5 Mistakes to Avoid when Moving Overseas

For most of us, the decision to move overseas is not one we made lightly. It took months of weighing the pros and cons, months, if not years, to get all the paperwork filed, and then some more time to get your departure date finalized.

Pieter applied for a green card before we got married, and first I was added and then our daughter Sidney was added to the growing file. We were living in South Africa at the time and just going about our daily lives, not even thinking about it after the first couple of years passed by. But as with all processes, it finally came to a point where we were granted interviews and had to make a decision on how we wanted to proceed.

So off we went on a trip to the United States to activate our green cards and see if moving there would be the best way forward for our little family. You can circle back to my older posts by clicking here.

Since then, some more time has passed and we are now coming up on “10 years later” on the calendar. There have been some ups and downs, but looking back, we would not have wanted it any other way. And as with all major life decisions, when you look back, you realize you have made some mistakes along the way.

Here is my list of the Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid when Moving Overseas:

5 Mistakes to Avoid when Moving Overseas

Moving all your Stuff

We didn’t include all our belongings when we made the move to the US. In our case, half a shipping container seemed like plenty of items and even included some one-of-a-kind furniture pieces, as well as some family heirlooms. I hear from a lot of people that they regret bringing over all their “old” furniture and “stuff” from South Africa. Things didn’t fit into their new home and since it was expensive to ship them, getting rid of them wasn’t an option.

I would recommend bringing enough items to remind you of home without recreating your previous home in its entirety. Bring your favorite artwork, a furniture piece here and there and definitely include some sentimental items. Here are the 7 Items I wish we rather left behind.

Dining Room Table

Expecting it to be Easy

Moving to a new country is literally step one of a much larger process. Once you buy or rent your first home and unpack all your items, you will start living in that house, neighborhood, city and country. And that is just not easy right from the start. Getting used to new stores and banks and pharmacies is all part of your new life. If you have little ones, you will have to get to know a new school system. The excitement and anticipation about the move will die down and you will have to get busy living your new life.

Know from the start that it will be different from your old life. Know from the start that it will take some effort to get comfortable again. And know from the start that there will be some difficult times when you just want to go “home”. Take comfort that you are not the first one to experience all of these feelings and that those of us who came before you are there to help.

Garies Girl Kids First Day of School


This is one of my personality traits. I’m a planner and as far as possible, I plan every little thing. And inevitably I also over-plan. Now, if you asked me this a couple of years ago I would have told you that over-planning can never be a bad thing, how is that even possible? But I’ve learnt a couple of lessons over the years.

“Be stubborn about your goals and flexible about your methods.” – Author Unknown

Over-planning is real and takes away from the “living your life” part. You get so focused on the steps you are working through that you become inflexible and miss out on the fun things happening around you. Take a breath and create some space in your life after the big move to just enjoy being in the moment. Catch a sunrise or a sunset, or take a walk in your new neighborhood or a nearby park. Pause and take it all in.

Garies Girl Suwanee Sunset

Furnishing your Home in a Hurry

I don’t recommend you go out and furnish your house from top to bottom in one day. Get the main furniture pieces in place and have some fun looking for the rest of your items and decorations. Here in the US, we are blessed with so many shopping options: from so many big name-brand stores all the way to the fun thrift and consignment stores. And then you have Facebook Marketplace, Offer Up and Let Go where you can get pre-loved items at bargain prices.

Focus on the items you absolutely need to have in your new home to be comfortable. If your family absolutely love watching television together, make sure you go out and get that television during the first couple of weeks. If you prefer quiet evenings around a table playing cards or board games, get that area set up as soon as possible. I believe it is crucial to get into a familiar family routine even when everything around you is still in a state of move-in chaos.

Take some time and make looking for furniture pieces and décor items a part of your new adventure. And if you are really handy, you can try building some pieces yourself! We’ve built a couple of items over the years, like this loft bed for Sidney.

Garies Girl Teenager Bedroom

Going into Debt for “Nice to Have” Stuff

This one is important. No matter what country you move to, you will have to establish a credit rating of some sort. Not all of us can move overseas and buy a new house with cash. We need to take out a mortgage and mortgage companies want to see some credit history.

It is so easy to let debt get the overhand here. Once you are established, the offers just come flying at you. And as you work harder and your salary increases, you will be tempted to go out shopping for some of those “nice to have” items you gave up before the Big Move. Most of the time, you really don’t even need those items. You are just going to fill up your house with “stuff” and before you know it you’ll be weighed down by your new debt.

My advice is to focus on the important things first. Make sure you get to a comfy place in your life, a routine that works and a nice chunk of savings in the bank. Here you don’t need to impress anyone else. Nobody cares what vehicle you drive or where you work. When you invite people over they are not there to judge your house and possessions. They are there to relax, hear your story and have a good meal together.

Did you make big mistakes when moving overseas?