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Expat Relocation Experience – Part 3: The Final Stages

Demetra completes her relocation diary with some in-country tips

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Finally, we’ve reached the third and final phase of my relocation – arriving at my new destination. I’ve spent the last four weeks completing the final steps to becoming a resident in the city that will hopefully be my home for the next few years. And I would like to share my advice on this final stage to help others in their expat relocation journey. To do so, I have separated this into two aspects: the administrative and the personal.

The Administrative

Apartment Hunting

Schedule viewings for accommodation before arriving in-country – that way you don’t waste any time once you’ve arrived. When you attend these viewings, ask for a list of all the costs upfront. Have these details in writing, such as in an email, to ensure no deviation from these against your favour. The costs may include, but are not limited to:

– Rent

– Security deposit

– Agency fee

– Contract fee

– Inventory check fee

– Utilities

– TV and broadband

Every location will differ, so do not assume the same costs you encountered in your last location will be the same here.

TIP: Research and negotiate everything! Agents and landlords are aware that new expats are not familiar with local rules and regulations and will try to represent things in their favour. To look out for yourself, research everything you are being told. For example, I was informed by my agent and landlord that Dubai has a standard, non-negotiable, minimum term tenancy contract of one year. Upon further research, I discovered this was not true. The contract terms, including the length, are negotiable – so negotiate I did!


In most cases, there are many legal documents and activities that must be acquired or completed, but only once you are in the country. These may include, but are not limited to:

– Visa

– Health check-up

– ID card

– Bank account

If you are relocating with the help of your employer, they may have a Public Relations Officer (PRO) who can assist you. Without one, the process can be more difficult.

TIP: Work on these items simultaneously! The biggest challenge I found in this area, specifically in Dubai, was that many things were connected, and without one I couldn’t complete the other. For example, even though I was able to quickly find an apartment, I could not sign my contract and move in until my ID had been issued and my bank account set up. Therefore, I would advise working on these items simultaneously to save time.


Finally, there are several ‘smaller’, yet equally important, items you will require as soon as you relocate. One of these is a local sim card/number to be able to stay in contact with your employer, colleagues, PRO, friends and family.

Another would be transportation. In Dubai, two popular means of transportation are the metro and taxis. Therefore, I bought a metro card as well as downloaded a popular and reliable phone app, similar to the Uber app, to order taxis.

TIP: Discover the way of life in your new location! The more you understand how society operates in your new location, the more you will know about what resources you will require and the faster and better you can adjust.

The Personal

Aside from the administrative side of relocation, you must also consider the personal aspect. For me, it was important to meet new people as quickly as possible. I discovered several apps and social groups that allowed me to meet people – both locals and expats – in my area, arrange meet-ups, strike up conversations, ask for and share advice, and more. Do not underestimate or neglect the emotional support you will require when taking on a big move like this.

TIP: Be a ‘yes’ person! When I arrived in my new location, I told myself that for the first month I would say ‘yes’ to as many opportunities as possible, depending on my time and resources, of course. This meant that when opportunities came up to meet new people or visit new places, I would explore them. Whilst this lifestyle can be tiring and, personally, not sustainable in the long term, it was essential in helping me adjust as quickly as I did. I managed to meet a lot of people in a short space of time, as well as discover some spots around town that have now become very important in my day-to-day life.

The Final Tip

Looking back, I would highlight the importance of having a contingency plan. You should be prepared for delays, unforeseen costs, and prepare a contingency budget.

I would also like to emphasise how crucial it is to reach out to people – whether locals or expats – for help and advice. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how willing people are to help, regardless of whether they have experienced the journey of an expat themselves.

Demetra Tofarides – Marketing and Events Specialist

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