Top tips for relocating abroad

by admin on June 5, 2012


We’ve been in Singapore just over a year now. It’s been a year of huge change, steep learning curves and working out what not to do when faced with the daunting task of relocating abroad. It was our first move from the UK and we didn’t get any help from Mr C’s company, so we really have learnt the hard way.

If you’re moving abroad, it doesn’t matter which country you relocate to, the issues everyone faces are similar. However, if you work for a corporate, you’re laughing as they usually offer a whole heap of support.

Here are my top  tips to make life easier if you are lucky enough to be relocating abroad:

1) Sell not store

It’s super expensive if you have to pay for shipping/storage yourselves. We sold most of our furniture on ebay (for peanuts) as it would have cost too much to ship it all over and we didn’t know if it would fit in our new place (once we found one). You can also use auction houses. We decided there was no point in paying for storage in the UK either as we didn’t know when we’d be back. Furniture dates quickly so what’s the point of  paying to keep things that you would probably go off anyway.

2) Use a reputable moving company

Most moving companies are cowboys – Fact! Despite me doing a huge amount of research, we still got stung really badly. We used a Movecorp because they were the cheapest and they got good reviews, however as we all know cheaper is not always better and we ended up paying the price. Our things didn’t turn up for over 3 months (including all my maternity clothes) so we had to buy everything new, they over-charged us AND they were unbelievably unhelpful. Ask around and check on expat forums for recommended movers.

3) Ask people for help

We tried to do everything ourselves and I’m telling you it’s impossible. A couple of days before we had to move out of our house, I remember sitting in our loft room, 5 months pregnant, surrounded by a mountain of half-packed boxes, crying my eyes out. I wished we’d asked friends/family for help, instead of struggling like we did. Lastly, ASK for help, don’t wait for people to come to you.

4) Get good health insurance

No medical insurance will cover you for maternity if you are already pregnant. I was 5 months pregnant when I arrived in Singapore. What we didn’t realise is we could have carried on with my husband’s BUPA policy he had in the UK. I’d heard endless stories about million dollar babies here- neonatal care costs a fortune, so I was terrified. We ended up finding a company called DKV who could provide new born cover, but had to foot the rest of the huge bill we’d racked up for consultations, scans, tests and the birth.

5) Selecting a school

Get need to get your kids names down for schools yesterday, or as soon as you know you are leaving. Tuition is super expensive here and there are waiting lists at most of the international s#hools (and preschools too). Do your research and work out what is important to you. The top three international schools in Singapore are said to be UWC, Tanglin Trust (the British sch/ol) and SAS (Singapore American School). These often have long waiting lists, as do many of the others as well. Others including The Canadian School, The Australian School and St. Josephs are all very popular too.

Watch out for the extortionate registration fees, usually around $2,500+ per child and facilities/buildings fees too – you NEVER get this back once your child is offered a place. Here’s my thoughts on school fees in Singapore.

6) Finding accommodation once you arrive

  • Do a recce before you move if you can.
  • Work out what your budget is (you don’t get much for your money in Singapore) and what’s important to you. ie. do you want to live in a house or a condo? do you want to live centrally or our of town?
  • Ask around where the best places to live are and visit the areas. For us it had to be family friendly, in a central location near the city, with a pool and good facilities.
  • Speak to friends for recommendations of agents who can help you search. You don’t need to pay agents a fee.
  • Be prepared to compromise if necessary. We live in a fantastic location, but had to compromise on size.
  • Get one or two good agents and see as many properties as you can. I saw about 25 different apartments.
  • Don’t give up, you will find something.
  • PropertyGuru is a great site for seeing what’s on the market.

7) Meet people

Arriving in a new country can be a lonely experience, so throw yourself into life in your new country: accept all social engagements; join playgroups; join expat groups e.g. Meet up is a great place to look. I am a member of Singapore Active Toddlers, Blissful Babies and Singapore International Ladies; each country has its own association which usually runs events for newcomers such as British Association, ANZA, the American Association; talk to mums you meet in shopping malls, the supermarket, in the playground. It will all help you to enjoy yourself and build a network of friends. The Singapore Expat Wives Facebook page is also an excellent source of information.

8) Accept the first few months will be hard!

Please feel free to share any other tips.


Adam Vagley June 12, 2012 at 2:26 am

Hi there,

Excellent post and the advice on moving companies really struck home as my wife and I had a similar challenge moving from New York City to Sydney, Australia. As a result of this information black hole on international movers, we actually just launched as a free resource to collect customer reviews of moving companies.

We’re just starting out, so I’m reaching out to fellow expats to ask them to review their moving experiences on the site. If you could take 60 seconds to rate your mover (or even mention the site on your blog to spread the word to others), I would be grateful for your help!

All the best with your adventures in Singapore,

admin June 13, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Thanks for your comment. Sounds like a great idea! I will definitely help by rating our mover.

Moving Services Maryland June 13, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Great post! It’s also a good idea to look for moving companies with packing experience. This way, you can feel safe that your items will arrive in good condition.

admin June 26, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Yes, I agree it’s very important.

Sara Pratt July 1, 2013 at 3:12 am

Hi, great blog, I’ve read a lot of your articles tonight.
My husband is considering a transfer to SNG. His interview is Tuesday and we are likely to do a recon mission soon if it goes well. We have a 2yo, I SAH and parent gently (attachment parenting?). The idea is not impossible just DAUNTING! This opportunity came out of the blue and we’ve never considered this. I’ve read some things online, but I worry that they are just being ‘nice’ and not actually saying what I need to hear.

*With limited time on a short recon mission (5-7days?) what would you focus your time on? (Hubby is likely to be actually working in the SNG office while we stay at the company apartment.)

*£/$ ! I want a clear picture of your finances. But I’m worried that a month after making a colosal move someone will arrest me for not paying the $2000 ‘Birthday Tax’ or other such unknown silliness. Did anything take you by surprise financially? (I only know about private health, expensive schools, tv)

Thank you so much!

admin July 9, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Hi Sara

It really is a fantastic place to live and great for kids. If I had 5-7 days I’d focus on finding an area you want to live in and look at some apartments/houses and look at schools.
Taxes are very low but the cost of living is high in Singapore. Rents can be high and cars are very expensive. Things like groceries (and wine) are also usually higher than the UK.

If you have any other questions, feel free to email me.

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