Tech & Work

Members offer tips and questions to ask before taking job abroad

You have to get the answers to many questions--both cultural and practical--before taking a new role in an overseas location. This list will help you gather that information.


As a recent TechRepublic article, "Surviving cultural shock is key to working abroad" explained, the biggest issue in working abroad is acclimating socially and professionally. That article included one IT consultant’s experiences and offered insight on how to deal with cultural hurdles. You must also plan for other experiences you'll face when working abroad.

Making the right job decision
To get a deeper list of issues you need to evaluate when moving abroad, we asked TechRepublic members for feedback and insight.

The most critical decision, pointed out Thomas Ratliff, is whether to take the job. The global project manager, who’s spent the past year and a half working in a small town in the Netherlands, believes anyone interested in working abroad must ask themselves the following questions:
  • What is my true motivation for working abroad?
    Don't forget to consider your life outside of work.
  • Will the position be satisfying and challenging?
    This is the double whammy test. If you end up not liking the country or location, will you at least like your job?
  • What do I know about the local culture, customs, and way of life?
    I recommend taking a vacation to your prospective location to get a sense of how you will fit in. It is also wise to attend a cross-cultural seminar to help you understand the local idiosyncrasies; it'll help you minimize frustrations and become acquainted with the local pace of life.
  • How does my spouse truly feel?
    I have seen several colleagues' marriages break apart from the stress. Remember that you will work all day and the opportunities for your spouse may be limited or nonexistent. You'll need honest and open communication, and you must take your spouse's concerns seriously.
  • How will my spouse and family be affected by the geographic change?
    This question may lead to discovering how your spouse really feels. Look at all your relationships with family and friends and discuss the possibility of not being able to see them or speak to them as often.

“When considering any opportunity to work abroad, you should look for a balance between personal and professional goals,” said Ratliff. “Remember, living abroad is not for everyone.”

Practical details
If you’ve answered the above questions and are eager to move ahead with the new job abroad, it’s time to check out a second set of issues and questions submitted by TechRepublic member Fred Kaplan, a communications professional who spent five years traveling worldwide for a consulting business.

His list is aimed at topics that most people don’t think about until after they’ve taken the job and perhaps moved to the new location.

“You need to understand that there is a lot of stress leaving your familiar surroundings and friends. That’s why you need to learn as much about the culture and customs of not only the country you will be living in, but also the city or town,” said Kaplan.

Here is his list of tips and questions:
  • Make sure you have a thorough understanding of the compensation program.
    Find out whether you'll be paid in local currency or your home country's currency, and become knowledgeable about the currency ratio between the two countries.
  • Ask how often the company will allow you to return home for visits during the first six months and first year.
    Also find out if your company is willing to help fund/reimburse you for that travel. Ask whether the company will promise to pay the cost of your final trip home—once a project is completed, your contract is not negotiated, or you're laid off from the employer.
  • Relocation expenses for moving abroad will not be cheap; find out what the company will pay for in regards to moving your belongings.
    Ask whether the company will pay the duty costs as well.
  • Investigate the country's tax laws and regulations and the effect they will have on your budget.
    Many times, companies can provide this information if they’re global. Local tax laws shouldn’t be dismissed—for example, when you buy a television in the United Kingdom, you pay a yearly tax that goes toward public television.
  • Inquire about the country's financial requirements for opening checking and savings accounts.
    Investigate access to newly deposited funds if your pay is sent electronically. Don’t assume there will be an ATM on every corner.
  • Find out what insurance policy the company provides for you while you're living in the new locale, and confirm that the company knows whom to notify in case of emergencies.
    Also make sure that your current will and death instructions are considered valid in the new locale.

On the cultural side, both Ratliff and Kaplan agreed wholeheartedly with the previous article’s tips about getting out and meeting people and developing a strong social circle for a strong assimilation experience in the new country.

“Don't become a workaholic because you're afraid to go out and meet new people outside of the work environment,” said Kaplan.

Editor's Picks