Should I Move Abroad for Work?
Retiring to warmer climes has long been the dream for hard-working British people, but it seems that UK professionals are no longer waiting for retirement to move abroad. The UK government estimates that roughly 6 million British nationals currently live in a foreign country, and a massive proportion of these expatriates are working, rather than enjoying their twilight years.
Are you currently considering the possibility of accepting a job offer abroad, or looking for career opportunities outside of the UK? While there are both advantages and disadvantages to consider, the benefits have the potential to be massive – and home is always waiting.
Over the years we’ve placed many professionals in fantastic positions abroad, including DCS Engineers in Denmark, Controls Engineers in Canada, C&I Engineers in Kazakhstan, Applications Engineers in Singapore and Commissioning Engineers in Australia.
The decision to leave the familiar and begin a new life in a foreign land can be daunting and is never undertaken lightly, but once made, it can be the best decision of your life.
What makes Brits consider a career abroad?
World First published a survey in June last year which asked their customers which factors would be likely to influence them to move away from the UK. The results are unlikely to shock anyone: British weather is second on the list of things persuading Brits to make a run for warmer shores, close behind a desire for a better quality of life.
A staggering 75% responded that they believe a better quality of life is possible abroad, and that this would be their main motivation behind a move
- 60% are sick of the British weather
- 53% are attracted by the cultures of foreign nations
- 47% of respondents believe that living abroad would be ‘more relaxed’
- 39% think it could be better for one’s health
- 38% find foreign food a major draw
- 27% think that life is both cheaper and friendlier abroad
- 22% believe they’ll find better work prospects abroad
- 19% are drawn to a new start, with lower taxes and better pay
- 7% would like to live somewhere with a more liberal political landscape
Why do Brits decide to stay in the UK?
The factors influencing British workers to stay in the UK are unsurprising:
- 73% are reluctant to move because of friends and family they’d be leaving behind
- 33% said they’d miss UK culture
- 31% are loath to lose their healthcare benefits
- 16% believe the quality of life is generally lower abroad
How does the world-wide workforce decide on job relocation?
The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) polled more than 200,000 professionals from roughly 70 countries to find out what motivates people to move abroad for work. Their Decoding Global Talent study (2014) showed that, on a global scale:
- 65% of those who would consider a move abroad are attracted by the opportunity to broaden their personal experience or acquire professional experience
- 59% find the possibility of better career opportunities appealing
- 56% think they would have improved salary prospects abroad
- 55% would expect to find a better standard of living
- 54% would move for the ability to live in a different culture
- 53% would move country for the challenge
- 47% would be tempted by the chance to learn a new language
- 45% think moving country is a good opportunity to meet people and build new networks
The BCG study does point out that respondents from different countries are likely to have different motivations: for example, those from wealthier countries tend to be influenced less by financial factors when deciding whether to accept a foreign assignment or position, and more by personal factors such as the desire to live in a different culture and broaden one’s own experience. While the global figure for those who say they would move abroad for a better salary is 56%, that figure is considerably lower in economically successful countries like Germany and Switzerland, at less than a quarter.
The Advantages of accepting a job offer abroad
Accepting a job abroad gives you the opportunity to do something most people dream of for much of their lives: you get to travel and see a little more of the world than the tiny corner in which you were born.
A better standard of living
Depending on where you’re moving from, or to, you might get to enjoy a better standard of living in your new country. This, of course, depends on a few things, including the economic differences between the country you leave and the one you arrive in, as well as how much you have in savings.
An opportunity to learn
Moving to a new country is a fantastic opportunity to learn new things. Not only will you almost certainly need to learn a new language, but you’ll get to learn about a new culture, new food, and new people. Above all, you’ll grow to understand different people and different points of view, which can be one of the most valuable lessons to be learned.
You can always go back home
When you live abroad, there’s always the fall-back option of going ‘back home’, which can feel very liberating, allowing you to try things and take risks that you’d never consider surrounded by a lifetime’s worth of friends and family, with the option of a safety net waiting for you if things should go wrong.
Learn and demonstrate adaptability
There are few things which will test your ability to be adaptable more than moving to a new country. You need to throw out almost everything you know about how things work, because they almost certainly work differently in your new locale. Everyone appreciates adaptability in a hire – it shows that you will probably be a quick learner in your new role, and often shows a talent for fitting in culturally.
A chance to save
If you’re moving from a country with a strong economy to one with a weaker one, you may find yourself suddenly being able to save far more than you’ve ever been able to manage before, particularly if you are working for a company back at home – you’ll likely be paid at a similar rate to what you’d have received if you were still working in your home nation, but since you’re living somewhere that costs so much less, the savings can pile up rapidly!
A fresh start
Moving away from everyone and everything you’ve known affords you the opportunity to have a truly fresh start: this can be a very freeing experience. You can decide to reinvent yourself, change your look or try a new hobby without any fear of judgement from people who have gotten used to your being a certain way.
Meet new people
Travelling abroad, and especially committing the whole hog and moving, is the best possible way to meet new people and, more importantly different people. Living in another country – or two! – can help you to develop a global perspective, rather than one blinkered by your own country’s perceptions. Personal growth is certain as you become a global citizen, all thanks to immersing yourself in a new culture.
Life seems longer
Variety can make life seem longer. Sound crazy? Allow me to explain… The more things remain the same, the less your brain catalogues each moment: it figures, I’ve already got thirty memories of this day, I won’t bother saving another. When variety is the name of the game, however, the brain records everything, because it’s all new.
Dan Eagleman, an assistant professor of Neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, explains: “Time is this rubbery thing. It stretches out when you really turn your brain resources on, and when you say ‘Oh, I got this, everything is as expected,’ it shrinks up.” So when you’re challenging yourself, whether it be with a difficult job or by trying to acclimatise to a new country, you’re more likely to remember more of it, and avoid that ‘Jeez, where did the last year go?’ feeling, which will make life seem longer!
A new appreciation for home
While you might love moving abroad, it may also make you appreciate your home country all the more when you do return!
Think of the children!
If you have children, they can benefit hugely from living in a different country, in many ways. Bi- or multilingual brains 'can have better attention and task-switching capabilities than the monolingual brain', as well as having positive effects at both ends of the age spectrum: 'bilingual children as young as seven months can better adjust to environmental changes, while bilingual seniors can experience less cognitive decline'. Expat, or multicultural, children will also be more likely to be confident and less likely to hold bigoted beliefs if they have grown up in a foreign country or international community.
Moving abroad can have myriad career benefits, including demonstrating initiative, developing valuable international experience, and improving communication and teamwork skills, as well as your eye for detail.
You might be worth more abroad
You may be more valuable in a foreign country, due to skill shortages in your host country or even a perceived value of professionals from your home nation, especially if you have a good command of your new hosts’ language.
The Disadvantages of accepting a job offer abroad
Leaving loved ones behind
Moving away from home, family, friends and the support network you’ve known your entire life can be scary. Suddenly you’re on your own and sometimes oceans away from those you’d normally lean on. This can be a boon in disguise, though, as it can teach you independence and strength.
Starting from scratch
Moving abroad means, in many ways, starting completely from scratch. You’ll need to build a new group of friends, buy and furnish a new home, buy a new car. You might have to start building a new credit score or no-claims bonus on your insurance, and in some ways, it’ll even feel like you’re starting your career again. As long as you’re good at what you do, and put the work in, however, you’ll leap through the ranks and soon be back at your old level, but hopefully in a happier place!
Lower cost of living often means lower wages
A lower cost of living may mean a better standard of living if you have savings, or are being paid at the rate of your previous country. However, it can also mean lower wages, which may mean that any benefits of a lower living cost are negated.
Learning a new language takes time
While learning a new language is a fantastic opportunity and a great CV-booster, the need to learn a new language may impact your ability to learn the ropes of your new job quickly.
Sell, store or ship? It's a big question, when you realise how much stuff you have!
You will need to decide what to do with your existing property and possessions: will you sell or rent out your home? Are you planning to come back, or would it make more sense to sell everything? Do you want to store your favourite coffee table or heirloom grandfather clock, or ship them to your new home?
It's not 'home'
Acclimating to a foreign country can be difficult, even if you've visited before. Learning new cultures and customs, getting used to new cuisines: even just understanding what the people around you are saying. It’s simply not ‘home’.
Lower standard of living
In some instances you may be moving to a country with a lower standard of living than you are used to. This can be difficult to reconcile, but with time you’ll begin to appreciate different things in life, and before long you’ll hardly remember what you missed about ‘home’.
You might end up feeling ‘uprooted’
Some serial-movers report that moving around often, or being gone from one’s home for a long time, can engender a feeling of being ‘uprooted’. It is not uncommon to begin to feel that there’s nowhere that is truly ‘home’. For some, this is not a problem, as they are fine being taken where the wind will take them, as it were. For others, however, it can be a very unsettling or uncomfortable feeling: some people need to feel they have an anchor, somewhere in the world.
When we’re young, making new friends can be one of the easiest things in the world. As we get older, however, it gets more and more difficult. We become more reticent and less confident, and as adults, most people have already formed their groups of friends and can be reluctant to welcome a newcomer. As we all know, though, time passes and before long, you’re bound to turn around and realise you have a whole new tribe surrounding you.
Get in touch with us to start your career abroad!
So, if you’ve been thinking of making a move abroad for work, why not today? I’ve got many roles on at the moment, based both in the UK and abroad, so check out our available jobs, get in touch with me at email@example.com or give me a call on +44 (0) 1737821059 for a confidential chat about your future!