Cognitive Biases When Preparing a Move Abroad: Understanding and Overcoming Them

Cognitive Biases When Preparing a Move Abroad: Understanding and Overcoming Them

Moving abroad can be an exciting and enriching experience, but it can also be a complex and challenging process, especially when it comes to making important decisions and planning ahead. Cognitive biases, which are mental shortcuts and patterns of thinking that can distort our perceptions and judgments, can often play a role in our decision-making when preparing for a move abroad.

Here are some common cognitive biases to be aware of and tips for overcoming them:

Confirmation Bias:

This is the tendency to seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs and ignore or dismiss information that contradicts them. When preparing to move abroad, it’s important to seek out diverse perspectives and consider all sides of an issue. Be open to feedback and be willing to challenge your assumptions and biases.

Optimism Bias:

This is the tendency to overestimate the likelihood of positive outcomes and underestimate the likelihood of negative ones. When planning for a move abroad, it’s important to be realistic about the challenges you may face and have a contingency plan in place. This can help you stay grounded and avoid disappointment or setbacks.

Anchoring Bias:

This is the tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information we receive when making a decision. When planning for a move abroad, it’s important to gather a wide range of information from multiple sources to avoid being overly influenced by one perspective or opinion.

Status Quo Bias:

This is the tendency to prefer familiar situations and resist change. When preparing for a move abroad, it’s important to recognize that change is inevitable and embrace it as an opportunity for growth and adventure. Focus on the positive aspects of the move and remind yourself of the reasons why you decided to take this step.

Availability Bias:

This is the tendency to rely on readily available information rather than seeking out more comprehensive or accurate data. When preparing for a move abroad, it’s important to do your research and gather information from a variety of sources to ensure that you have a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and opportunities you may encounter.

Overcoming cognitive biases can be challenging, but it’s an essential part of preparing for a move abroad. By being aware of these biases and taking steps to address them, you can make informed decisions and approach your move with greater clarity and confidence. Seek out diverse perspectives, challenge your assumptions, and stay open to new experiences and opportunities. With a positive mindset and a willingness to learn and adapt, you can make your move abroad a success.

If you are ready to prepare for your move abroad with purpose, the Master Your Move might be for you. Check out all the details and book your free enrollment call HERE.

PS: Ready to take your move abroad to the next level? Join the Expat Journey Program and replace guesswork with a framework and get everything done. 

Debunking 3 Cultural Adjustment Myths

Debunking 3 Cultural Adjustment Myths

As an intercultural psychologist, an expat coach and an expat myself, I want to dispel 3 popular myths about moving abroad and adjusting to the new culture. Moving beyond these myths will help you be truly successful in your new life.

Myth #1 – I’ve travelled or moved abroad before.

This will be easy-breezy.

The truth is that you really haven’t done this move before, because you aren’t the same person. We are constantly changing every day. Even if we never physically move we will still change because we all get older.

And since your previous experiences, most likely your financial or marital situation has changed. Maybe you were single then but now are married now or vice-versa. Maybe you had young kids the last time you moved, and now you’re an empty nester. 

You always want to be learning from our experiences, not only from the mistakes but also from your accomplishments. By examining what you’ve done before, you can better understand your current priorities, needs, and wants.

Ask yourself:

  1. What went well last time abroad that I would like to do again?
  2. What do I want to do differently this time?

Take everything into account, your past experiences, your requirements now, and what you might need in the future. Remember, be realistic. If you were student back then, what does this move look like now that you are a parent or have a corporate job? If you’re not going to be working, how will your needs be different? 

Learn from your past, but don’t be closed off by it. Being prejudiced or biased with expectations of how this move is going to go won’t help you successfully adjust. The key to your success is balancing experience with willingness.

Myth #2: With this move abroad, I'm leaving everything behind.

I’m going to have a clean slate in a new country. I’m leaving everyone and everything behind that has caused me pain.

People may not really even realize that this is their mindset when they decided to move abroad. For many, these are unconscious thoughts. It’s tempting to want to believe that this move will solve your problems with difficult people and situations, but it won’t.

Believing this myth is a problem within itself. 

First of all, most of our life problems come from within not from outside circumstances. The causes of our troubles are not necessarily what has happened to us but rather how we react to people and events. Our task is about how we deal with challenges and whether we approach them in a positive or negative manner. 

Secondly, in order to make your move abroad really successful and smooth, it’s important to focus on what you want to accomplish not what you’re trying to avoid. Where we place our focus usually determines what happens in our lives.

If your focus is, “I don’t want to have these problems. I don’t want to live life this kind of life.” Well, most likely you’ll bring these unwanted things into your new reality. 

You can shift this mindset by saying, “I want to accomplish new things in this culture. I want a new reality.” 

A practical example of shifting a mindset are people fleeing from urban violence or unstable countries. If they relocate with the mindset of avoiding violence at all costs, they are likely to focus more on their insecurities, no matter how safe their new environment. They need to reframe their thinking to what they want, such as, “I want to live a calmer and safer life.” This is how they will attract new and positive experiences.

Myth #3: The logistics of this move demand all my attention.

Yes, preparing the paperwork, finding an apartment and a school for your children are really important aspects for your move abroad. However, just as crucial is the emotional preparation. 

If you don’t emotionally prepare for this move, then you can finalize all paperwork, have a beautiful apartment and a wonderful school for your kids, and still not successfully adjust. 

You need to know why you are moving. You need to know what your motives are for this move abroad and what you want to achieve. This might take a little bit of soul searching, because your reasons on the surface might not match your deeper motives.

Soul searching is worth the effort, and you can do this by starting a journal, or creating audio recordings, or maybe you like to paint or draw. Finding an activity to express yourself in concrete ways will help you uncover your interior thoughts and feelings about your move.

For this exercise, think about not only why you’re moving but what you’re moving for:

What will this move accomplish?
How will the move benefit my life financially, socially, with my family, my health, in my career?
What are the benefits of moving?  
What will I be giving up with this move abroad?

It’s important to be conscious of what you’re giving up so you are better prepared to handle the stressful days or the low times while adjusting to your new life. This emotional preparation will set the tone for your cultural transition. 

And you don’t need to prepare for your move abroad without help. Let’s work together and create a logistics and emotional preparation plan for a more easy-breezy cultural transition. 

We all experience culture shock, but you don’t need to be alone. I offer small a small group course, Master Your Move. In this an intimate setting for likeminded pre-movers, there are online modules, group calls, a private social media support network, and individual coaching calls. To learn more about this group and other online courses, click here

PS: Ready to take your move abroad to the next level? Join the Expat Journey Program and replace guesswork with a framework and get everything done. 

Researching Your Move Abroad? Begin Here.

Researching Your Move Abroad? Begin Here.

I know you’re overwhelmed with the endless internet scrolling and finding no useful information. You’re thinking there must be a better way.

There is.

Efficiently researching your new country is the key to finding reliable information. Here’s my advice…

You need to be mindful and focused when creating questions about moving abroad. Thoughtful questions will enable you to find the answers you truly need to make good decisions.

Let me explain this mindful question and answer process, using the very practical example of buying clothing.

Clothes no matter where you live is one of our basic needs, and will be an important part of your cost-of-living budget. Luckily there is a wealth of trustworthy information out there to help. For this example, we’ll call the country you’re moving to as Country X.

Research example for Country X

✓ Your initial question: Are clothes expensive in Country X?

This is a very broad and vague question that will give you a range of online results from baby clothes to leather boots. This answer overload will leave you confused and overwhelmed with unnecessary information. But don’t be tempted to go on social media and ask this question, because you’ll get more opinions than actual facts, which again will leave you confused. You need reliable answers, not more questions.

Mindfully create your first question by defining the exact clothing category you want to research.

✓ Am I looking for basic clothing, casual clothing, outdoor wear, or more sophisticated clothes for special occasions?
I am looking to research casual clothes.

✓ Which brands will I research?
I will research the brands that I wear the most, Benneton and Gap.

Go to these websites in your home country and their websites for Country X. Look at the price differences. Use this source information to see for yourself if a pair of jeans are more or less expensive at Benetton or Gap in Country X than in your home country.

Now, take your newfound trustworthy answers to the social media channels and ask specific questions.

✓ On the Benetton and Gap websites in Country X, I found jeans for xxx price. Can someone tell me their experience shopping for jeans in Country X at Benetton and Gap?
Social media will play an interesting role to help you confirm your findings. The answers you receive will be the answers that will help you make decisions about Country X and how to reach your cost-of-living needs and goals when living there.

One more piece of advice I’d like to share…

It’s important to be mindful when we research any subject whether it’s about clothing or even politics, because we all have many cognitive biases. What I mean is that as human beings we all have this ability to create shortcuts in our thinking process. Confirmation bias is one of these many biases, when our minds automatically  focus and absorb more information and remember more facts, if they confirm what we already believe.

You may discover during your research answers that don’t match with your expectations. Maybe jeans will be more expensive in Country X even though you expected all your expenses to be lower there. Don’t ignore the evidence, no matter how tempting it maybe to stick with this belief. Remember these company websites are your best direct source of information!

This may sound unbelievable, but I’ll give you an example unrelated to travel.

It is very common during elections to have many different political polls. The answers from these polls with have different results with different projected outcomes for who will win and which ballot questions will pass. All of us will retain the information from the poll that confirms the results we want or hope for from the election – a confirmation bias.

You can counteract this bias tendency by asking other people to look at your informational research. By having this outside person look at your questions and answers, they can help you realize if your conclusions are biased or unbiased. This will also give you an idea of the effectiveness of your research about clothing, destination costs for moving, or whatever you need to research for your move abroad.

It’s difficult to do this research and preparation on our own, especially since sometimes we don’t even know what we don’t know.

If you feel this way, the Master Your Move program might be a good fit. Check out the program’s details and sign up for a free enrollment call HERE

You’ll find crucial resources the overwhelm and deal with the practical issues of saying goodbye, packing, new friends, and many other topics.

PS: Ready to take your move abroad to the next level? Join the Expat Journey Program and replace guesswork with a framework and get everything done.

Moving abroad: Where is the Best Place for Me to Live?

Moving abroad: Where is the Best Place for Me to Live?

You’ve made the decision to move abroad and now it’s time to answer the important first question: Where do I want to live? 

Maybe you’re still in the process of deciding on a country. Or you’re researching a country’s regional differences, deliberating over cities versus the countryside, near mountains or closer to the coast. There are also housing options – house, villa, condo, or apartment.  There are seemingly endless possibilities, which can create a sense of excitement about your decision but also can leave you feeling overwhelmed.

For this reason, I’d like to introduce to you the Criteria Funnel method. An approach to help you work through big-picture decisions like picking a country to the most granular level of decisions such as choosing between two houses in the same neighborhood.

Part One – Likes and dislikes

This exercise works best when all family members can be present and participate. Since this move will be made together, it’s best to start this process together.

Each person says what they like and dislike about where they live now, including their home and neighborhood. This is an important first step because this brings the abstract concept of moving into your concrete reality of everyday life. There are no right or wrong answers. You and your family are simply voicing your opinions and perspectives.

Some good examples of what may come up in the conversation are: You like a quiet neighborhood and would like the same abroad; your current home doesn’t have space for a garden; drug stores and grocery stores are accessible without a car, or maybe they aren’t currently but this would be on your new neighborhood wish list.

Part Two: The list

Once everyone has had the opportunity to share their thoughts, hand out paper and pens. This next exercise will create a useful way for each of you to understand your family’s needs.

We begin by doing something we’ve all done many times before and it is really fun, making a wish list. Go crazy. Think about everything you want for your new home and new neighborhood. There are no limitations.

I advise that each person writes their own list, so everyone can compare their list with everyone else’s.

Now, all your combined wish lists are put into the criteria funnel.

Part Three: Our must-haves

Each person must look at their wish list honestly and think: what are the items on this list that are the most important for me? What are my must-haves? This second list must be shorter than the first. The idea is to funnel down to what is essential for you to have in your new home and neighborhood. 

An example of a must-have would be that your family needs to stay within a certain budget, or your new community has a dog-friendly park/open space nearby.

Part Four: Non-negotiables

Your short list of must-haves will now be funneled down further by identifying your family’s non-negotiable items. These are things that you cannot negotiate or compromise on because they directly affect your ability to live a quality life.

A client of mine could not walk up and down stairs. She needed her new apartment to either be on the ground floor or in a building with a lift. Also, the neighborhood had to be on flat terrain with good sidewalks. For her, these items were not negotiable. They directly affected her ability to be mobile within her apartment building and outside in her neighborhood.

This same kind of granular thinking can be done with other important considerations, like children and school systems or open spaces and woodlands. You and your family will all have these non-negotiable items that can be identified.

Mastering the Decision: We are moving to…

Remember this is a process, and your lists are dynamic. Don’t be surprised that some of your needs don’t match the reality of a chosen neighborhood or that the importance of one need outweighs another.

Let’s say being in the city is your non-negotiable. Your company’s office is there, and you will not own a car. But then you discover that the rents are too high in the city center and downtown areas.

You decide to look outside the city limits and rely on public transportation. This shift allows you more housing choices, though you will need to factor your commute into the budget.

And share your non-negotiables list with your real estate agent and the other professionals assisting with your move. You won’t be tempted to look at areas or housing options that don’t meet your essential needs, and you’ll save time, energy, and money.

You’ve made this important decision to move abroad, and create a well-thought-out strategy to avoid costly mistakes. Your big change doesn’t have to be overwhelming with the right help and a good plan.

My online course “Decide Where to Live“ helps you navigate and create a moving abroad strategy. This course includes: learning the blueprint of the moving process, goal setting, an in-depth look at creating the Criteria Funnel, and a 1:1 consultation.

PS: Ready to take your move abroad to the next level? Join the Expat Journey Program and replace guesswork with a framework and get everything done.

Scouting Trip Success: 5 key tips you need to know

Scouting Trip Success: 5 key tips you need to know

Chances are that if you’re preparing for a move abroad, visiting your new country is one of your top priorities. If you’re wondering how to prepare for this important trip and make the most of your time there, keep reading. Here are my 5 essential tips for you to know before you go: 

#1 – This is not a vacation

Why is this so important to understand? Because normally we think of a trip as time off, enjoyment, relaxation, getting a tourist’s view of a new place. But this scouting trip is an expedition with a mission, a purpose, and a goal: You need to come back to your home country with information that will determine how and where you’ll be living in your new country.

Which region, city, neighborhood will you live in?  Will you have a car? Where’s the best place to live with and without a car? If you have kids, then you’ll also be investigating schools and the availability of kid and family friendly activities.

Although the temptation may be to romanticize this trip as a great adventure – please don’t. The worst outcome would be to return home after a huge investment of time, money, energy, expectations and realize you didn’t gather important information, or you failed to investigate a vital aspect of life in the new country.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t relax and enjoy yourself on the trip, but overall your mindset  should be to gather information to reach a specific outcome or decision. You need to keep yourself focused on the goals for this scouting mission.

#2 – Your long-term life goals

Moving abroad is a life-changing event. You’re uprooting yourself from your home country and placing yourself and your family into another country with a completely different culture. This decision comes with a huge investment of time, money, physical and emotional energy. Be sure this move abroad aligns with your long-term life goals. Does this move bring you closer or further away from these goals? Now is the time to look at it in the big picture while your investment is still relatively small.

#3 – Everyone needs to be involved

If you’re moving abroad with your spouse, children or other family members like a parent, it’s important that everyone’s thinking is united. The trip will help determine not only your long-term life goals but your family members’ goals as well. There will be challenges and bumps in the road. If you or family members do not understand why you’re making this huge change or know what you’re moving for, your hard times will be that much more difficult.

#4 – Record and register everything

Do not trust your memory. After a couple of days of traveling and investigating your new country, everything will become a hazy jumble of events. You won’t remember the names of the places you visited, the streets, neighborhoods, parks, schools. 

Write everything down in a designated notebook with notes of your impressions, likes, dislikes, thoughts, and feelings about what you’re seeing, experiencing, and living. Write everything down as it happens or use your phone’s voice recorder or camera to create a video. How you choose to record your scouting days doesn’t matter as long as you have everything registered. 

If you’re going with another family member, have this person do the same thing for themselves. These different records will be helpful later on when you compare and contrast each other’s impressions and experiences. 

One more piece of advice: Take the time to download and label everything you’ve recorded. Ideally, you’d do this when your memory is still fresh from the experiences. Maybe you label your photos and videos during dinner or when you’ve settled in your rooms for the night. But if you neglect doing this important step, two or three days later you’ll be asking yourself, “What? Where the heck was this? Why did I take this photo?”

#5 – Make a daily goal

Every day on the scouting trip write down your goal for the day. One or two things that you want to accomplish or information you need to find. These goals will be part of your decision making process. Be sure that everyone who’s on the trip is also aligned with this daily goal. Sharing your goals with your guide or agent can also be of help when exploring different districts and neighborhoods.

And lastly, if you’d like more information and help to have the best possible scouting trip, take a look at my online course, How to Prepare your Scouting Trip for Success. 

This is a comprehensive course that will take you step-by-step through the process. You’ll have access to assignments and worksheets, like the day-to-day scouting trip guide. You can download and print this worksheet, which is essential in creating your plan and goals. The course also includes a 1:1 one-hour session with me that gives you an opportunity to ask specific questions, share and troubleshoot your scouting expedition.

PS: Ready to take your move abroad to the next level? Join the Expat Journey Program and replace guesswork with a framework and get everything done. 

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