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10 Things To Do Before You Move To Another Country

Photo by Spencer Davis on Unsplash

Many Americans have been contemplating moving out of the country. Many have already. According to Bambridge Accountants, which specializes in preparing and filing taxes for U.S. and U.K. expats, more than twice the number of people gave up U.S. citizenship in the first half of 2020 than in all of 2019.

Some 5,816 people gave up U.S. citizenship in the first half of 2020 versus 444 in the previous six months. Compare this to 2019, when 2,072 Americans gave up their U.S. citizenship. The numbers have more than doubled.

Other countries have been appealing to Americans, especially Black Americans, looking to escape racism in America. Following the police shooting of George Floyd that sparked worldwide protests, Ghana issued yet another an invitation to Black Americans. “Come home, build a life in Ghana. You do not have to stay where you are not wanted forever. You have a choice, and Africa is waiting for you,” Barbara Oteng Gyasi,

Ghana’s tourism minister, said during a ceremony marking Floyd’s death. But before venturing out to lands unknown and moving to a new country either for work or adventure, there are a few “practical” life issues you should keep in mind. Spontaneity is great, but a little checking into matters of lifestyle can really make your new life a little easier.

“Depending on the country you are moving to it might behoove you to hire a locally based company. For example, here in Cabo Verde it is very difficult to find accurate, up-to-date information online. And, most real estate opportunities are not found through realty companies but rather informally via word of mouth,” says Joli Moniz, founder of A Vontade Tours, which tours in Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia, Cuba, Portugal, and Cape Verde. Moniz recently launched A Vontade Services, a boutique concierge that offers long-term and short-term relocation services, among other things.

“Many processes take multiple steps and a few in-person visits per entity to get the job done. It is super helpful to have someone on the ground in Cabo Verde to run around, handle the hassles, and make things happen on your behalf.”

Learning from a few of my mistakes, ones I made when moving from NYC to Praia, Cabo Verde, in West Africa, might just help ease the adjustment pain.

1. Where to live: Before you decide to give up your apartment in your native country, check out the going rate for apartments in your desired destination. But not just the rates–compare the rent to the average take- home salary. When I first arrived in Cabo Verde, I rented a furnished two bedroom for about 80,000 escudos or roughly US$830. And it was in the so-called “chic” part of town. Of course, comparing prices for a two-bedroom in NYC to what this rent was I thought, “What a deal!” How wrong I was. After coming to a realization that this rent would eventually be out of my reach when I started working in CV (where the average salary is 15,000 escudos (less than $150 US a month), I moved (albeit a year later) to a 2-bedroom in a lower-class neighborhood where my rent was a more manageable US$300. The average rent in CV is about US$200.

2. Making money: Maybe this should be number 1, but if you are planning to make a salary locally and not with a governmental agency, NGO, or being supported by money coming in from the States, it helps to know what the locals make.

3. What’s to eat: If you are a vegan heading to a pork-loving country, you might lose more than those last stubborn five pounds you’ve been meaning to shed. Not partaking in the local cuisine can put a major damper on enjoying your new homeland.

4. What’s the singles scene like? Though I didn’t come to Cabo Verde single, I wound up being so while there and was suddenly faced with dealing with the single life in the African island nation. If you plan on dating in your adopted country or looking for love, you will have to first access the singles scene.

What’s the dating scene like? Does the country have a lot of machismo? What are the expected roles of men and women in society? Is the country LGBTQ friendly?

5. Is there a connection? Make sure the Internet connection is adequate and not too expensive, otherwise it’ll take you forever to communicate with folks back home. When I first got to Cabo Verde, the Internet was super expensive and I wound up always calling home from a call center–which is inconvenient and not very private. Luckily, things have improved dramatically on the Internet connection front in Cabo Verde, much cheaper, stronger connections (even fiber optic), and free WiFi lots of places.

6. Can you find your hair and grooming/beauty products? Girls, you know what it’s like to have horrible hair products–and if you are moving to a developing country you probably won’t find your Bobbi Brown beauty products. And if you are a full-on makeup gal going to a place where they don’t even wear lipstick daily it will be a shock and put you into cosmetic withdrawal.

7. Medical issues: Everyone gets sick and it’s a wise move to research what the state of the medical care is like in your goal country, especially if you have any per-existing conditions and need medication regularly.

I broke my leg once in Cabo Verde and the hospital didn’t have the material to make a cast–I had to send someone to buy the material from the pharmacy. Luckily my friend was with me, otherwise I would have been hopping down the street (no crutches available at the hospital either!) with a broken leg to buy for myself. Recently, more and more high-quality private clinics that are fairly well equipped have opened. But still…

8. Get ready for long-distance relationships. Facebook is not the same as one-on-one interactions, and your friendships back home will change. You can do Facebook, Skype, FaceTime, Whats App but of course it’s not like being involved in their lives in person. It doesn’t mean you still can’t maintain your friendships and connections, but be prepared for the new phase in your relationships.

9. Forget your F’ Me Pumps. Some destinations are just not heel friendly. I used to be a full-fledged, high-heel gal strutting–most of the time running– down the streets of Manhattan and up and down the subway stairs. But in my new city of Praia, Cabo Verde (CV), where the sidewalks are uneven or semi-cobblestones you just cannot wear heels without ruining them in one or two steps. It’s wedges (not my fav), flats, or flip flops for the practical CV girl. Most of the time I opt for ballerina flats, which has totally changed my fashion style.

10. Amenities. No hot water, no toilet paper, oh my. Fact is many other countries just don’t have the luxuries we consider basics in the U.S. Hot water, for example. In some places, showering in cold water is the norm. And if you are in a developing country, you might have to get used to carrying around a roll of toilet paper or some baby wipes in your purse.

Ann Brown is the founder of the “American in Cape Verde” Facebook community. She lived in the West African country for nearly 10 years.

About the Author

Ann is a freelance writer who started her professional career at the NY Trend more than two decades ago. Ann has since gone on to write for a number of major outlets including: Black Enterprise, Essence, MadameNoire, Pathfinders, Frequent Flier, Playboy, The Source, Girl, Upscale, For Harriet, The Network Journal, AFKInsider, Africa Strictly Business, AFKTravel, among others.