This part 2 of my guide to how to narrow down a specific location once you have decided to move abroad [see part 1 here if you missed it]. These are the 5 big ticket items for consideration which apply to any international move.
How you rank them will depend on your reason for moving but here I present them in the order that they mattered to me.
- What kind of climate do you enjoy being in?
- Could you live in this climate year-round or do you need variation?
- How would climate affect your lifestyle in your new location?
My climate requirement was to move to somewhere that is warm/hot most of the year, with “mild” winters. Aside from the fact that I have always been a sun-worshiper and previously spent time living in warm places (Jamaica and Florida), moving somewhere warm was my number one priority because I suffer from a rare condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. I won’t go into exactly what that is now (look here if you want to know) but one of the ways it affects me is by causing severe joint pain in cold and rainy weather. I am also prone to getting a touch of the winter blues when it’s cold and grey outside with short days and loooong dark winter nights. If you have ever heard anything about London weather I am sure you can understand why getting away from it was a priority for me!
With an international airport, daily flights from multiple airlines and a short journey time (2 to 2½ hours) – Valencia was perfectly situated.
Distance from loved ones
- How often do you want to be able to visit “home” and how easy do you want it to be?
I have a very close knit family and great friends back in London so I wanted to be able to visit regularly or have them come to see me for long-weekends as well as proper holidays. I also knew I would need to frequently/easily get back to London for work. So with an international airport, daily flights from multiple airlines and a short journey time (2 to 2½ hours) – Valencia was perfectly situated.
- Do you expect to work?
- What are your job prospects like in the locations you’re considering (job market and legal/visa aspects)?
As an EU citizen (for another year and a bit at least) I have the right to work in Spain. I also planned to request a transfer within the large global company I work for, so for me I needed to choose a location in Spain where my company has an office. Given my climate requirements this left 2 cities: Valencia and Malaga.
- What size of city or town or village suits my personality and lifestyle?
- What pace of life do I want?
- How multicultural/diverse a location will you be comfortable in?
I knew that, while I didn’t want a big city that’s similar to London, I didn’t want something too rural; and I knew that I wanted a beach location but not somewhere too touristy (this is what ruled out Malaga). Valencia is the third largest city in Spain, but has fewer than a million people – compared to London it’s tiny, but it is metropolitan enough to have great cultural and entertainment options. It also has great transport links that make it perfectly situated for exploring more of Spain and Europe more widely. Also, the majority of the locals don’t speak English – for me this was important as I wanted to immerse myself in the language to gain fluency.
As a single 30-something extrovert, I was mainly interested in options for making friends, going out and enjoying my leisure time.
- Are there likely to be other people in a similar family/social/life-stage situation to me?
- What opportunities will there be for building a social circle.
This last point can be difficult to gauge, but if you do your research you can get a feel for whether there’s an expat community, or many young families… whatever it is that’s important to you. For me as a single 30-something extrovert, I was mainly interested in options for making friends, going out and enjoying my leisure time. I found out about the night-life and leisure options in Valencia via general internet research. Also, by searching Facebook and Meetup.com, I discovered that there’s a thriving expat community as well as plenty of social groups with mainly Spaniards which welcome newcomers.
Based on these 5 factors I decided to visit Valencia and spend a bit of time exploring the city, and when I did I fell in love!
Here’s a question for you – whether you’ve already moved or are contemplating an international move, what are the top factors that influenced your choice of location?