When I decided to move to Belgium, there were some obvious things I needed to do to prepare; quit my job, buy new luggage, pack/sell my things, get my cat’s travel documents in order, get my own travel documents in order…but there is always that sinking feeling you’re forgetting about something. And I was forgetting something. About a million somethings.
These are things I really should have planned before I moved, but never really thought about until I arrived in Belgium. Some of them are more serious things (health insurance, taxes, etc) and some of them are more trivial things (hair salons, birth control, etc); but they are all pretty important things to figure out, and preferably before you make your big move.
Finding A Hair-Dresser
Oddly enough, this is a pretty big deal for us women who move here to Belgium. Unlike men, we don’t trust just anyone with our hair and have most likely been going to the same hairdresser all our lives. So to make a move to another country, the search is going to be pretty extensive until we find one we trust. This could mean stacking your luggage with some of our favourite hair-care products to tide us over until we have found that special someone who can work their hair-magic on us.
As a tourist, you often can rely on public transport for the week(s)/month(s) spent in that country, but when you move somewhere, you might need to re-consider your mode of transportation. We live in a very small village, and absolutely none of my client’s houses are accessible by bus. Luckily, I was able to easily switch my Canadian (Ontario) drivers license to one here in Belgium; no tests required! However, a lot of countries (and even other provinces within Canada) are not as easily switched to a Belgian license.
Now I just have to learn how to drive a standard car…
To move here (twice), I had to borrow some luggage bags from my parents. I have 2 bags of my own, but I also needed to use 2 of my mother’s bags…which are now just sitting in my attic along with some very cute pieces of her summer wardrobe. (…sorry, mom; thanks for the luggage and the clothes!)
Your Possessions Back Home
The first time I moved to Belgium, I (stupidly) attempted to keep a lot of my things back in Canada; including my car, my couch, my chairs and my kitchen table. The car sat and gathered even more rust then it already had, the couch was used by a family friend and the table was scratched up by the dogs while sitting in my mother’s garage.
The second time I packed for the move, I decided it was silly to leave those things back in Canada when I was starting a new life in Belgium. I said goodbye to my rusty ’97 Sunfire, I sold my furniture and used that money to buy new furniture here in Belgium.
Your Birth Control
In 2013, I went a little over board and decided to buy an entire years’ supply of my birth control pills before coming here to Belgium, because I didn’t want the added anxiety of finding a new doctor. Well, that was just stupid; because if I am living here, I will obviously need a doctor at some point. In 2015, I brought only a 3 months’ supply with me and then found a doctor here who prescribed me the same kind…which made me realize it is cheaper here in Belgium, so buying that years’ supply REALLY feels stupid, now.
Your Taxes (in both countries)
This was actually something I had thought about before moving (celebratory wave of excitement about being a successful adult…)
Anyways, I have never been very good at figuring out tax-related problems, but I got pretty lucky with my moving dates, as they usually coincided with the beginning or ending of a year. Knowing I was moving to Belgium in February, I purposefully quit my job the last week in December; making it so I hadn’t worked at all in Canada in the following year. This made filing taxes a lot easier that year, but things get really tricky when you work in one country, quit your job, move to another country and find work there. Make sure you consult a professional to keep up with your taxes in both countries while you need to.
Obviously you will have a bank in your home country and a bank in the country you’re moving to, but something I never thought about was making sure those banks worked well (or at all) together. Luckily when I moved to Belgium, I decided to go with ING bank, which they also have in Canada. Although I am tied to my lesser-known credit union bank in Canada (due to my student loan) – I am still able to easily move money from one bank to the other. I hadn’t really thought of researching into this, and it’s just a coincidence that my banks in both countries were able to work so well together.
Your Health Insurance (in both countries)
There are a lot of health-insurance related questions you need to figure out, and preferably before you move. I did not figure any of them out, and it’s a lot harder to do that once you’re in another country.
See, in Canada I am covered by OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Policies); however, I found out if you leave Ontario for more then 8 months at a time, your insurance is temporarily suspended. You then have to be back in Ontario for at least that amount of time before your insurance kicks back in. If you’re out of the province for longer then 2 years, your insurance is voided completely…and I’m not really sure what happens then…
((Although this isn’t a direct issue for us right now, it could pose as an issue in our future, as it’s pretty important to me that (when we decide to have a baby) he/she is born in Canada, even if we are living here in Belgium.))
Your Back Up Plan(s)
Your friend is having a surprise, spontaneous wedding or (heaven forbid) a family member passes away and you have to book an unexpected flight back to your country. Having a savings or at least a credit card with enough room on it for that emergency flight home is something none of us expect to happen, but it definitely could.
It’s pretty easy to leave your rental apartment or sublet your house, but that can backfire pretty easily if you’re ever suddenly in a situation where you need to move back to your country and have no where to stay/live. Having a back up plan (a parents’ house, a friends’ house, etc) for any time you need to visit for a long period of time or move back completely is just a good idea. Again…thanks mom and dad for housing me when I need you!)
Gym Memberships/Health Regimes
If fitness and health are really important to you, you might want to leave some money in your ever-twindling travel account for those things. With a huge school loan and ridiculous visa-application and travel fees, I didn’t have that extra bit of money for any kind of health regime. Luckily, a fairly big tax refund got me a year membership to the gym when I got here.
The Things You’ll Miss…
If I had known there was no American-style Kraft Dinner here in Belgium, I would have brought an entire other suitcase of it with me to Belgium. I probably would have stuck some maple syrup in there too…
If there are things from your country that you won’t be able to find in your new country, it’s worth the extra baggage fees to bring those little pieces of home with you.
Canceling Subscriptions / Renewing Prescriptions
Canceling magazine/newspaper subscriptions and getting my prescriptions filled before moving to another country are actually two things I did think of before I moved. It would be pretty awkward if your the new tenant in your old apartment or house was just getting your monthly subscriptions…
Events You’ll Miss
My sister moved to the other side of Canada recently to attend college, which meant having to miss her highschool graduation back in Ontario. Be sure to RSVP “no” to events you had previously agreed to attend.
Long Term Packing
I moved here in February, and brought all of my sentimental Christmas decorations with me. As weird as it was, I knew I wouldn’t be back in Canada before the next Christmas, and I knew I needed my ornaments for our first tree in our new home. Be sure to think about the things you’ll need months from now, and not just the things you’ll need right now.