How to adjust to life if you’ve moved to Europe

TransferWise
12.10.20
5 minute read

Moving to Europe is no doubt a ‘bucket list’ item for many people around the world. The history, diverse cultures and languages, and excellent quality of life are just some of the reasons that people dream of living in Europe.

In 2020, however, such a move looks a bit different. Europe’s languages are heard muffled through masks, restaurants are closed, cultural events are postponed, in-person appointments have shifted to video conference calls, and, well, you get the gist.

But all that’s not to say living in Europe should be erased from life’s big to-dos. Au contraire. Approximately, 33 milion expats and immigrants call Europe home. And whether it’s 2010, 2020, or 2030, moving to Europe always requires a little getting used to. Here are 5 tips to help you consider how to make the move.

1. Money without borders


In a year in which Europe experienced tightened border restrictions, TransferWise’s mission of “money without borders” is a welcome contrast, making it far cheaper, easier and more convenient to send money internationally.

Moving countries can be expensive — thousands of dollars of costs can accumulate, even before the moment when your feet first hit the ground. So, it’s important not to make things more expensive by overpaying on transfer fees or exchange rates when you transfer money internationally. TransferWise’s online account lets you send money for a fraction of the price compared to banks and PayPal — no matter whether you’re transferring money for loans, a home, moving costs or to support family.

TransferWise’s multi-currency account also lets you hold balances in over 50 currencies, send and receive payments, and spend or shop internationally with its debit card. It means you won’t be charged the high international transaction fees or exchange rates that other providers charge.

2. Costs to consider


Did I mention that moving abroad is expensive? Shipping alone can cost thousands, and even if you’re not bringing all of your furniture, storage back home could also cost a pretty penny.

Some people may find it helpful to hire lawyers, relocation services, accountants, insurance brokers, and other similar services to make adjusting to life in Europe a little bit easier. These decisions are entirely personal, but are something to factor into your financial planning.

As far as banking goes, there are plenty of options. Europe has been one of the global leaders in fintech, so there are increasingly more digital banks that offer services in both the local and international languages. These could be good options, but don’t hesitate to ask other expats, colleagues, or immigrants for recommendations.

Lastly, in Europe, a good rule of thumb is to always have a bit of cash on hand. While COVID has forced a more rapid adoption of contactless payment methods, some shops and cafes still only accept cash.

3. COVID and delivery


Both regional and national governments have issued updated restrictions and recommendations throughout the year to slow the spread of coronavirus. Be sure to stay informed by following the latest protocols from government websites or your local news, and identify your local testing centers and tracing apps. For high-level data and information about the EU’s COVID response, visit the EU website, or go to The Local, an English-language news site, which has great coverage of developments in France, Spain, Scandinavia, Germany, and elsewhere.

While you may not be sipping sangria or testing tapas with new friends inside restaurants these days, the good news is that many restaurants offer takeaway or delivery options. A great way to support local businesses — and also take a break from cooking — is to budget for ordering from local restaurants or cafe owners.

If you prefer to cook, many local grocery stores and startups provide last-mile delivery services as well. Because, let’s face it, feeling the ripeness of avocados or apples at the market isn’t as appealing during a pandemic.

4. Learning the local language


Many Europeans speak English very well as a second language, but it’s certainly not something you should take for granted. It’s also so important to try learning the language locals speak, even if it’s just to be able to use key phrases. Many also say learning a second language can also encourage you to think differently — and isn’t that part of moving abroad, too?

But the added benefit of learning another language during COVID is that it can make you feel more integrated into your new city from the confines of your apartment. Close interactions with others can be limited, so watching European shows and taking language courses with fellow foreigners could be a very positive experience and introduce you to your new cultural surroundings without having to venture into crowds.

5. Finding a group


Communities exist both online and offline — find them! No matter what European country or city you now find yourself in, there are surely Facebook groups for fellow expats, email distribution lists for similar professions, and meet-ups for locals and non-locals with similar interests. Give them all a try. And during times like COVID, having groups and resources to rely on can be both helpful and comforting.

Note that a lot of people on expat lists in particular will share legal and tax advice. Treat those pieces of advice with a grain of salt and as more anecdotal. Always check with a lawyer or accountant for your specific questions.

Conclusion

While it’s hard to limit a move to Europe to just five tips, know that such a leap always entails a bit of a learning curve. And while global headlines around the pandemic may only suggest doom and gloom, know that it’s a positive experience to move abroad — one that you’ll always remember.

If it sticks, too, this widespread remote work we’ve experienced this year may only make moves abroad a bit more common in the future. As the Wall Street Journal recently put it, working from abroad could become the new working from home. So, whether it’s working from abroad or a more long-term move to Europe, understanding your options with TransferWise and learning to adjust to new environments will serve you well.


Need to send or receive money internationally? TransferWise can help you manage your money across borders more cheaply and easily. Join our 9 million customers at TransferWise.com, or through our Android or iOS app.

TransferWise is the smart, new way to send money abroad.

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