expat life

Professional Wanderlust

Expat Life – The Trials and Triumphs of Working Abroad

For those of us who have left our homelands behind for a better job prospect, for love, or just for something new, we understand that “expat life” is not just a choice. It’s a lifestyle. And according to a recent study, 1/3 of Americans would consider leaving the U.S. for foreign shores. This number has increased dramatically over the last few years, and probably for the best: most recruiters and headhunters strongly believe that international experiences make a candidate more attractive.

But moving to a different country and finding a job is about so much more than booking the flight. The language barriers, lifestyle changes and cultural differences can be staggering, and the difficulties of expat life are not to be underestimated. That said, international experience is practically required for executives and senior managers in today’s job market, especially in Europe. And as most expats can tell you, the experience alone is worth the struggles.

If you’re considering an international move or job offer, be brave enough to say yes. But before you sign the contract, here’s an idea of the factors to consider.

expat life


Different Working Hours

Traditionally speaking, most American employees take the morning train, they work from 9 to 5 and then they take another home again. But of course, in a culture of constant connectivity, these work days may drag much longer, especially if you’re still reading your work email from your phone at 8 pm on a Tuesday. And across industries, the averages change as well. In Europe, working hours vary widely from country to country. Germans, for example, take their 9-6 schedule very seriously – as seriously as their after-work parties. As many people have noted, “the Germans work hard and play hard.” Meanwhile, the Spanish tradition of “siesta” isn’t a joke. In fact, be prepared for entire cities to shut down for a few hours in the afternoon so that they can rest and recharge their batteries.

When you consider a transcontinental switch, think about your lifestyle and whether your new home country fits with your idea of “work-life balance.” Do you need a two hour break in the middle of the day to relax and reflect? Or would you prefer to be in and out by 6 pm, ready to enjoy your evening with friends and family?

Office and Business Interactions

Cultural norms are different for every country. Like many companies today, Experteer is lucky  to have a very international staff, with employees from all over the world – France, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nepal, Colombia, Bulgaria, and more. This creates a very open minded environment within the workplace, with all of our colleagues sharing traditions and customs. But if your new employer has a more domestic workforce – say you’re moving to France, and the entire staff is French – then it’s in your best interest to familiarize yourself with certain norms that will be expected of you in such an office. Don’t be surprised if your new Parisian boss moves to kiss your cheek. This isn’t an HR violation, it’s simply a greeting. Or should you choose to attend a conference or work in an Asian country, you must learn how to properly deliver your business card to a new acquaintance. Don’t simply dig it out of your pocket, crumpled and dirty, before handing it over to your new contact. Rather, it should be immaculately presented, face up, in both hands to the recipient. To nonchalantly pass it on is to convey a serious lack of respect. Do a little research to find out what’s expected of you in each country, and especially in your new city.

Salary and Benefits

Does the thought of spending 70% of your paycheck on rent make you cry? Would you rather have a higher salary, or more vacation days? Or do you want both? These are all valid questions to consider before making a big move. Some cities are notorious for their high cost of living, so before boarding a flight to New York City or Paris, try looking at the cost of apartments first, and calculate these costs against your proposed salary.

And don’t forget it’s about more than paychecks. In France, for example, their vacation days are highly prized – some employees have as much as 10 weeks per year. And Germans get an average of 30 days per year – six weeks. Compared to the American standard of two weeks, this is an absolute luxury. So consider your lifestyle and your passions, before you commit to a new country.

International experience is absolutely invaluable, both personally and professionally. So do your research and find out if an international move is right for you! For a boost in the right direction, try finding your next international senior position on Experteer today!

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