10 things to consider before moving to a different country

So…You’ve had this nagging feeling for a while now about working abroad to get some international experience. Or maybe you weren’t planning to relocate to a different country but you’ve been contacted with an interesting position and you’re wondering if it’s worth giving it a go…

Either way – there are some questions that you need to ask yourself first to make sure that this is the right choice for you, since the decision to move to a new country shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Rest assured – we’ve got you covered. We work with candidates across the whole EU, sometimes covering roles outside of Europe as well. One of our team members is an ex-pat and having made this big decision herself a few months back has shared some of her words of wisdom.

Here it is, the foolproof guide to international relocation.
  • Starting with the country itself, let’s talk about…language. If you speak the local language of the country you’re considering moving to – that’s ideal. If not, you’ll need to figure out two things:
  • To what extent English (or any other language you’re fluent in) is being used there?
  • And also, which may be surprising, do you like the sound of the local language? Try listening to the news or some songs in that language and figure out if you’re keen on learning it (let’s admit it, you will need to learn at least a little).
  • A pretty obvious one – are you eligible to work in this country?  On top of that, we recommend you think about your qualifications and certificates/diplomas. Are they valid in that country, will they be honoured there? Will you need to take some additional exams/apprenticeships to keep the right to practice your profession?
  • Employment law. Might not seem such a big deal but it’s worth checking the country’s policy and general guidelines. Are you entitled to paid annual leave? Do you get paid sick days? Do you need to get any medical check-ups before starting your new role or even entering the country? This scenario was a shock for Joanna, as in Poland you are legally required to have tests before you start working in the new company. So on her first day at Harvey John, she thought she was an office villain!

As moving abroad is usually a choice dictated by money, it is really good to check how lucrative the potential new role might be for you.

Don’t be lured by numbers, check how it will work in real life!
  • Costs of living. It may be worth using one of the ‘costs of living’ calculators which will help you establish how much you should be earning in the country you’re considering respectively to your current salary. You can then roughly estimate how much your net income should be to guarantee a similar lifestyle to the one you have right now.
  • Accommodation. This will be included in your costs of living calculations. But on top of that, check how the real estate market works – i.e. take a look at portals such as Spareroom etc. to find out about the requirements you may need to fulfil (e.g. references from your employer or the copy of your working contract). Also, you can learn if you’d need to sign the contract for the whole 12 months, are the utilities are usually included in the rent etc.
  • Taxes. Since most of the salaries are usually quoted in gross amounts, when you do the math and try to estimate how much tax you’d need to pay, it can be a kind of a surprise! Some of the more pleasing percentages are Bulgaria’s 10%, Georgia’s 20%, and Ukraine’s 17%. At the other end of the spectrum is Austria’s 55% and The Netherlands’ 52%…
Now, it’s time to take care of less tangible aspects… Think of your emotional comfort as well!
  • Community. Even if you’re not the life of the party, it is always good to find out if the place you’re considering relocating to has communities that you could join. These can come in handy when you feel homesick or to celebrate an occasion or a country-specific holiday/tradition!
  • Convenient access to your hometown/ home country. We know that you probably won’t be visiting your hometown every week. But it’s always a good idea to stay somewhere where you can get to the airport within an hour, hop on a plane and just pay a brief visit to your friends and family. Check the fast trains as well!
  • The vibe and humour. Will you enjoy being there? Have you visited this city/ country before? Did you like it? What about the vibe? Are you familiar with their classic movies/ standups? That’s just one of the ways to see if you will get on in terms of a sense of humour. Do you know many people from this part of the world? What are your impressions?
  • Cultural differences. This one may not be so obvious. As culture is usually invisible, you will probably notice the difference only when confronted with something unlike what you’re used to. For example, think about how your gender is treated in the country you’re relocating to. Also, a really interesting thing to check is the Hofstede model for various countries. You can compare your home country to the one you’re planning on moving to and think ahead of whether or not you’ll feel comfortable there e.g. in a more individualistic culture.
Next steps…

We know that doing this research may take some time and preparation. However, we truly believe it’s better to be safe than sorry in this respect. If you go ahead with an interview, take a look at our blog on interviews, not in your native language. As we work with clients and candidates throughout Europe, we are on hand to offer some guidance. Reach out to our team if you’re considering an international career move.

Ewa Milner-Walker is a Principal Consultant in the Tax division at Harvey John

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