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Ask HN: What are your experiences re: relocating?
27 points by daryllxd 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 22 comments
How's it been? I'm thinking of relocating soon, moving countries. I'd just like to ask for some stories. Things you discovered, things you didn't realize you needed, etc.



* Find a short term sublet so you can look for a more permanent place once you're on the ground, or take a week(end) to fly up and look at places. Taking a place remotely is a gamble.

* Long-distance moving companies don't expect repeat business so scams abound. In my case they loaded the truck then demanded almost double the payment as they'd "underestimated" the weight by 100%. Heard a lot of other similar stories. Word of mouth or a corporate rec (repeat business) seems to be the best way to go.

* I moved too much stuff, sell as many large items as possible and re-purchase at the other end. Moving couches, wardrobes, etc. costs a ton, risks damage, and such items are easily replaceable commodities.

* Negotiate relocation expenses as part of a job offer. Take what you expect it to cost and double it. Moving fees, broker fees, trips back and forth add up really quickly.

* If you have a partner/family, make sure they are on board and have a clear plan once they get there to get established, find work, make friends, etc. Moving to a new place changes you, so be prepared for that growth and change - and make a conscious effort to grow in alignment with your partner. You have a job in place and a built in way to make social connections, if your partner does not then it can be an isolating experience that can put a lot of strain on your relationship.


* Find a short term sublet so you can look for a more permanent place once you're on the ground, or take a week(end) to fly up and look at places. Taking a place remotely is a gamble.

Always, always find short-term accommodations if you can afford it. Trying to find an apartment in a week in a city you're not familiar with is a huge source of stress and you'll most likely end up living in a sub-optimal location.


I moved from Chicago to Austin and left every single thing behind aside from clothes and necessities like my toothbrush. Having toilet paper on me for the flight from Chicago>Austin was probably the best thing I've ever done.

I made one huge mistake: I signed my lease over the internet, without having seen the place first. It actually worked out for me, but the risk of getting scammed is too big for that sort of business. I'm not ever doing that again.

I'm moving to San Francisco in a week so I'm doing the same thing over again. This time, I have a few more things I want to keep than before, so I'll likely be paying rent for March and then flying back and shipping a few things over to San Francisco.

Everything I don't intend on keeping, like desks and chairs, is being given away or donated. That stuff is too cheap to move across the country. For example, I think my desk cost around $150. I've already gotten a lot of use out of it. So now factoring in the fact that I'd have to take it apart, pay for the shipping, and worrying about it arriving safely, it doesn't really make sense to save it. Also it's a glass desk, which is a giant freaking pain.


Second this one furniture. It's really expensive and a hassle to move furniture or large items by air or sea. Best thing is to sell it and buy it again at the other end.

Read up on minimalism.... you don't need as much as you think you might.


The secret weapon to my last few moves has been airbnb. Book 30 to 45 days somewhere central to the areas you'd like to live, or in a neighborhood you want a feel for.

You get a block-by-block feel for the locale really quickly, that you could never get online. 30+ days is enough time that you can do multiple application cycles for properties and not have to worry about settling in the first batch or being homeless.

It costs a bit of a premium in a major city, but i find the insight and optionality to be more than worth it.

Also, make sure you consider your relo package in terms of post-tax income. If your movers cost 2k and you get 2k in relo, taxes are going to chop that in half and you'll lose money. This is a mistake you only make once :)


That's a great idea on Airbnb! Let's you relax and explore the neighboorhoods. Test commute times etc


I've done it a fair few times now. I've always tried to plan everything in advance, but I've learnt you will always run into unexpected problems, which you just have to solve as you are going along, rather than get frustrated that your plans went awry. Language is likely to be the biggest hurdle unless of course you are going somewhere where you already speak the lingo! One thing that still bugs me is where being one of very few white people I stand out like a sore thumb and everyone stares at me when I walk down the street. I'm also a lot taller than the average person here which makes things even worse!

One other thing - moving to another country, if it's much different from your home, will give you a new appreciation for things you took for granted in your homeland.

Of course, it all depends on how different the countries are - moving from UK to Denmark may be less of hurdle than moving from UK to Laos!

p.s. When I moved countries the only thing I took was a single carry on bag - a small rucksack. Be as minimalist as you can get away with!

p.p.s I have refined my packing list considerably, but I always pack at least two Hanes v-neck T-shirts. Very versatile item of clothing - incredibly comfortable and you can use them for sleeping, as an undershirt on colder climes, or for more general wear.


I've spent the better part of the last ten years relocating.

The list of things you learn can grow long and every country is different.

My big tip is brace yourself for the admin and settling in. Admin as in basic things like getting official ID, social insurance registration (if applicable for that country), registering with the local city office. These are tedious, confusing, and sap all the excitement out of moving. Settling in is simplified with the tip below about moving with less.

But nonetheless, every little thing becomes big; for example when you get a flat, do you need to notify the various utilities departments to turn things back on? Where do you get furniture?

As boring and frustrating as it sounds, and hardly a welcome to the city, just take it in stride and every new way of doing things as a learning rather than "how much something doesn't make sense here". It's a one-off setup (at least if you stay), and you'll have plenty of time to make friends after. You might even be making friends with colleagues pretty quickly if you ask them for help moving furniture.

Good luck with the move and adventure!


I'd agree with a lot of that. I moved from Scotland to Finland, along with my (Finnish) wife. Moving mostly involved hiring space on a shipping container, and carrying a couple of big suitcases each. The hard part starts when you land.

Luckily my wife moved over 1 week before me, and in that time managed to handle some of the obvious needs - she signed a year long lease on a flat, and then visited a recycling center to buy a dining-table, chairs, a sofa, book-cases, a bed, and similar essentials.

In my case I had to register with the police, get a residency agreement, open a bank account, sort out a mobile phone, ad similar things. They weren't difficult, as most people were able to speak to me in English, but they were time-consuming and beaurocratic.

Two (three?) years later I'm fully settled, and the experience has largely been positive. I miss UK-TV, I miss hearing a wide array of accents (and I hate that I can't tell anything about Finnish people from their name, or their accents.) My language skills are slowly improving, and life feels good (although much more hectic these days due to a small child. Who we're trying to raise as bilingual ).

My only real suggestion for people changing countries is: Resist the temptation to hang out with ex-pats. Meet locals. Interact with locals. Be local.


Once you move in, make an active effort to meet people and get to know a place. :-)


I moved from Canada to Korea.

The most difficult part was getting a phone, which depended on having a bank card, and the bank card depended on having my residency card. No individual part was difficult, but each step took time ("come back in a week to pick up your ID card") which was frustrating and lengthy.

If you are moving to a country where you don't speak the native language, hopefully you will have some friendly coworkers that are willing to help you through some of the language barriers (going to the bank was a big one). Additionally, try to live an area of the city where you might meet some people that also speak your language. In my case I lived in an older area of the city where there was a small American military base, so there were lots of English-speaking people around, which makes day-to-day tasks a lot easier (pharmacy, doctor, haircuts, etc).

Also lookout for some non-obvious cultural differences. I had a friend that was vegan, and she had a very hard time going out to eat (which is big part of the Korean culture) because vegan food was hard to find (meat and fish are very popular there).


I've been to Korea too. Are you a developer there? How's it like?


My most recent relocation (and the first one I did without my family) was from Australia to Sweden. I planned the move over a bit more than a year before actually going through with it. My experience basically went as follows:

* I decided to move to Europe as there is more of a games industry here than Australia

* Started process of getting Australian citizenship to be eligible for Working Holiday Visa to EU

* Was running my own business so saved about 6 months worth of funds to live here without a job while going through citizenship process (a bit more)

* Wasn't sure which country I'd be going to yet, but met my partner online at the same time and he happens to live in Sweden (which also has a great games industry), so it made sense to make it Sweden

* Got Working Holiday Visa to Sweden, moved (luckily this part was made easier since I was splitting rent with partner and not having to look for a place to live by myself).

* Started applying for work immediately through web applications.

* Started work about 1-1.5 months after moving. This was a bit over 5 years ago.

It was much easier to get a job while on location. I had experience in game dev in Australia but not much, and there weren't many companies to get more experience around here. While I got some remote interviews for jobs from Australia, none of them panned out - nobody was willing to relocate someone without that much experience in games to the other side of the world. This is why it was especially important to save a nice chunk of cash, to be able to afford the move and some uncertainty while trying to find a job on location.

For many job language barrier would be an issue - most people speak very good English here, but many jobs still require Swedish, which I did not know. The games industry was an exception.

If going this route (ie starting off with a working holiday visa), it helps a lot to land a job with a fairly large company that has contractors or third party companies helping with visas etc. It helped a lot to have someone help me apply for my normal employment based residence permit once already in the country (sometimes you risk being told to go back while your application is being processed, and processing times can get very long).

Overall it has been great. I love the country, have a good job (been with the same company for these 5 years), and two amazing cats. Taxes are high, but I feel I/we get good public benefits. Pay is not as high as it would be in the US, but with the general quality of life, public benefits, work-life balance, job security, etc I do not feel lacking in any way.


I lived abroad for 4 years. When you lose that community of friends and family, it has a significant impact on your support network both from an emotional and practical sense.

Doing simple things like moving house become a lot harder when you have fewer friends to call on to help you. You'll probably end up paying someone to do it.

In terms of being away from family and friends, I found the first two years easy. It was exciting to be in a new country and travel for work. The third and fourth years were harder. Ex-pats say they are often torn between the better quality of life and all the friends and family they have back home.

I moved back after 4 years and I'm loving it :)


I am not sure from where you are relocating from and to. but relocating between countries are called immigration. just my experience: -if you don't know anybody on your target location and are relying on HN for advice, you are going to have really hard time. -if you don't have a very solid reason of why you are doing this that can carry you through it, you are going to have really hard time.

when people are doing this(me included) they are always think about bright side, think about the worst case that you can imagine happen and in reality it would be 10 time worse :D


Try to live there for 1-3 months if possible before moving so you don't get suprised (ex: a lot of people hate you in Paris for not knowing french, while I can handle it, it breaks my balls etc)


When you move country, financial accounts can be a pain. Particularly when it relates to the US.

You might find it easier not to tell your bank/broker that you've moved abroad. Many US insitutions will close down your account if they find out you've left the country. If you have enough cash (I think the min. is $25,000) Charles Schwab International is a good one to go with.


Don't lose the sense of wonder too quickly. It can be easy to get buried in work and then things go from "new" to routine too quickly. Be a local tourist and go see things before you start thinking "that's what tourists do".


philosophical part: * tone down all your expectations. really * find friends to be your senses - other places need other "senses" which u dont have yet.

technical part: * moving alone needs only a backpack. Moving with a family needs a bit more, but not that much; only take important unfindable-over-there things. i.e. memories and uniques. i moved alone forward 20kg, and back (with a kid), 300kg - 30% of which were audio-stuff.. could have been sold/given-away/left. Important but: once u go over some weight-or-volume threshold, it might be near-same-price to take half the house and even the car :/


I moved countries twice, first from Slovakia to Ireland, and then to San Francisco. While its lot of stress I dont regred it. Apart fron all other advices, try to get bank account sorted as top priority.


End up taking lots of selfie,or like machine learning as "i need to use capsules network, but maxpooling still the best".

After a lot of thinking there will be a conclusion....

And ultimately stop thinking, because work is worshiping!


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