‘What I wish I’d known before I moved abroad’

Moving is never easy but upping sticks for a new life abroad is even tougher. The Local caught up with two expats to find out about what they wish they’d known before the big move.

‘What I wish I’d known before I moved abroad’
Photo: Jax Jacobsen

American journalist Jax Jacobsen is used to moving around. The New Yorker has previously lived in Montreal, Washington DC and London. But nothing could have prepared her for the relatively short move across the British channel to France and, in particular, the vagaries of the French housing market.

“As a freelance journalist, I’m used to moving and I have never had any problems. You check the classifieds and typically get some viewings quite quickly. France is a bit different as people tend to stay put. It was a bit of a shock to the system as was being told we had to pay two months’ rent up front,” she says.

Be assertive in getting what you want

After spending two weeks on the telephone chasing real estate agents who weren’t returning her calls, Jax, her partner and their one-year-old son were left living in an Airbnb. That was until she decided to take the direct approach with a property firm.

“I barged in and in my best French demanded to know why they weren’t answering my calls. We immediately were taken to see an apartment,” says the journalist.

Jax adds, “It is good to be polite but you need to be assertive. It worked out great as we got the apartment and that is where we live now.”

Barging into a real estate office isn’t for everyone though, especially if you can’t speak the local language. Fortunately, international moving service Crown Relocations offers a dedicated home search service to help you get your foot in the door at your new destination.

With offices in over 200 locations around the world, including Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Norway, Crown will be there for you on packing day all the way through to when it’s time to settle in to your new home. Or if like Jax you find yourself struggling to find the right home on arrival,  they can also store your items until you do.

Find out more about the services provided by Crown Relocations

Now firmly established in the Paris area, Jacobsen’s move has paid off but she has some words of advice for anyone following a similar path.

“Do your research and talk to people who have also made the move. It’s useful to know practical things like how much money you need for a deposit.”

Joining a Facebook group for expats in your destination country is a good place to start your research. Often the members are very active and willing to help each other out, so pose a question and wait for the replies to roll in.

‘Know what you’re getting yourself into’

Brit Simon Woodsell followed his heart and moved from England to Sweden with his Swedish partner in 2014.

“We visited my partner’s family in 2014 and pretty much, on a whim, decided to move to Sweden. We didn’t have any jobs lined up and only a few thousand pounds in savings,” recalls Woodsell.

Photo: Simon Woodsell and his family.

After moving in with his partner’s family while they searched for a place of their own, Woodsell had to brace himself for a battle with Sweden’s famously efficient but bureaucratic public services, namely the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket), in order to secure the all- important Swedish personal number.

“It took me six months as the Tax Agency initially said I didn’t have means to support myself. Without a personal number, you can’t do anything in Sweden but I got there eventually,” he says.

Having previously worked as a buyer in the UK, Woodsell was unemployed for his first nine months in Sweden. He used this time to learn Swedish and was able to network himself into a part-time job with a local brewery and as a teaching assistant in Västervik, southern Sweden. He has since returned to work as a senior buyer for a major international firm.

Four years on from the big move, Woodsell is settled in Sweden with his partner and their two young daughters. He admits though that he could have prepared better for the move, and being a so-called ‘love refugee’ brings with it a new set of challenges.

Woodsell concludes, “I did a bit of research before the move but I wish that I had done more in advance. You should make sure that you know what you are getting yourself into but I definitely have no regrets about making the move.”

Crown can manage the entire moving process allowing more time for you to prepare yourself and your family for the changes ahead.

Planning an international move? Find out more about how Crown Relocations can help here.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Crown Relocations





Britain to allow ALL citizens living abroad the right to vote

The British government said on Friday it will scrap the 15-year rule that had barred many British voters living abroad from casting a ballot in general elections back home.

Britain to allow ALL citizens living abroad the right to vote
Photo: AFP

The UK government said on Friday that the rule that has barred British nationals from voting if they have lived abroad for over 15 years, will be scrapped in time for the 2020 election.

The government published its intention to ditch the unpopular law, which Britons living abroad have long fought against, by publishing a policy statement titled “Democracy that works for everyone”.

“We believe that overseas electors contribute to British society and should be given that democratic right to vote,” the constitution minister Chris Skidmore said.

“We intend to give those overseas electors the chance to register quickly and securely so they will be able to register to vote in time of the 2020 election.”


Writing in The Telegraph newspaper Skidmore said: “Being British is about so much more than simply being resident in the UK.

“It doesn’t matter where they live, British citizens are still a part of British society, retaining strong cultural and social ties with their families at home and helping to build businesses abroad,” writes Skidmore.

“The decisions that are made on British shores impact our citizens around the world and indeed many plan to return to live here in the future,” he added.

The Conservative government had pledged to scrap the rule as a pre-election promise but many long-term expats living in the EU were left angered when it became clear the government would not push through the change before the crucial referendum.

Indeed the sentiment among many British nationals abroad on Friday was that the announcement had come too late.

“I would have been delighted. Just a few months ago I would have been ecstatic, but now, faced with the impending loss of my EU citizenship and associated rights, the triumph has lost some savour,” said The Local reader Yvonne Flavin.

Nevertheless those British citizens who had long campaigned against the injustice were happy at Friday’s announcement.

“This is great news,” says France-based Brian Cave. “We are nearly there. We shall vote at the next General Election. All those who have taken part in this long campaign will know that it was worth it and as we kept saying: ‘we will win because we are right’.

“Winston Churchill would have said: ‘This is not the end, but it could be the beginning of the end,'” said Cave.

The government will now draw up a bill which must be given the green light by parliament, but all being well all Britons abroad should be able to cast a vote in 2020. 

The next question is will they give Brits abroad our own MPs?