Note: Some of these tips are specific to the US expats but most will apply to all.
I have recently spent three years in London…. I think the challenges you will face are very different depending on your stage in life. If you have school age kids then you will have schooling etc issues. I didn’t have school age kids so I can’t provide much insight from that perspective. But here are some of the things you can expect and some tips on what to do before you start your assignment…
- Looking for housing can be very frustrating, expectations are key here. Do as much research before you get there so you will not be shocked by the differences between your home in the US and the house or apartment wherever you are going.
- Understand the culture…. I was responsible for 13 countries when I was there and visiting and listening is very important … Every country was different even though it was “one” company they all had their own customs and way of doing business. The one common theme was not trying to force anything but to get their buy in and understanding of the issues at hand. Being an American is not a hindrance; JUST don’t be the UGLY American.
- Understand the TAX ramifications of your assignment, there are various ways ( tax status in the UK depends on length of assignment) that you can be assigned overseas which have different tax issues, find out the one which works best for you and work it out in advance of your move. Who is going to do your taxes, will the company pay for the tax service, (it can cost around $5k a year — remember you have to file local and US taxes), tax years are different so you may be back in the US and still have to file overseas.
- Have an exit strategy, what happens when your assignment ends…. Who pays for the move if you were assigned from a US firm do you have a position when you return… Be careful on this one, I know of many people who were assigned overseas from a job they had with a company in the US and when the assignment was up had no position to come home to.
- Spouse… getting a work VISA is difficult for a spouse…Volunteer work is an option.
- Fitting in, making friends..etc We were lucky because we were in an English speaking country, so we made friends at work and where we lived…Joining local EXPAT clubs is helpful and fun. You can find them on the web by searching on expat clubs. They had lots of events and it was nice to get together with people in the same situation as you.
- Trips home— they can be expensive, some companies will allow you to make x trips a year, get that worked out before you commit.
- You don’t really need a car it’s cheaper to use public transit or hire a car when you need to. If you do decide to get a car remember you will need to get an international driving license. You can get it in the US by showing your US license, filling out some forms and getting some passport pictures and paying a small fee ( I think it was around $15 – $25).
- Medical insurance… most countries in the EU have socialized medical care, but companies also offer private insurance. I would suggest getting the private insurance if you can. The local medical is not bad for normal well care but more likely will not be what you are used to here in the US. For any major issue you will need private insurance or come home for treatment.
- If you have a home in the US, do you sell it, rent it or have someone mind it for you while you are overseas. We kept our home because we knew we would be back in 2-3 years and a local company managed it for us… It is not expensive. Cost about $100 per month.
- On a fun side … ENJOY your time there, most holidays are on Fridays and Monday so you get many four day weekends and vacations are very liberal 35+ days….Take the time to see the sights…
From Global Coach Center Academy: we now offer a full cross-cultural course on “Living and Working in the UK” – it’s available online 24/7 and will tell you not only about the culture of the UK but will also allow you to assess your cultural gaps with the majority of people in the UK and prepare to navigate the differences. Download and additional information is available here.