Many employees dream of new professional challenges in a foreign country. Sometimes, however, only short-term employment is sought: As a so-called expatriate (in short: expat), you generally work in a foreign country for a certain amount of time before returning back home. This has the advantage that you can explore new career opportunities and discover new cultures without needing to make a final decision on your career path. If you are interested in working as an expat, here are our tips on pursuing a career abroad.
Generally speaking, you can differentiate between various forms of expatriation. The temporary transfer of an employee to a foreign branch office on company request is referred to as “secondment”. In this case, it is of course not necessary to look for suitable employment. But the initiative to work abroad could also stem from the employee himself. For many people, working as an expat is seen as an opportunity to pursue a different career path. In this case, it’s necessary to find suitable employment with an employer abroad. If you are interested in taking this step, you should first consult established job portals to see if suitable positions are available. Thanks to its international brand network, Engel & Völkers too offers a wide range of international career opportunities.
Before deciding on embarking on a career abroad, you should first visit the country you are interested in. Forego typical tourist activities and rather get an impression of what your everyday life as an expat could look like. Also use this opportunity to gather useful insider information: How would you get to work? Are there any other expats? What recreational opportunities exist? Find out about local rent levels in order to assess how much of your expat salary you would be spending on living expenses and what standard of living you could afford.
Have you decided on a country? In the next step, you will need to attend to some bureaucratic matters. As a soon-to-be expat, you should definitely renew your passport or apply for a new one. This may take several weeks or months, which is why you should do this in good time. Also check whether other documents like your driver’s licence or identity document need to be renewed.
There’s no way around it. Learning a new language is an essential prerequisite for being able to communicate in your destination of choice and integrating yourself in the everyday life. This does not mean that you need to be perfect in that language right from the start of your employment. Instead, focus on the most important standard phrases and questions that you will be needing on a daily basis. Here are some good ways to learn a foreign language:
Evening courses at an adult education centre – this has the advantage that you learn from professionally qualified personnel that adjusts to your learning requirements.
Language learning apps – they have the advantage of being relatively inexpensive or even free and also allow you to learn the language on the go.
Language courses at the company – some companies offer in-house language courses. At Engel & Völkers, we train and support people working abroad under the brand with such professional development opportunities.
As an expat, you should check in good time whether you require any insurances in your new country of choice. On the one hand, this means determining what types of insurance you would need apart from overseas health insurance. Many countries have different laws and regulations. Seeing that you will only be spending limited time abroad, you should also pay attention to the insurance term or cancellation period when taking out an insurance policy.
Starting a new job abroad does not necessarily mean that you need to terminate existing insurance policies and contracts in your current country of residence. Sometimes it’s possible to suspend the contracts for the duration of your stay abroad. Ask your service provider for more information on this topic.
If you are not already doing this anyway, you should manage existing contracts online, if possible. This applies, for example, to online banking, credit card statements or your mobile phone contract. Try to maintain all subscriptions and contracts on digital channels. This will allow you to remain flexible as an expat and avoid long-winded correspondence by mail.
Also inform yourself to what extent you will be able to access cash abroad via your current bank. This kind of information is recorded in your contract with your bank. It might also be worthwhile opening a temporary account with a local bank.
As an expat, you could, sooner or later, get homesick. So, take the time to communicate with your family and friends back home on a regular basis. But don’t forget to also get to know and appreciate your new home. Making new friends locally is also an important step towards having fun with your new job abroad in the long term. This is another good reason why learning the local language is an important component of your job as expat.
Working as an expatriate is definitely a big challenge that requires a lot of courage. But with the right planning, it can become a unique work and life experience. In our global job market you can discover many different career opportunities around the world that are just waiting to be discovered by you. We wish you success with your preparations and a good start into your new life!