Moving abroad is a great way to travel, develop new friendships, experience diverse cultures and broaden you horizons. Fortunately, you can also develop your career at the same time. When considering a career move overseas, it is wise to extensively research before you go.
Doing your homework on moving abroad is definitely worthwhile, for both professional and social reasons. There is a huge amount of information available, including an array of fantastic books and websites.
Securing a job offer before you leave makes life a lot easier, especially as most companies offer attractive relocation and expatriate packages. I have been assisting qualified accountants to find positions overseas for almost 18 years. In my experience, most employers will sort out your visa and offer you some kind of relocation package. This could include paying for flights, providing a shipping allowance or arranging up to four weeks’ paid accommodation. Some companies even allow you to furnish your apartment on expenses. In locations such as Dubai and UAE there is often assistance with housing subsidies, plus schooling allowances, car allowances and other benefits.
However, it is also important to be aware that more people are interested in overseas positions and more local applicants are being presented with strong backgrounds for roles. Therefore, employers are offering less incentives to make people move and focusing on packages that afford a good standard of living as opposed to great savings.
It is always worth initiating your own research which covers the cost of living; availability of accommodation; safest suburbs; currency exchange rates; average temperatures throughout the year; local transport services; local issues (e.g. environmental, political, religious); media outlets; major events; popular pubs, clubs, restaurants, cafes and shopping spots; nearby tourist destinations…the list is endless! A good recruitment consultancy will give you advice and information on all of these subjects.
Other options are to speak to expats and locals, read a Lonely Planet guide and go online. At Think Global Recruitment, we often put people in touch with other accountants that we have placed in the area, so that they can answer any queries or concerns. Many expats write about their overseas experiences in weblogs, which can be a valuable source of first hand, honest information, for example www.limeyinbermuda.com
Once you have carried out your personal research, it makes our job all the more rewarding as we can ensure that we find you opportunities somewhere you are enthusiastic about moving to and that will suit your circumstances and personality. We then help you every step of the way to ensure that your transition is as smooth as possible.
When moving to work abroad, we advise people to avoid leaving debt in their home country. We recommend this for an array of reasons, including high interest charges and fluctuating currency exchange rates. You should undoubtedly save money for setting up overseas as relocating can be expensive and there are often unexpected costs, such as furnishing an apartment, bond deposits, first month’s rent, buying a car/moped/bike and many more.
You will need to investigate the logistics of setting up a bank account. Often this can be done from home, although some countries require you to be there in person. It’s always worth checking in advance on what identification documents will be required. On the subject of finance, in some countries you will require to have a local tax number which should be set up as soon as possible to avoid complications with your first pay packet.
Try to understand basic cultural differences. We know many expats who have failed to research and understand cultural differences, resulting in quite embarrassing outcomes.
Apart from obvious barriers such as language, you need to be aware of the idiosyncrasies of different cultures. Cultural differences can sometimes be incredibly subtle, such as introductions and greetings, gift giving, body language, appropriate dress, voice inflection and even social space.
Think Global Recruitment always advises people to thoroughly research these cultural differences before moving overseas or attending an international job interview, because it can greatly influence their chances of actually securing the job.
When moving abroad, a lack of knowledge about a country’s culture can lead to misunderstanding, frustration and potential embarrassment. Failing to understand cultural differences can sometimes damage both personal and professional relationships.
For example, it is essential to observe local etiquette, such as giving business cards with two hands in China; shaking hands using your left hand in the Middle East and taking care to avoid showing the sole of your shoe or foot in Thailand.
An example of a significant cultural clash occurred in Costa Rica, when a British accountant was invited to his prospective boss’s house. The accountant was told he should take a gift, such as flowers, wine or chocolates. He decided on a beautiful bunch of fresh lilies. Unfortunately, he didn’t realise that Costa Ricans associate lilies with funerals. Needless to say, the meeting started and ended badly.
Offshore financial services hubs such as Bermuda, Caribbean, Channel Islands, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland and Gibraltar are particularly active in offering large numbers of vacancies. However, a qualified accountant should also find an abundance of opportunities in the Middle East, Far East and Africa.
There is also a number of large international companies based in the USA trying to recruit staff from overseas; although a limit on the number of visas available can sometimes restrict the number of people they are able to offer positions to.
Some locations do not always require language skills, including Germany, France, Russia and Eastern Europe, as work is carried out in English, although a keen interest to learn is useful and can also help to enhance your social life. Locations such as China, Mexico and Spain generally still require language skills, although there are now some companies in these locations that will offer language training.
Lastly, we advise you to leave a copy of important documents, such as your passport, travel insurance and visa, with a trusted family member or friend, just in case.
Also, make sure you share your amazing new experience with your family and friends back home. Our research has found that if anyone finds something difficult about living abroad, it is missing friends and family. Involving them in your experience will not only make the transition easier, but is also important for readjusting when you return home. Luckily, you will find a constant stream of visitors is likely!
Maintain a positive, adventurous attitude. You will face numerous challenges, but this is all part of the experience. Always remember the reasons you moved abroad in the first place – it is an unforgettable, once in a lifetime opportunity!
If you would like further information or advice on relocating or are interested in pursuing a career in accountancy overseas then please contact Think Global Recruitment on +44 (0) 260 5850 or visit www.thinkgr.com.
by Abigail Stevens, Managing Director, Think Global Recruitment