Top Mistakes To Avoid When Moving Abroad

Black woman with shocked expression on her face
  1. Mindset – Mindset is everything and is the first thing you need to address before embarking on a move abroad.  Doing some internal work to determine your ‘why’ will help you assess whether or not a move abroad is right for you.  Ask yourself:

    Do you have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset? Meaning, when you’re confronted with a challenge or an obstacle do you face it head-on and do your best to persevere, or do you avoid challenge and give up at the slightest resistance?

    Adjusting to a new environment will require you to develop a sense of flexibility and adaptability.  If your thinking is very rigid, you may limit yourself to the amazing opportunity that living abroad can provide.
  1. Money Mismanagement – Dollar, dollar bills, y’all!!  Having your money right for your move can make or break you.  Are you a spender or a saver? 

    When you move abroad you will be tempted by the allure to do everything, so you have to keep your spending in check in order to avoid burning through your reserve too quickly. Utilize tools like Nomadlist or The Earth Awaits to help you determine the cost of living for the country you wish to relocate to, then use that information to create a realistic budget based on your unique needs. If you need assistance on how to use Nomadlist to plan your Blaxit, check out our tutorial below.
  1. Ignoring Self-Care – Even if you were raring to Blaxit out of your country of origin, it’s natural to develop feelings of remorse, loneliness, depression, or anxiety once the high of being in your new environment wears off.  Doing activities like yoga, walking, hiking, a day spa, or journaling can help you slow down and re-center.  This allows you to identify the source of your feelings.

    You may have returned to your home country or are planning to return to your home country, which could conjure up negative feelings of regret, and failure, or trigger feelings of depression. Check out this guide from Seven Seas Worldwide on looking after your mental health when returning home from abroad.

    Once you’ve identified the source of those negative feelings, you can learn how to manage them appropriately. Reaching out to people who have made their Blaxit or are planning to Blaxit can also help you redirect your energy while satisfying your need for connection. Blaxit Global has a thriving community called Blaxit Global Passport to support you on your journey.
  1. Connecting Only with Expats – Connection is key to helping you gain a sense of community and belonging in your new country.  However, only associating with expats will short-change your new experience and may cause you to hang on to beliefs from your home country.  Communing with locals will help you navigate cultural norms, language, foods, history, and many things you can’t get from reading a book or doing a Google search.
  1. Rushing Through Contracts – While it may be tempting to jump into a long-term lease, buy a home, or start a business in your new country, proceed with caution.  Systems, protections, legalese, and customs often differ from the laws governing your country of origin.

    As an expat, you may have limited or no rights depending on the country you relocate to.  It is important to do your due diligence and to seek the advice of legal counsel in your new country. Explain your situation and be sure to prepare a list of questions ahead of time to help you understand your rights, limitations, costs, and legal recourse, should things go awry.
  1. Failing to Keep Up with Tax Deadlines – Believe it or not, moving abroad does not absolve you from paying taxes. Cue sad music. For folks planning to Blaxit from the United States, the following should come as no surprise. The U.S. is one of only two countries in the world that taxes its citizens regardless of where they live in the world. Nice, right? In addition to filing taxes to the IRS, U.S. citizens have to report their foreign financial accounts each year by filing a Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR). Check out this video to learn more

    Don’t worry, there is a bright side.  According to the IRS, a U.S. citizen can exclude up to $120,000 of foreign-earned income per year.  Married individuals can exclude as much as $224,000 for the 2023 tax year. Just note, you also need to file taxes in the country where you earned income and deadlines may differ from your country of origin. 

“In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”. – Benjamin Franklin

  1. Bringing Too Much Stuff – You can’t take it with you. Well, I guess you can but it will come at a price.  A big mistake newbie expats make is bringing too much with them.  Depending on where you choose to relocate, your new home may come furnished or your existing furniture may not fit into your new surroundings.  Purging before you leave will help you avoid the costs of shipping all of your belongings abroad.

    Pro Tip: Selling as much as you can before you leave, will give you extra money. 🙂
  1. Moving Abroad Without Visiting First – Don’t be that person. Moving abroad without researching the country and going on a scouting trip is a setup for failure.  Even if you’ve visited a place on vacation and it gave you all of the feels, you still have to take the time to visit again before laying down roots. 

    Visiting a country as a tourist is vastly different than visiting with the intent of becoming a resident or citizen.  When visiting, do your best to find out about housing, job/business opportunities, banking, and places to shop that are outside of the tourist traps. Reminder: When in doubt, refer to #4.
  1. Not Learning the Language – While many feel that English is the language of commerce, not learning the local language can be costly as well.  If you are moving to a country where English isn’t spoken, at the very least, you will need to spend some time learning a new language. Basic greetings and common queries (ie: How much does this cost?) will often buy you favor among the locals.  Learning the local language is also a sign of respect and can possibly keep you from being taken advantage of. If you need advice on how to get started, check out our article, “The Language of Learning”.

  2. Poor Organization – Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes new expats make is poor organization. You will need to be on your A-game if you want a successful Blaxit.  Managing deadlines for your passport, visa, FBI Criminal Background Check, taxes, etc. requires that you have greater attention to detail than usual.  Getting a binder, whiteboard, or hiring an organizer, can help you gain control and avoid feelings of overwhelm. 

    Conclusion: Whew, you’ve made it this far, so pat yourself on the back. Avoiding these mistakes will keep you on the straight and narrow for your move abroad.  What would you add to this list?

Chrishan Wright is the visionary behind Blaxit Global—an influential platform inspiring and empowering the African diaspora to embrace a life abroad. As the dynamic host of the Blaxit Global Podcast, Chrishan amplifies the stories of Black expats, weaving a narrative that transcends boundaries.

Chrishan's impact extends far beyond the podcast, as she's become a sought-after freelance journalist and speaker. Her compelling insights have garnered attention from media outlets including The New York Times, HuffPost, PBS, InStyle Magazine, The Houston Chronicle, Travel Noire, and more. As a speaker, she brings a unique perspective on the intersection of culture, identity, and the transformative power of relocation.

Beyond her professional pursuits, Chrishan is a devoted mother to two adult children. Fueling her passion for exploration, she embarked on her own journey, leaving the United States in 2023 to call Lisbon, Portugal, home. Chrishan's story is not just about relocation; it's a testament to the profound impact of embracing change and finding empowerment in the global tapestry of life. Join Chrishan on this transformative journey and let her experiences inspire your own adventure abroad.

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