Common Mistakes to Avoid When Moving Overseas


Moving overseas can be an incredibly exciting adventure, but also involves major life changes. Without proper planning and preparation, your dream of living abroad can quickly turn sour.

To help you avoid common pitfalls, we’ve compiled advice and anecdotes from 1st Move International customers about mistakes they made when relocating overseas, as well as some tips from our team of expert move managers.

Heeding their wisdom will ensure your international move goes smoothly. Here are some of the most common mistakes expats make and how to avoid them:

Not Doing Sufficient Research

Before finalising plans to move overseas, extensive research is vital. Fully understand requirements around visas, paperwork, customs regulations and how to ship belongings internationally. Thoroughly research the country, including language, culture, transport, healthcare, laws, accommodation, living costs and employment. Visit your destination multiple times if possible for extended stays, don’t rely solely on holiday experiences.

“I didn’t do enough research before moving from Manchester to Australia. I didn’t factor in how much more utilities cost there compared to the UK. My budget was way under and the bills were a nasty shock when they arrived.”

“Make sure to thoroughly research living costs like utilities in your new overseas country, don’t just assume it will be similar to the UK. Create a detailed budget covering housing, food, transport and utilities so you know what to expect.”

James – UK to Melbourne, Australia

We offer a wealth of advice and expertise for major destinations on our blog, specifically targeted at those moving overseas. Check them out to start off your research before you move:

Failing to Plan and Get Organised

Success lies in the planning. Once you’ve researched and chosen your destination, start planning everything needed for your move. Create detailed checklists and schedules, or use our own Ultimate Moving Overseas Checklist, for actions and deadlines. Notify relevant parties well in advance to close accounts like utilities, loans and investments in your home country. Gather essential paperwork: passports, visas, medical records, insurances, legal documents, birth certificates, driving licenses, pet paperwork and more. Make copies. Sort possessions into categories for shipping, storage or disposal. Begin decluttering early and don’t ship more than necessary.

Not Budgeting Realistically

Underestimating costs of the immigration process is common when relocating overseas. Do your homework to accurately budget for flights, shipping, accommodation, living expenses and more. Factor in unexpected costs and have an emergency fund available. Be conservative initially until you find your feet. Moving abroad can impact income and pensions, so understand tax implications beforehand.

Hiring an Unreliable Removal Company

Your belongings will travel thousands of miles, so trust them only to reputable international removers like 1st Move International. We have over 25 years of experience handling overseas moves with our unique palletised shrink-wrap packing system for the safest international move. Read online reviews and ensure your company is fully licensed, insured and handles the entire process including packing, customs clearance, shipping and delivery. Don’t choose based on price alone. Avoid unfamiliar local firms without specialist overseas expertise.

1st Move kept us informed in virtually every step of the journey. Our goods were picked up, transported then palletised and shrink wrapped at their Warehouse in Bristol. Our goods arrived in Australia (Brisbane) where their partners Conroys dealt with the Australian part of clearing Customs. All 112 packages arrived safely and intact. So of course – I would thoroughly recommend them!

Kathy (review via Trustpilot) – UK to Brisbane, Australia

Learn more: How to Choose the Right International Removals Company

Failing to Understand Customs Regulations

Each country has specific prohibited items, so research these thoroughly to avoid customs delays or confiscations. Specialists at 1st Move International stay current on all regulations to ensure your shipment passes inspection smoothly. Certain food, plant and outdoor items may be restricted, along with replicas of religious icons. Don’t let improper paperwork jeopardise your move.

Learn more:

Moving Without Visiting First

Don’t move overseas without visiting your destination first to truly experience what living there will be like full-time. Spend extended stays there rather than brief holidays. Learn the language, explore the culture and neighbourhoods, and test out commutes. Moving abroad based solely on a holiday is a huge mistake. You need in-depth exposure to make sure it’s the right fit before committing long-term.

“Spend an extended time visiting your potential new home country, not just a quick holiday. Try out commutes, explore neighbourhoods, go grocery shopping and really experience day-to-day life.”

“If we had taken the time to do this beforehand it would have made settling into our new home so much easier.”

Emma – UK to Canada

Underestimating Timelines

Give yourself ample time as international moves, from start to finish, can take longer than expected for planning, admin, packing, shipping and farewells. 1st Move International’s consultants can assist with detailed timelines and checklists. Don’t assume you can sort everything in a few weeks. Rushing will cause mistakes and important tasks being missed.

“When I moved from the UK to New Zealand, I underestimated the planning needed. I thought I could sort everything a week before the move. The result? Unnecessary stress and unexpected costs. My advice would be to start early, declutter, and organise. Proper planning makes the transition smoother and more enjoyable.”

Not Measuring Furniture

Measure furniture and possessions before moving to ensure they’ll fit in your new overseas home. Don’t assume pieces will fit without checking room sizes. Shipping items that end up not fitting is a costly waste. Take detailed measurements and compare to floorplans so you know what to bring.

Moving for the Wrong Reasons

Avoid basing relocations on whims, romantic notions or simply craving adventure. Consider how the move improves quality of life, values and career prospects. Include family early in the decision-making process. Manage expectations realistically. Moving abroad on a whim rarely ends well. Carefully analyse your motivations to make sure it’s the right move long-term.

Not Respecting Local Culture

Before relocating, learn about cultural values, etiquette, dress codes and societal norms. Be open-minded, avoid judging new customs. Respect religious sites and practices. Discrimination can harm relations with locals. Embrace the culture by trying food, learning some language and joining in traditions. Failing to respect the local culture will isolate you and possibly get you into trouble. Do thorough research to avoid offending.

Not Planning for Pets

Research quarantine periods, paperwork required, and use a specialised pet relocation company when moving overseas with pets. Each country has specific regulations. Not planning accordingly could mean your pets can’t travel with you or end up in quarantine kennels for months. Arrange proper transport, certificates and paperwork well in advance.

“I moved from the UK to Australia and assumed my cat could easily come along. Due to overlooked regulations, couldn’t travel with me on my scheduled move date. I had to delay his journey, causing stress and unplanned expenses. My advice? If you’re moving with pets, research the destination’s pet regulations thoroughly and consider using a specialised pet relocation company. Don’t make the same mistake as I did.”

Lucy – UK to Australia

Not Learning the Local Language

Learn at least basic phrases in your new country’s language. This significantly helps daily life in your new home. Navigating life abroad without knowing the local language is extremely difficult. Make language lessons a priority during your preparation. Even basic skills will help with shopping, transport, and making new friends.

Not Reviewing Health Insurance

Review health insurance coverage – some policies don’t cover you when living abroad. Arrange alternatives. Don’t assume your existing health insurance includes overseas coverage. You don’t want to be caught out paying expensive overseas medical bills if you become ill or injured. Do your research and get the right insurance.

“I didn’t look into health insurance and learned my policy from back home wasn’t valid in New Zealand. Ended up with a hefty bill after a hospital visit. I would advise everyone to shop around for expat insurance that covers your destination before you arrive.”

Leon – UK to Auckland, New Zealand

Not Arranging Mail Forwarding

Arrange mail forwarding before moving so important documents and correspondence reaches you overseas. Missing mail and bills can quickly become problematic. Set up forwarding with your post office and notify key contacts of your new address. Digital mail forwarding services provide added reliability.

Not Researching Schools

If relocating with kids, extensively research schooling options, requirements, costs, and application processes in your new country. School systems differ enormously between countries. Don’t leave arrangements until the last minute. Well in advance, research quality schools in suitable locations so your kids have a smooth education transition.

“We figured we’d just enrol our kids once we got there. Huge mistake! Popular schools had long waitlists and we couldn’t find space. The kids missed 3 months of classes before we found openings.”

“Absolutely have schooling sorted out for any children before your move. Research options, apply early, and confirm enrolment. You don’t want kids missing out on education because you didn’t plan.”

Sarah – UK to Singapore

Not Knowing Local Laws and Etiquette

Learn about local laws, norms and etiquette of your new home to avoid issues. What’s acceptable differs widely across countries. Behaviours you take for granted could be illegal or cause serious offense in your new country. Study up on important laws, social customs and taboos before relocating.

Not Scouting Neighbourhoods and Housing

Take time to explore target neighbourhoods and housing options in-person before deciding where to live overseas. Don’t pick a place to live based only on online research. Visiting different areas gives you a true feel for locations, commute times, and amenities. Be prepared to pay more for desirable and convenient neighbourhoods.

Embarking on an international move is a significant step, filled with both excitement and challenges. As our customers’ experiences have shown, the difference between a smooth transition and a stressful ordeal often lies in the details.

The journey of relocating is not just about moving belongings but also about transitioning lives, cultures, and routines. By taking heed of the shared wisdom and partnering with trusted experts like 1st Move International, you can ensure that your overseas adventure starts on the right foot.

Remember, preparation is key, and every step taken in advance will pave the way for a seamless move. Safe travels and happy settling!

Looking For an International Removals Company?

When moving overseas, one of the most crucial decisions you’ll make is selecting a reliable removals company. Your belongings are not just items; they’re memories, treasures, and essential parts of your life. Entrusting them to a company is a significant step, and you deserve the best in the business.

Why Choose 1st Move International?

  • Faster Shipping: Our streamlined processes ensure that your belongings reach their destination promptly, reducing the waiting time and letting you settle into your new home faster.
  • Safer Packing with Shrinkfast: We take pride in our unique Shrinkfast packing procedures. This method ensures that your items are packed securely, reducing the risk of damage during transit. Our commitment is to ensure that every item, from the most robust piece of furniture to the most delicate heirloom, arrives in the same condition it was packed.

Ready to Make Your Move? Don’t leave your precious belongings to chance. Choose a company with a proven track record and a commitment to excellence. Get a free quote from 1st Move International today or contact us to learn more about how we can make your international move smooth and hassle-free. Your adventure awaits, and we’re here to help you start it right!

About 1st Move International

1st Move International are a specialist international moving and shipping company offering packing, shipping and insurance for shipping household goods and personal effects overseas. We have a global reach covering over 80 countries and 6500 worldwide destinations. You can get an international removals quote here or find more information on our international moving services here.

Avatar for Mike Harvey
As the Managing Director of 1st Move International, Mike Harvey brings more than two decades of logistics expertise and three years of specialised experience in international relocations to his role. His comprehensive knowledge spans the intricacies of overseas shipping, secondary yet crucial areas such as visa application processes and immigration requirements, and the wider topic of moving abroad including topics such as comparative analyses of cost of living, healthcare and educational systems worldwide. This expertise allows 1st Move International to equip people with the information they need to not just move overseas, but to make informed decisions about whether, and where, to relocate.