I have often talked here about how I have worked in the past few years in the UK, Spain and Guatemala, and would like to go into details today about the actual relocation process. Every time, I moved because I had a job lined up, but the company was hiring locally and not ready to pay for an expat package. Those are pretty rare, and most of the time you can get them when your current company wants to ship you off to the other side of the world, otherwise, if many locals can do your job, they won’t be ready to pay extra to have you.
Get the job, then get there
With one job, we conducted the interviews entirely via Skype and phone, while another one flew me over for a couple of days, so we could meet in person. I would never move to a new city, let alone a new country, without knowing for sure that I will have a job once I get there.
The only case I would consider moving without a job would be following a spouse who does have a job in a new place. While it may be fun to day dream about living in Australia for example, once you have packed all your belongings, had CMS Hire move them and put your stuff in storage, paid for flights, first rent and deposit, how long can you last without a job? What if you don’t get one at all?
Getting a job prior to moving has several advantages.
You will be able to look for a place to rent knowing where your job will be. I was 10 minutes away, cycling, from my last job, and it was great considering the high cost of commuting, and the time lost in the process.
The company wants you and will make your life easier. They will be able to tell you where to live, and the neighborhoods to avoid. If needed, they will help you get a resident’s visa. You can’t look for a job on a tourist permit. Many countries will impose that you get a work visa before you move there. If you are from Europe and just move to the U.S., then decide to work, you will have to go back home while your work permit is issued.
The company will act as your guarantor. If you are moving abroad, renting a place or opening a bank account can be hell. Having a job already, you can ask your company to serve as a guarantor on your first rental contract, or to help you open a bank account with their current bank, while you get pay slips and a credit score and start depending less on them. Having no job in Guatemala, I was only able to open a savings account and need to queue up every time I want to withdraw cash as they won’t give me a debit card.
The company will save you the “newbie tax”. Your friends living there can also play that part, but if you don’t know anyone, your colleagues will help you out, recommending the best utilities and broadband company, where to eat, the traps to avoid. When I moved to the UK, I thought everything was crazy expensive. Turns out there are lots of deals to help you pay less than the normal price tag. If you move on your own you may find out the hard way.
Consider the cost of living
$2,000 goes a long way in Guatemala, it barely helps you get by if you are relocating to the UK. That new salary may look attractive, but you also need to check the cost of living. I was once offered a six figure job in Congo. You would think that living over there is dirt cheap, right? Well, not exactly. If you want decent housing, say just a two bedroom place with AC and 800 sqft, you are looking at $1,000 and up. Because expats push prices up, because there is little offer for their needs, etc. You also need to have a driver wherever you go, and as a single woman it may be best to live in a gated community.
Simply put, there are cities where a paycheck stretches farther than others. There is a ton of information online about how much it costs to rent, buy, commute, eat in each city. What I try to find out is how much money I will have left at the end of the month. Making $10,000 and spending $9,000 is not worth the trouble if you are already saving $1,000 a month at home, unless it is a really cool destination.
How about moving back?
You may not enjoy your new town or country. You may get fired or simply want to move back home. Where is “back home”? If you rented your old house up, where would you live? How about your stuff in storage?
Not only is it an important question to ask yourself, as moving back would not be easy if you sold all your belongings and your residence, but also to ask your potential employer. Would they cover the costs of moving back, or at least a flight? All those additional costs (and I’d also include at least the cost of one trip back per year) should be deducted from your first year package before making a decision.
On a related topic, check out 9 tips for UK expats on Reach Financial Independence.
Have you ever moved to a new town or country to improve your career? Was it worth it?