Finding a Place to Live

Finding a place to live is always at the top of the agenda when you move to a new location.  Through my own experiences as an expat and now working a destination consultant I know it can cause a lot of stress and anxiety.  That rootless in-between limbo when you’re living out of suitcases in a hotel or temporary apartment is not much fun, but before you make a hasty decision, consider. . .

Budget

What can you afford?  If you’re being transferred for work it’s essential that you research accommodation costs before you accept the new job offer.  If your employer is offering to provide accommodation, find out exactly what’s being offered and where.

Flexibility

Don’t get fixated on reproducing your last home in the new location.  If you’re moving from a small community to a bustling metropolis, or from a modern city to an ancient one, it’s highly unlikely you’ll find the same type of home or neighbourhood.  So keep an open mind, try a new lifestyle, you might surprise yourself and enjoy it.

Where does everybody else live?

I’m not suggesting you try and keep up with the Jones or live in an expat ghetto, but do check out where other people in your company or others in similar expat jobs are living.  They may have a lot of useful information and experiences to share with you and may help you avoid costly mistakes.

Travel time

No one likes a long commute to work or school.  We always said, “Where’s the office?” “Where’s school?” and then tried to find accommodation as close a possible to both.  Why spend time in traffic when there are so many more interesting ways to spend your free time, exploring your new location and making friends?

Rent, don’t buy

If you do make a mistake and don’t like where you live, it’s usually much easier and less costly to move if you’re renting.  Some corporate transferees are encouraged to sell their homes and buy in the new location, but consider investing your money and taking your time to make such an important decision.  What would happen if your job came to an end; could you legally stay without work?  Rent for the first few months, or even the first year, if you can.

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3 thoughts on “Finding a Place to Live

  1. Yes, yes, yes! And I would also add: try to swing by the neighbourhood at various times (weekends, evenings, daytime if you have small children) and see what kind of activity is going on. Are there playmates for the children? Do the neighbours seem friendly? We lucked into great neighbours our first time out, but I wish I’d done a better job of reconnaissance the next couple of times.

  2. I think it depends on your priorities. The driving force for us was my husband’s commute–he works 12+ hour days, and doesn’t see our daughter (or me) nearly as much as anyone wants. The absolute minimal commute was a must.

    I think “don’t try to recreate what you’ve lost” is somewhat subjective. I didn’t look for an apartment just like our old one in the US, but our home is a safe haven of American stuff. We’re just not the expats who dive into local culture and eat local food…we prefer to come home and have our American comfort food, US dvds and slingbox for american current tv, and are more excited to find a good Western restaurant than a good Asian one. It really depends on what your soul needs.

    The longer we’re away, the more we let go of little things (although on a trip home I spent 30+ minutes wandering a US grocery store, pulling stuff off the shelves shrieking “I’d FORGOTTEN ALL ABOUT THIS!!!!” or trying to scrape my jaw off the floor at how cheap everything is in comparison to the high Singapore prices for imported American food). We’re finding local equivalents to things we miss, and new things to love.

    I think it’s important to think objectively about what you need. If you need your American food and an oven (SG apts, for example, do not usually come with an oven), than budget space and money for them.

    In our case, we also rented next to a construction site (assuming, likely correctly in SG, that we’d live next to construction eventually) to save some money on rent for the “inconvienence.

    • Crystal, I’m absolutely with you on the commute time. And as a Cancerian I also understand that urge for a safe haven. Even if you love the new culture you’ve moved to, it can be overwhelming at times. Your advice to be objective and make trade-offs are good ones; we’ve usually traded size for location with the added bonus that a small place doesn’t allow us to accumulate too much junk to ship home!

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