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I am Canadian and I have been living in Europe for over 2 years now (doing a Master degree and now a PhD). I always get asked why I decided to make the move abroad.
This article will discuss all the things I considered before making the move abroad. It’s an important decision that literally changes your life forever. So do take the time to consider everything.
If you’re considering moving abroad, don’t forget to read my list of things you must do to prefer for your move abroad!
Obviously this was the first thing I considered. I did not want to end up somewhere where I couldn’t support myself financially.
You might be asking yourself, “Then why on earth would you go to Switzerland of all places?” As an FYI, Switzerland is one of the world’s most expensive countries to live in!
Well, I was fortunate enough to receive a 2-year scholarship to cover all my tuition and living expenses. Cash flow wouldn’t be a problem for me during two years.
Had it not been for the scholarship, I am not sure if I would have had the guts to leave my job, my family, and my friends to live abroad.
It’s pretty hard to find a job abroad, so I’d recommend a budget of at least 3-6 months of living expenses if you decide to move abroad without a guaranteed source of income!
When I moved to Switzerland, I had only about one month’s worth of living expenses in cash with me and it depleted really fast!
Don’t underestimate how much money you’ll spend when you first move abroad! Little expenses add up!
I recommend making a budget and sticking to it!
2. Managing finances abroad
I looked up how to make a bank account in Switzerland and just how easy or difficult it would be to manage my finances abroad.
I soon realised that most of the Swiss credit cards are not very great – they all have pretty high fees and you earn almost no rewards back.
I decided to keep my Canadian credit card and I signed up for one that didn’t have foreign exchange fees.
I also looked into how to transfer money easily from Canada to Switzerland. TransferWise was by far the best option. This service allows you to transfer money across different countries for an extremely low fee. Sign up and get your first transfer for free!
3. Tax implications
I needed to know what my tax status would be considering that I am a Canadian citizen but living abroad.
Did I have to report taxes on my scholarship? How about income on my rental property back in Canada?
I hate doing taxes and even though I’m a CPA I like to avoid dealing with taxes as much as possible.
I did my homework and made sure that my tax situation was ok and that I wouldn’t be breaking any rules in Canada or Switzerland.
Insurance was a big hurdle for me. In Canada, public health care is free and I took it for granted. I used to go running to the doctor for every little thing.
In Switzerland, everything is private. I had to pay monthly for health insurance that didn’t cover much! And every time I saw a doctor, I had to pay a portion of it out of pocket.
Before leaving Canada, I made sure to understand how the mandatory health insurance worked in Switzerland.
And of course, I did alllll the checkups before leaving to make sure that I’m in tip-top shape! Who knew when the next time I’d see a doctor would be?!
5. Ease of moving back to Canada
Moving abroad sounded glorious but I was always scared that I might not like it. I wanted to make sure that it’d be pretty easy to move back to Canada if things didn’t work out.
It seemed like leaving Switzerland wouldn’t be a problem if I decided to leave after my first semester. I’d just have to pay a lot of fines for leaving my apartment and cancelling my cell phone prematurely. Other than that, there wasn’t much to lose.
I felt better knowing that I could always return home in case things didn’t go as planned!
6. Distance from home
Since all my friends and family are still in Canada, I wanted to be somewhere where I could still visit regularly.
So far, I’ve been back, on average, once a year. I could go home more often than that but I don’t like travelling long distances and suffering from jet lag.
What’s nice is Toronto-Geneva is only about 9 hours direct flight.
I could fly home pretty quickly in case of emergencies! This was a relief!
7. Language & culture
Language and culture were also a big part of my consideration to move abroad.
Since I am Canadian, I grew up speaking French and it was never a problem for me to move to the French part of Switzerland. I don’t think I could ever have survived moving to the German-speaking part of Switzerland since my German level is equivalent to a 3-year-old’s.
I also really love the French/Swiss culture based on my previous visits and my exchange to France in 2007.
For the most part, I wouldn’t say the Swiss culture differs a whole lot from Canadian culture. Canadians tend to be friendlier, more relaxed, and more open, but other than that, I didn’t see the Swiss culture to be a huge barrier for me. In fact, I quite like that Swiss people are so reserved!
8. Future career opportunities
I did a Master degree abroad and of course, I didn’t want it to go to waste. I looked into what types of jobs I would be able to get with a degree from my university.
The university I chose in Switzerland is actually one of the top-ranked in the country despite being relatively unknown outside of Switzerland! I was relieved to say that finding a job afterwards would pose no problem.
Another thing I wanted to make sure was that I had the right to work while I was studying. In Switzerland, foreign students can work up to ~15 hours part-time on the student visa. This was a relief because I knew that I might have to get a part-time job to support myself!
9. Learning opportunities
I’m someone who continually strives to learn and improve.
Moving abroad was an excellent way to put myself out of my comfort zone and develop skills that I would never have otherwise been able to develop.
Two years of living abroad forced me to REALLY learn how to be self-sufficient. There was no mommy or daddy to bail me out anymore.
I had to learn how to find my own apartment as a foreigner. Make my own bank account as a foreigner. Try to make new friends as a foreigner. The list goes on.
I even had to learn how to live off pennies during the months when I had no income. It was not easy!
10. Travel opportunities
I put this point last because it seems like a rather “stupid” reason to move abroad.
But I have to admit. Part of my decision had to do with the fact that Switzerland is located in the centre of Europe. I can easily travel to any European country within 1-2 hours.
I am a huge travel nut and I really wanted to go somewhere which allowed me to continue travelling and discovering new places!
What was unexpected was that after moving to Switzerland, I lost most of my “wanderlust.” Most weekends I prefer just staying in Switzerland because being here already feels like a vacation.
Nevertheless, I’m still glad I can take off on short weekend trips whenever I feel like it. It’s not a bad perk to have 😉
I love living abroad and I couldn’t tell you how much longer I’m planning to live abroad. Maybe forever!
I used to get nightmares about moving abroad and regretting it. I used to wake up in the middle of the night and ask myself, “Am I really doing this?”
I had tons of friends and family trying to talk me out of the idea of moving abroad because they said it’s dangerous and I’m walking away from such good opportunities back home.
Two years later, I haven’t regretted a thing! Living abroad has been the best thing that’s every happened to me and I can’t wait to keep sharing my experience with you!
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