vacation spot for you, doesn’t mean it is a good place for you to live.

Not enough research

A related mistake is simply not doing enough homework on the target country. Keep in mind that countries are outwardly trying to draw tourists, not residents. The realities of living in a new country may not be what is publicly presented.

  • There may be less of an international language like English spoken in a foreign country than you expect. You will not just be able to “pick up the language” if you don’t know it.
  • Are you fully aware of the typical weather patterns in your target country, and can you cope with them?
  • Are there any kinds of infectious diseases that you would be susceptible to as a foreigner trying to live in a new area?
  • Is there dangerous political strife within the country?
  • Are there unique customs regulations that may cause the detention or loss of some of your property?
  • Are you aware of all the cultural difference that you will have to face? Even the subtle ones? It would be best not to offend locals as a newly settled foreigner.

You should probably visit the country you wish to move to several times in a non-vacation setting in order to get a better feel for life there. Spend some time in the areas where the type of housing you will likely be able to afford is situated. Try to live a day in the life of a local if possible. Only then will you truly understand what life is like in a foreign country. If you can’t visit the country, plan a visit to the country’s consulate and ask as many questions as possible.


You can’t bring everything you own with you on an international move. For one thing, customs officials will not allow you to ship a large variety of items to a new country. With some exceptions, all weapons, pressurized items, some pets, and some cars will be denied overseas shipping.

Lots of the items you may need in your country may prove useless in the target country. In some parts of China it is more effective to get around on a bike rather than a car, for instance. Anything too big, too dangerous, or too useless should be sold, given away, lent to friends or family, or just left in your old home in you are renting it out while you are overseas. Excess baggage is just that on an international move. You don’t want to try to move too many of your possessions overseas.

Forgetting all of the paperwork

There are a lot of legal documents from a lot of different sources that are necessary for an overseas move. The following list is just some of the paperwork you will need to procure, update, pay for, and fill out in order to move overseas. Keep in mind that in order to obtain some of the required documentation, like a passport, you need to provide a bunch of other documentation (birth certificate, license, etc)

  • Passport
  • Visa
  • Bill of Lading
  • Insurance for your items
  • Customs documentation
  • Moving insurance
  • Valid photo ID


Moving overseas can be very expensive. So much goes into it that you occasionally overlook some of the expenses of the move. This includes but is not limited to:

  • The cost of updating all of your legal documents
  • Buying or renting a home abroad, with adjusted currency rates considered
  • Hiring an international moving company
  • Paying any visa fees
  • Transportation fees
  • Procuring transportation one at the destination country. Unless you shipped your car, you will need to use public transportation or buy a new car in the new country

Not finding the right international mover

International moving companies do not have an overarching government to regulate them, so it is especially important to use discretion when hiring one. Many people would love to scam an inept foreigner, but this can even start before you leave your mother country.

  • Make sure the moving company is certified. Look for a Federal Maritime Commission number for international shipping out of the US. Look for other independent certifications as well
  • Make sure they offer transparent insurance policies for your belongings
  • See if they have some experience dealing with the customs practices in the destination country
  • Compare multiple companies and multiple estimates

Moving for the wrong reasons

Sometimes people really do think the grass is always greener on the other side. This is rarely true. If you are moving overseas to escape something trivial, chances are your move is going to be full of mistakes. Changing your country is changing your life in a profound way. If you are having a bad time with someone or something in your home country, moving to a foreign land is not always the best option. You need to understand that moving to another country will change your life completely and many of your old comforts and habits will not be able to come with you.