‘What I wish I’d known before I moved abroad’

Moving is never easy but upping sticks for a new life abroad is even tougher. The Local caught up with two expats to find out about what they wish they’d known before the big move.

‘What I wish I’d known before I moved abroad’
Photo: Jax Jacobsen

American journalist Jax Jacobsen is used to moving around. The New Yorker has previously lived in Montreal, Washington DC and London. But nothing could have prepared her for the relatively short move across the British channel to France and, in particular, the vagaries of the French housing market.

“As a freelance journalist, I’m used to moving and I have never had any problems. You check the classifieds and typically get some viewings quite quickly. France is a bit different as people tend to stay put. It was a bit of a shock to the system as was being told we had to pay two months’ rent up front,” she says.

Be assertive in getting what you want

After spending two weeks on the telephone chasing real estate agents who weren’t returning her calls, Jax, her partner and their one-year-old son were left living in an Airbnb. That was until she decided to take the direct approach with a property firm.

“I barged in and in my best French demanded to know why they weren’t answering my calls. We immediately were taken to see an apartment,” says the journalist.

Jax adds, “It is good to be polite but you need to be assertive. It worked out great as we got the apartment and that is where we live now.”

Barging into a real estate office isn’t for everyone though, especially if you can’t speak the local language. Fortunately, international moving service Crown Relocations offers a dedicated home search service to help you get your foot in the door at your new destination.

With offices in over 200 locations around the world, including Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Norway, Crown will be there for you on packing day all the way through to when it’s time to settle in to your new home. Or if like Jax you find yourself struggling to find the right home on arrival,  they can also store your items until you do.

Find out more about the services provided by Crown Relocations

Now firmly established in the Paris area, Jacobsen’s move has paid off but she has some words of advice for anyone following a similar path.

“Do your research and talk to people who have also made the move. It’s useful to know practical things like how much money you need for a deposit.”

Joining a Facebook group for expats in your destination country is a good place to start your research. Often the members are very active and willing to help each other out, so pose a question and wait for the replies to roll in.

‘Know what you’re getting yourself into’

Brit Simon Woodsell followed his heart and moved from England to Sweden with his Swedish partner in 2014.

“We visited my partner’s family in 2014 and pretty much, on a whim, decided to move to Sweden. We didn’t have any jobs lined up and only a few thousand pounds in savings,” recalls Woodsell.

Photo: Simon Woodsell and his family.

After moving in with his partner’s family while they searched for a place of their own, Woodsell had to brace himself for a battle with Sweden’s famously efficient but bureaucratic public services, namely the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket), in order to secure the all- important Swedish personal number.

“It took me six months as the Tax Agency initially said I didn’t have means to support myself. Without a personal number, you can’t do anything in Sweden but I got there eventually,” he says.

Having previously worked as a buyer in the UK, Woodsell was unemployed for his first nine months in Sweden. He used this time to learn Swedish and was able to network himself into a part-time job with a local brewery and as a teaching assistant in Västervik, southern Sweden. He has since returned to work as a senior buyer for a major international firm.

Four years on from the big move, Woodsell is settled in Sweden with his partner and their two young daughters. He admits though that he could have prepared better for the move, and being a so-called ‘love refugee’ brings with it a new set of challenges.

Woodsell concludes, “I did a bit of research before the move but I wish that I had done more in advance. You should make sure that you know what you are getting yourself into but I definitely have no regrets about making the move.”

Crown can manage the entire moving process allowing more time for you to prepare yourself and your family for the changes ahead.

Planning an international move? Find out more about how Crown Relocations can help here.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Crown Relocations





From TV to snacks: Tips for how to get your home comforts in France

Here are some tips for how to get your favourite TV shows and snacks whilst living in France so you can enjoy at least some of the comforts from home.

From TV to snacks: Tips for how to get your home comforts in France
Photo: AFP
There’s nothing quite like sitting down in front of the TV with a cup of tea and Mars Bar or Snickers.
But tuning into the your favourite shows or hunting down your favourite tea bags isn’t always easy when you’re living in France.

The easiest way to tune into English-language TV from your home in France is via a satellite dish. 

For Brits living in France, installing a dish and FreeSat box will get you up to 140 TV and radio channels from back home, so you can tune into the latest series of the Great British Bake Off without a hitch. 

You make a one-off payment and then you’re set – no contract necessary.

To set your satellite connection up and pointed in the right direction, get in touch with an installer such as The French HouseDD ElectronicsDigiTV Solutions or FreeSat in France

But if you don't fancy (or just can't) install a big dish on your house then watching TV via the internet is your other option.

There are sites like Film On TV, which used to be free, but now you'll probably have to pay to watch your favourite channels, although it still offers some programmes free for a certain amount of time.

Many expats have turned to VPNs (Virtual Private Network) for their laptops which essentially disguises what country you are in, so you can watch your favourite TV programmes online.

But TV companies like the BBC and Sky are cracking down on VPNs and making it harder for expats to connect. However the EU is putting pressure on broadcasters to allow people to watch TV no matter what country they are in. SO things may change for the better in the future.

Finally, British expats who split their time between the UK and France BBC iPlayerAll4Sky Go and ITV Hub all allow UK TV licence payers to download programmes and keep them for around 30 days. So you could stock up when you go home and settle into the sofa for 30 days when you get back.

American readers missing their TV shows will be pleased to know there's an option for you too. 

Digital satellite provider CanalSat will make sports fans very happy – it broadcasts ESPN so you never have to miss a baseball, NFL, and American football game again.

You can also tune in to CNN, NBC, and even catch The Tonight Show. 

As long as you don't mind waiting a few months after the programmes have been aired, a subscription to Netflix may be the perfect solution.. 

Netflix gives you access to its latest original TV series and many others, including shows from NBC, the CW, ABC and the BBC. 

Hulu's also a great alternative, with SNL, South Park, and Modern Family ready to watch at any time, from anywhere. 

Once you’re sat in front of your favourite series, the matter of finding your favourite snacks from home can be just as difficult. 

Some French supermarkets have world food aisles where you might be able to strike it lucky.

But more often than not they're a jumble of products and you never know what you might find. 

Brits missing out on Marmite, Cup-a-Soup, and McVitie’s biscuits can place online orders with websites like British Cornershop and Brit Superstore who deliver straight to your door. 

And if you're in Paris, don't forget there's always WH Smiths on Rue de Rivoli and the numerous Marks & Spencer outlets around town, which offe plenty of snacks and indeed some decent meals.

The American equivalents, My Little America and My American Market, also promise all the Pop Tarts, Hershey's and Lucky Charms money can buy. 

If you’re based in the capital, a trip to La Grande Epicerie in the 7th arrondissement will satisfy any food cravings. 

The upmarket shop has treats from America, the UK, Italy, India and Asia

But it will come at a cost: one can of Heinz baked beans will set you back almost three euros and a box of Froot Loops cereal costs €12.25. There is also the English, Scottish, Irish epicerie at cité de Vauxhall near Place de la Republique which offers English ales, cereals and sweets.

With the American holiday season coming up very soon, make sure to stop by Thanksgiving grocery store in Paris' 4th arrondissement (for the non-Parisians, there's an online shop too). 

Aside from New York bagels, Jello, and hot sauces, the shop stocks all the must-haves for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners: yams, cranberries, and turkeys, as well as home-made desserts. 

Amazon is also any expat's friend for finding the taste of home. 

But getting your family and friends to bring your favourite snacks from home is always going to be the least expensive, and most reliable, way to source your home comforts. 

By Anna Schaverien