Expat Living, Life in Singapore, Moving Internationally

The process of moving

Whoo hoo! An overseas assignment!

Yup! That is the initial reaction. But after the euphoria has settled down, reality begins to set in. This is the stage when one gets to take stock of what an international relocation involves.

In 2016, when this relocation to Singapore came around, I was facing my sixth International relocation. The last time I relocated was in 2007 when I moved from the United States to Australia. I had done that on my own. I had no help, but I did have a plan and a timeline which was completely under my control.

This time round was a little different. I had help from my employer in moving, which made things a lot simpler. Nonetheless, there are a few common themes that applied to both.

Make a list.

There are going to be a heap of things that you will need to do. Without a list, you are going to forget something sooner or later. Make sure that you have a list of things that you need to do, and in the order in which you need to do them.

Consider how you are going to deal with your big ticket items.

These will include your home, your car, and any large hobby or lifestyle related items like a grill, sporting goods, furniture items and heirlooms.

Your Home

If you are renting, you’ll need to consider if there is an issue of breaking your lease and timing your departure to minimise the liability, or working with the landlord or landlord’s agent to find someone to take over your lease.

If you’re an home owner, you’ll probably be faced with the options of either selling your home, or putting it on the market for rent.

If you decide on the former, you’ll need to engage a real-estate agent to put it on the market for sale.

If you decide on the latter, you’ll need to engage a property manager to manage the lease and tenants. Make this decision early, and make sure you have great pictures and a write-up to make your property attractive to prospective tenants.

Your Vehicle

If you have a vehicle, first get an assessment from a local car buyer on how much they’ll pay for it. That will establish your bottom line.

You can then list it on a local classifieds site.

Get the car professionally cleaned, and photograph it in the best light before listing it. Never ever mention that you are leaving the country as the reason for your sale. This reveals that you need to sell before leaving and will put you at a disadvantage when it comes time to negotiate. Consider telling prospective buyers that your employer is issuing you with a company car as part of a role change, and that you have no place to park an additional vehicle.

Used cars can be hard to move. When listing your vehicle on a local classified site, allow yourself at least 60 days to sell the vehicle. You can begin from an aggressive starting price, and then gradually drop the price every week. This triggers prospective buyers who have been watching the vehicle to take a closer look, and reach out to get in before another buyer reaches out.

Cull! Cull! Cull!

I’m a minimalist, and do not own anything that I do not need.I have discovered that this lifestyle choice helps in being mobile. I highly recommend disposing anything that you own that you have not used in the previous 12 months, never really liked, or is in need of repair.

Do not ignore your documents

Everyone has a set of documents that cannot be replaced. Deal with these first, and ensure that they accompany you in person. Consider scanning a copy of everything and storing it in the Cloud.


We all accumulate data in this day and age. Whether it’s photographs, home videos, music or documents, after a while, we all have a lot of it. I got asked the question once on how I move large amounts of data. I have a redundant solution. I have an external network drive at home that serves as my NAS, which I sync into the Cloud. That way, I have a physical copy on the device, and a copy in the Cloud that I can access from anywhere. I also make it a point to encrypt my drives, in case they were to be misplaced or lost.

Prioritise Goodbyes

Before relocating, a lot of people will want to meet you to say goodbye. This is natural and is a healthy thing. It is also important to recognise that leading up to an assignment, you are on a finite amount of limited time. Socialising and making time for close friends and family leading up to departure is part of that time and is an important part of that transition. Consider socialising over coffee or drinks and consolidating goodbyes among multiple friends and colleagues. And bear in mind that your friends and family will be a part of your life when you eventually come back… so make it a point to make time for this ritual which is something that I cannot stress enough of the importance of.

Hand things over

When leaving for an overseas destination, very often, you will be asked for favours from individuals who have come to the realisation that you won’t be around, and they need your assistance on an item that they have come to depend on you. Be proactive, and put these in a set of documented work instructions that you provide them. Set the expectation that you’ve provided them everything that they need, and that if they run into an issue, they can reach out to you on a mutually agreeable scheduled time.

These are just a few things that have helped me move smoothly. It helped greatly that my employer had provided relocation assistance. I have discovered that even with being a minimalist and being very organised, relocating internationally does not get any easier with time. Be gentle on yourself, and make sure that you set yourself as the first priority in your life at this very challenging time.

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