I have been going through the interview process for a particular company which I believe would be amazing to work for, and it appears that I have reached the tail end of the interview process.

They are offering relocation to the other side of the world, ( I am currently in Australia and will be moving to California )

Has anyone had any experience with something similar to this ?

If so what were the things that you wished you had done or known prior to such a large move ?

Are there any things that you did that in retrospect significantly improved your experience?


4 Answers 4


As an expat Brit who has lived in the US for 16 years it's the little differences that take some getting used to.

For example:

  • Getting a social security number
  • Obtaining a credit card with zero credit history
  • Renting a place to live with no credit history
  • Buying or renting a car with no credit history (you can see credit history is a theme here!)
  • Working out how much tax to withhold
  • Filing your own taxes every year

More obscure, but noticeable things for me included losing cultural references for while. From sports to TV etc. there will be many references that pass you by and many references you make that nobody will pick up on. Of course that will be addressed in time.

On a lighter note, I worked with an Australian in NYC one winter. After a bad storm, the next morning he was asking myself and other colleagues "Is there a trick to walking in snow? I left my apartment last night and fell over 3 times!". Obviously not such a big deal in California.

Having to pass a new driving test was a hassle, but not a big deal. Of course, you will be driving on a different side of the road, but that's easy enough to pick up.

Probably not quite the same in California, but in the North East, when I ate out, the portion sizes were huge. Very easy to put on weight. The food seems to contain more sugar, so be wary of that too.

Alcohol laws are different and vary from state to state. In some, if you serve an 18 year old a beer in your house, you can go to jail.

I never viewed any of these as negatives, but they all add up in the first few months.

  • Alcohol laws are of no consequence to me, I am well over a decade past that, and I somehow dont see myself hanging out with a The credit history seems to be a good one, since I didnt even think of that, I am wondering if it is possible for me to begin this process prior to flying out? Mar 21, 2015 at 15:25
  • 4
    I was well past the age too - it was the serving an under-21 in the privacy of your own home one that surprised me after coming from a culture where younger children could drink alcohol with meals in hotels etc. Mar 21, 2015 at 15:52
  • Be very careful of the credit history issue! I made the mistake of applying for several different credit cards when I first arrived. Applying for, and getting knocked back for, a credit card impacts your credit history negatively --- making it take longer for you to be able to get a credit card. My credit cards in Australia had a > AUD 20,000 limit (never used, but useful for family international plane fares). The first card I managed to get in the US had a USD 300 limit. Why I didn't take too long to get the card was because the co. got a mortgage for me: a plus for my credit score.
    – Peter K.
    Mar 22, 2015 at 16:12
  • Agreed. The way ,forward for me with credit history was a combination of secured credit cards (where you basically deposit, say, $500 and receive a card with a $500 limit) and store credit cards which have less stringent credit history requirements. Very high APR though, so they need careful management. After I had my salary deposited into my my new US bank account for a few months, they offered me a proper card. American Express cards are also great and widely accepted. Mar 22, 2015 at 16:46
  • I had an Australian-issed American Express and thought that it would be easier to get an American-issued one. How wrong I was. It was the worst experience I have ever had with a credit card company. I will NEVER have an American Express card again. Ever.
    – Peter K.
    Mar 23, 2015 at 2:04

I've made such a move, though across a much bigger cultural gap than USA / Australia. Some general things:

  • Be informed on what aspects of relocation your employer will cover, and, more importantly, what they won't, and any financial or time limits.
  • Be informed about income taxation in the new country. This is one of the two biggest things affecting the difference between your gross and net pay. Will your employer assist you with paperwork (in the USA you must file a tax return every year)?
  • Be informed about the costs and availability of health insurance through your employer and health care that's at a standard you're comfortable with. Health insurance is the other big thing affecting your take home pay.
  • Be informed about the visa situation. Your employer should help you with the process and filing paperwork, but you personally need to understand the regulations and conditions for your legal residence in the new country.
  • Be informed on your home country's income and taxation laws regarding foreign earned income. This is something that your new employer can't help you with.
  • Be informed of exactly when and how you will actually receive your pay before agreeing to the offer and signing the contract.
  • Be informed on the specifics of where you will first live. Where is it? How far is it from your job and what are the commuting options? What is the neighborhood like? Who's paying for it and under what terms?
  • Get a contract that includes everything you expect to receive from your employer, spelled out in precise terms.
  • Before you leave home, prepare a will and testament in proper legal fashion. Spell out medical treatment details and contact information. Grant an appropriately scoped power of attorney to someone you can trust. Bring copies of these documents with you.
  • Take photos, copies or scans of your passport and visa. Stick some in your wallet, so you have them whether or not you're carrying your passport. Keep additional copies in your residence. Email yourself a set. Send some to your emergency contacts in your home country. Losing your passport sucks.
  • Sounds like it's a bit late for you, but visit the country (and preferably the city) first. I mean on holiday, for at least a week or two, not just when you fly out for a face to face interview. Take some time to get an idea of what daily life will actually be like there.
  • Understand that visiting, whether for an interview or holiday, can give you ideas and impressions, but you never really understand what working there is like until you actually do it. Some places have significant differences in cultures between work and home.
  • Be ruthless about paring down your possessions, especially if this is a permanent or semi-permanent move. Even if your new employer is paying to move it all for you, bringing a lot of stuff is really inconvenient. And what happens if things don't work out and you have to return home after six months? Or if you don't like the first place you live and end up wanting to move? They won't pay for it a second time. On the flip side, how much do you really need all that furniture just sitting in a storage unit on the other side of the world?
  • Bring and keep some emergency liquid funds. If everything explodes and you don't get paid, or you have some emergency back home before that first check arrives, you need to have money to cover a plane ticket at a minimum.
  • Meet people and make friends outside of your workplace, even if it's difficult. Especially if it's difficult. Outside your industry is better.
  • If there's a language barrier (almost certainly doesn't apply to you, though it's very useful to know both Spanish and English in California), start lessons well in advance of leaving. Making an effort to overcome it will win you points and make your life a lot easier.
  • Check voltages on any electronics you plan to bring with you. Will you need a transformer (in addition to a socket adapter) to safely plug them in?
  • Have things you enjoy doing in your spare time that you bring with you or are completely certain of easily obtaining. Your new employer is furnishing you with a job and assistance settling in. They are not furnishing you with a life.
  • Take time away from work to enjoy life in a new country. Travel domestically. It's too easy to fall into a routine and get bogged down by mundane minutiae. Recognize and appreciate what you've accomplished.

Firstly there is the whole visa-greenCard-citizenship rigmarole. You may qualify for an E3, otherwise it's an H1B or O visa which are hard to come by. I would go for green card as soon as possible as this makes you also independent of a specific employer or sponsor.

Since you are Australian, language shouldn't be too much of a problem. Still, it took me a while to actually understand the typical news headline (and terms like GOP, DA, etc.) since there is a lot of context that's not obvious.

Schooling and education are fairly unique but if you don't have kids that probably doesn't matter much. Gender roles and "acceptable" inter-gender behavior communication can also vary quite a bit between cultures, so it's advisable to observe this for a bit before diving into the fun.

Surprisingly enough I think a big factor is simply attitude. You will find things that are great in the US but also things that were better in Australia. The key is to enjoy the first and don't get hung up on the latter. I've seen ex-pats that were constantly moping about how things were better at home and so they went back only to be moping again of how things were so much better in the US


I haven't relocated across countries, but have some friends who have. I have moved entirely across the US.

Logistic things I'd check in on with the company:

  • Understand the visa situation - both now and for the future. Are they providing legal help? What are the gates to being able to work legally? What happens if there's a slowdown in the process? If you love it in the US, will they cover citizenship? At what point in time or with what barriers to applying?

  • Get real estate help - real estate anywhere (but especially the coasts of the US) can be both pricey and wildly available. A lot of US locations have real estate prices tied tightly to school district quality, as people with kids will pay a lot of money for good schools. Also traffic and access to public transit plays a part - so understand these dynamics before settling in. US has both seller agents and buyers agents. More and more person-to-person sales of properties are growing, but sellers agents are still the most common. Buyers agents can be helpful, but IMO it's a mixed bag.

  • Know the boundaries of the relocation budget - is it fixed fee? What services are offered? What does it cover? I had a company that would relocate the people and their kids, but not their pets, for example. And I don't know that pet relocation is as hard as New Zealand, but we may have quarantine and requirements.

  • Have a plan for keeping in touch with people you love at home. These days Skype and other Net services are so common, that it's hardly a burden - but helping your technology impaired grandmother from overseas isn't as easy as getting her set up and using Skype before you go.

Having lived in India for a month, I found that I did best when I could appreciate and have fun with the differences in culture, rather than just being shocked. But some culture shock is inevitable. Have a plan for what stuff from home will be most comforting or fun when you have a "I'm sick of the US" day. I thought when I visited India, my comfort thing would be my secret stash of beef jerky and my favorite clothing, but it turned out my comfort routine was planning a day for myself where I did everything exactly on time instead of the somewhat unpredictable timing structure of normal day to day life in India.

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