I’m sure no one ever expects an international move to run smoothly and be stress-free. Nato and I learnt from our moving to London experience and did things a little differently this time around, but we still ran in to trouble. Here are my tips for anyone making an international move.
Image courtesy of Simon_sees @ Flickr.com
Tip: get one before you move!
We jetted off for London without jobs and it was a rather harrowing 6 months until we found work. This time around we decided not to move somewhere without at least one of us employed, and as luck would have it, the other found a job within a week of arriving in Hong Kong. Having an income is just one of the benefits of moving for a job, your employer might help with arranging your visa, relocation costs or services, or accommodation. Work is also a great way to meet people and start to establish a social circle, without which a foreign city can be a very lonely place.
Tip: book accommodation for 4-6 weeks to give yourself time to find a flat.
We had only a few nights’ accommodation booked for our arrival in London, assuming we would be able to extend until we found a flat. We were able to extend a few more nights, but then ended up in the only available hotel, The Hilton, whilst we rushed through a 6 month rental. The rental was unsuitable and resulted in us having to move again 6 months later over the Christmas/New Year period when real estate agents were closed and it was snowing.
This time around we were lucky to have 2 weeks accommodation provided by my company, after which we moved into a serviced apartment for a month. This gave us plenty of time to find a flat that would suit us for the next 2 years – the usual rental duration in Hong Kong.
Tip: bring a recent bank statement with an Australian residential address.
The issue with setting up a bank account in a new country is that the bank generally needs a residential address. The issue with getting a residential address is that you generally need a local back account. In the UK we were able to open ‘Passport’ accounts designed specifically to get around the local address issue, and In Hong Kong we were able to open accounts by proving our previous Australian residential address. However this would have been impossible without a recent (last 3 months) bank statement or utility bill which listed a residential address. I had older statements and statements sent to a PO Box and had to scramble to find something that fit the bill.
It is also wise to bring credit cards with you as there can be minimum time on the country requirements before a bank will issue a credit card e.g. in Hong Kong this is generally 3 months.
International funds transfer
Tip – arrange it before you leave Oz.
Once you have a foreign bank account you can arrange an international funds transfer. In London we had parents transfer funds only to discover that it could take up to 10 working days for the funds to arrive. Knowing this we tried to transfer funds from the UK to Hong Kong as soon as we had Hong Kong bank accounts. We discovered that UK transfers require an ‘IBAN number’, whereas Hong Kong does not use the IBAN number system and without it our UK bank would not transfer the funds. I would be able to link my UK and Hong Kong accounts and transfer money cheaply, easily and instantly once I had a security token, but the Hong Kong bank needed my Hong Kong address to send it to (which I don’t have because I don’t have any money to rent a flat!).
Attempt two was transferring money from Australia to Hong Kong, here we ran into another hurdle. To process this, my Australian bank required me to enter a security code, which in the past had been sent via SMS to my Australian mobile. When I tried to update this to a Hong Kong mobile, the system couldn’t take it, when I put in my old sim card to try to access my Australian mobile, the account had been shut down. The Australian bank had to issue me with a security token, but to do so they needed my Hong Kong address to send it to (which I don’t have because I don’t have any money to rent a flat!). In Hong Kong, like in London we had to resort to getting parents to transfer money to us. For a future move I’d try to find a way to open an account and transfer money into it before departure, however this service may well not exist, banks just don’t seem to be set up for customers who want accounts in more than one country. A bank cheque may be another way to go, or if all else fails there is the somewhat risky business of carrying cash, just check the customs restrictions e.g. AUD$10000 or above in cash must be notified to Australian customs.
Tip – Don’t get stuck without it
With internet enabled smart phones, ipads and laptops and free Wi-Fi available at businesses such as Starbucks it is unlikely that you’ll be without internet access. The only place we have encountered issues was Japan, where our hotels had no Wi-Fi, free Wi-Fi points eluded us and it was not possible to get a pre-paid sim for the duration of our visit. So if you are moving to Japan, you might want to check this out before you leave.
With your job, flat, banking and internet sorted you are free to settle in, make some friends and start exploring your new city. Enjoy!