Monday, September 12, 2011

Tips for Making an Expatriation Decision

"Congratulations on landing this expat position!" you will hear from your boss and off they'll go and you will be left on your own ruminating over the imminent relocation. You start talking to your colleagues, friends, spend hours on expat forums and make up long lists of criteria based on which you are going to pass your judgment. Luckily, there are lots of resources, starting with general and all-encompassing, such as, and ranging to country specific, e.g.,, etc. or home country specific, e.g.

I am by no means an expert: I have only lived in four different countries so far, and there is a separate category of "chronic expats", whose way of life is changing countries every 3-4 years, taking their home, spouses, children and pets wherever they go. Still, I do have an insight into the expat life from both sides of the fence: as an expat myself and as an HR professional handling issues or expatriation, repatriation, painful expatriate separations and blood-sucking dealings with expat transfer desks and relocation agencies.

Here are, in my opinion, the most critical things that you need to keep in mind changing the country you live in:

  • Taxes: will you fall into a double taxation situation? Which country is the tax rate higher? Will you company compensate the potential loss in your income caused by higher tax rates? Which country are you a tax resident in? Make sure that you clear out all these questions before you agree to anything in writing.

  • Cost of Living: it's a no-brainer that living in Colorado-ville is less expensive that Oslo, Tokio or Moscow. Most companies will add a COLA (cost of living adjustment) payment into your new package, but to confirm for yourself you can use a variety of online resources, including

  • Housing: there are expat ghettoes in practically every country and most often than not your company will take care of your accommodation. However, if you wish to experience the local culture and avoid those protected sterilized look-alike expat residential complexes, you may wish to take the factor of availability of safe decent-quality housing on the local market into account.

  • Health: living in areas where it is easier to get malaria, yellow fever or cholera is easier than catching a cold might deter you from moving there. However, there are boosters for virtually everything and if you take precautions you can successfully avoid the majority of dangerous local diseases. What plays a more important role is availability of superb medical facilities, especially if you have a condition or planning to have a baby while being on an international assignment. You can check out with the most renowned medical care providers about the situation with the medical facilities in the countries that you are considering moving to: Bupa and International-SOS.

  • Climate: if you have asthma, maybe it's not a good idea where there are many allergens, and if you cannot live in humid climates, probably you should stay away from the Asia-Pacific region. -50° C temperatures in Siberia are not for faint-hearted. High altitudes, extreme heat, long rainy seasons - figure out if you will be comfortable living there.

  • Schooling: if you have kids of school age, getting into a school with the native language of instruction for your child becomes a decisive factor. Check out the international schools in the city you are moving to and do spend some time calling the principals and the admission officers there to firm up the requirements and conditions in those academic institutions.

These seven points are by no means exhaustive, but I hope that they will help you make the right decision and avoid culture shock as much as possible.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails