Posted by Allison on 4 April 2009, 10:18
Most of us will only ever work in our own country, but the idea of working abroad is one that appeals to a lot of people for very different reasons.
Some people work abroad during their younger years while they are backpacking or doing a round the world trip. In order to earn money to fund their travels, jobs such as bar work, shop work and other regular jobs are very popular, giving them a chance to pocket some cash in the local currency.
Other people end up working abroad after being given the opportunity to do so by the company they work for. This can happen quite often in companies who have outlets all around the world. Even if a position is not offered you can sometimes see if anything comes up or even ask to be considered for the position.
Working abroad is often easier if you are doing so with your current company because they will usually have systems and procedures in place that will help you cope with the move. Some work placements may only be for a few weeks but others may be for a year or more, and that requires far more than just knowledge of the local area, currency and way of living. It means you will have to be prepared to live in the country you are visiting for an extended period of time – all of which means you will need to organise somewhere to live, appropriate bank accounts for that country to receive your wages in their currency, and many other things besides.
Some people don't entertain the idea if they have children, since it means uprooting them from school and from their friends. It tends to be more couples and individuals who try it as an experience to add to their CV. Working in another country also gives you more valuable life experience to learn from.
As you can see, many of the practical aspects of working abroad are often sorted out for you by your company, but it will be up to you to decide whether the emotional side of things can also be as easy to organise. You will have to leave your family for an extended period of time and that can be difficult to do, especially if you have elderly relatives that you wouldn't like to leave alone.
If you are seriously considering working abroad it's a good idea if at all possible to visit the country you are thinking of working in before you actually go ahead and decide whether or not to do it long term. This will give you an idea of what that country is really like and whether or not you enjoy being there. Take every opportunity to handle the currency and find out all you can about the cost of everyday items and where to go to get certain services and so on.
Depending on what country you visit there may also be a language barrier that could be harder to surpass. It's a good idea to try and master basic words and phrases in this case so that you can ask the price of things, or directions or questions of some kind, but even then you won't be able to converse with people as easily as you would if you visited and stayed in a country which speaks the same language as you do.
Whichever country you are thinking of visiting there is certainly a lot of background work to do before you can even think of going for real. Fortunately many large companies will be able to answer all the questions you may have because they often arrange for people to transfer abroad, and they have probably gone through the entire process several times before coming to help you.
But at the end of the day the practical needs can always be dealt with. It's the emotional needs that are down to you to handle. It should also be a decision that everyone has a say in, if you have immediate family that you live with who will be directly affected.
You should also find out about how your salary will be paid while you are abroad. It could be that you will receive the same amount that you would in the UK, but it will simply be paid in the local currency which is relevant to the place you are visiting and working in. Depending on the exchange rate you could find your salary goes a lot further in that country than it would at home – effectively giving you a pay rise for getting some more work experience in a different country.
Alternatively if the exchange rate isn't that good you might be paid more for the privilege of doing your job, to compensate for the difference. Some companies may pay a premium for you to work abroad, while others will supply and pay for your accommodation while you are out there anyway, so make sure you know exactly what will and won't happen before you agree to anything.
Working abroad is usually an experience that people remember for the rest of their lives. The different working practices in different countries mean that working somewhere other than the country where you were born can give you a whole new view of life that you didn't have before.
It will also give you a fresh look at your own country when you return home – if that is you ever do. Some people have enjoyed working abroad so much that they end up staying there. The combination of a different currency, a whole different view of life and different surroundings could be just what you are looking for, regardless of how much you love where you live now.
So if you're looking for a change at work, why not consider a change of country instead? It might not be the job that you are bored with – it could be the location.