Expat Financial Considerations

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The following blog post is from the FIDI-FAIM blog. Starline Overseas Moving is proud to be a member of FIDI and the only FAIM accredited moving company in the Province of Alberta, Canada.

Money Talk: Expat Financial Considerations

“Money makes the world go round”, or so they say. Maybe – but money can also be a headache for those travelling round the world themselves. Financial considerations are something of a minefield for expats – whether they are taking part in a global assignment organized by their company, or doing it themselves – and getting it wrong could cost you dearly. At the very least you may find you are missing out on investment opportunities or overpaying bank fees. At the very worst, you may inadvertently fall foul of tax regulations, and find yourself with an unexpected tax demand on your return home.

The answer is of course plenty of planning and professional advice. But we thought we would highlight a few key points to help you structure your financial planning while you are overseas. We have divided the financial considerations of a typical expat into four sections:

  1. Your costs (how much you need to live abroad)
  2. Your tax (how much the taxman will let you keep)
  3. Your bank (how you manage it)
  4. Your investments (what you do with what’s left)

1. Your Costs

The starting point for any financial planning exercise is to know what you need. Depending on your lifestyle, your major costs are likely to be:

  • Existing financial obligations (e.g. mortgage)
  • Accommodation
  • Childcare/schooling (if private)
  • Healthcare (again, if private)
  • Travel/transportation
  • Utilities
  • Food
  • Insurance
  • Entertainment

The cost of living can vary greatly between your ‘home’ and ‘host’ countries, and it is important  to budget in advance so that your expenses will balance. In short, ensure you can live within your means.

There are online tools that will help give you a general idea of how the cost of different items varies across the world – or there is always the slightly more frivolous Big Mac Index to give you an idea of your purchasing power in your new location.

2. Your Tax

Your tax situation will depend on a number of factors, e.g.:

  • Your earnings
  • Where your earnings come from (local salary, salary from head office, or receiving other income – e.g. interest, dividends – from ‘back home’)
  • Whether you are paid in local currency or other currencies
  • Whether you are considered ‘resident for tax purposes’ or not. Note that tax residency is very different to your nationality
  • Whether double taxation applies (this often depends on your tax residency, but different rules apply to nationals of different countries)

Tax rules can become enormously complex. While Americans, for example, working abroad do not generally have to worry about paying domestic income tax on their first $97,600 (in 2013) in foreign earned income, they still need to file a return with the IRS and tell them about any other income earned abroad. Also, some countries may try to collect income taxes even after an expat moves abroad, unless they actually terminate their residency.

These examples give an idea of the complexity of national tax laws that every expat needs to be aware of.

3. Your Bank Accounts

Should you have multi-currency accounts? Many expats find that keeping their home bank account rolling along, and opening a local bank account for the duration of their assignment is the easiest way. However, ‘serial’ expats – i.e. those who spend their whole career moving from assignment to assignment, or who spend a significant amount of time working overseas – may find benefit in setting up multi-currency accounts with a single bank. Again, whether this is advantageous depends on many factors (your location, your income – or indeed, your preferred bank). This may also be useful for those who derive income in different currencies, for example having customers abroad, or perhaps drawing income from investments back home.

A multi-currency account typically makes it easier to transfer money between accounts without punishing transfer fees, but be careful. While your own bank is an obvious starting point for advice on this matter, it’s easy to assume that all banks charge the same (or similar) charges to transfer money and manage accounts. However, many banks make nice big margins on the customers who cannot be bothered to look around – so make sure you’re not one of them! Check out the various accounts and money transfer options online – you may save a lot of money.

4. Your Investments (And Debts)

Alongside the day-to-day book balancing exercise, you also need to take a long-term view on finances. Your time abroad may be an opportunity to save – or it may be a period of your life that causes financial concerns. The outcome largely depends on the planning you do in advance and the advice you take. Here are a few considerations expats should bear in mind with their long-term financial planning.

Wealth Accumulation

Expats frequently find that their assignments bring with them more disposable income and that the assignment is a great time to put some of that money aside. International expats have a greater variety of investments available to them since they may be officially considered as local ‘residents’ for tax purposes. This, in turn, may provide opportunities for tax-efficiency. As always, the aim should be to find investments that match your own personal attitude to risk – and bear in mind that investments overseas may be linked to the strength of the local economy.

Investments Back Home

Should you retain investments back home or is it time to sell? This question is most pertinent if you own a property. If rental yields exceed the mortgage payments and the management costs,  renting out your home may be a great way of earning income while you’re abroad. However, there can be complications (property maintenance, finding tenants etc.) – and you may decide instead that the relocation is also an excuse for a fresh start on your return.

Pensions

Unless you are drawing your pension and see your relocation as part of your retirement itself, you will want to ensure that your retirement plans are still in place and that you are contributing towards that end goal. If you are part of a corporate pension scheme, you should discuss this with your company and may be able to remain in the scheme as part of your overall package. If you have an individual pension plan, take professional advice on how best to fund it, given the change in your financial and tax situation. You may also contribute to a local state pension during your time abroad (although Brexit has thrown up some confusion over this issue – as this example shows).

Currency Exchange

Over a three-year assignment, exchange rates can fluctuate hugely. An expat may start their time abroad with an overseas income that translates into plenty of ‘home’ currency to meet their financial planning targets, such as mortgage payments back home and pension contributions. However, this may change and it is a good idea to stay abreast of the currency markets and ensure that this is still the case. There are occasional crashes in the relative values of currency, but more common is a gradual ‘creep’ over time, which may gradually chip away at your ability to meet financial obligations. If you see the changes happening, you will simply be able to ‘tighten your belt’ a little and adjust your spending.

There’s No Substitute For Good Advice

Given the enormous variety of global assignments – to different places, with different earnings, and different personal situations – there is no single answer. But our experience of working with individuals from different countries tells us that those who plan early usually have the best experience, and this is certainly true when it comes to money. Speak to an adviser as soon as you can so you can focus on getting the most out of your life and work during your time abroad – instead of worrying about how you’re going to pay for it.

Expat Life In Vienna

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The following blog post is from the FIDI-FAIM blog. Starline Overseas Moving is proud to be a member of FIDI and the only FAIM accredited moving company in the Province of Alberta, Canada.

The Pros And Cons Of Expat Life In Vienna

With its baroque beauty and cultural riches, Vienna is an archetypal European city, and one that always ranks highly for expats. It has topped Mercer’s ranking since 2011, and The Economist ranked it second in its 2015 study that looked at 127 world cities. Yet it is a complex picture and if you are considering relocating there, be aware that beauty may be skin deep.

Pros: High Quality Of Life

A report by InterNations notes that 67% of expats in Austria say they feel secure in their current job and are also incredibly happy with the balance between their professional and personal lives. In fact, the report places Austria as second of 67 countries in terms of work/life balance, adding: “Those figures might explain why 32% of expats consider staying in Austria for life.” Austria also comes tenth in the league table of earnings versus typical hours worked, with a typical worker in Austria being paid $28.36/hour, according to the OECD. As the capital, Vienna embodies these national qualities: its streets are clean and safe, and it offers expats a highly efficient and extensive public transport system and high-quality schooling and healthcare.

Cons: Not Such A Warm Welcome?

There has been some criticism of Vienna as an unwelcoming city, at least at first. Expat stories abound of spending years living in the city but making few friends outside the expat community. Despite its location and cosmopolitan history, English is not as widely spoken as in other European capital cities. Once (and if) accepted by the locals, you will undoubtedly enjoy it – but it may take a while.

Pros: Cultural

If you have an ounce of culture in your soul, you will fall instantly in love with Vienna. The patronage of the wealthy Habsburgs in the 18th and 19th centuries made this city the beating heart of European culture, and home to many of its most noted composers from Strauss and Schubert to Mozart and Mahler. It features street after street of imposing architecture: churches, palaces, opera houses and theatres and of course the famous Viennese coffee shops, as frequented by famous former Viennese resident Sigmund Freud. Revel in the faded elegance of a truly beautiful European city.

Cons: Old-Fashioned

The history that has created such a cultural marvel also creates problems for expats who are more used to more progressive locations. Moreover, Vienna is not as commercially vibrant as other European hubs such as London, Frankfurt and Paris. A common complaint amongst expats is that most shops are still closed on Sundays (although this is gradually changing). There is also a surprisingly open attitude to alcohol and smoking that expats may find almost anachronistic.

Pros: Location

Located in the heart of Europe, Vienna is an excellent base for European travel. It straddles Eastern and Western Europe, with close links to Italy and the Balkans on one side, but is also firmly part of the DACH (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) group of countries. Its location, along with its historical importance, has made it a key transport hub enabling easy rail and road access to the rest of the continent. Expats clearly love spending time in Vienna but if they do get bored, they have plenty of alternatives to choose from.

Cons: Long Grey Winters

Sun lovers, however, may find themselves travelling South whenever they can. Vienna has long, grey winters and daily maximum temperatures in December and January barely creep above freezing. With the Alps nearby, the opportunity for winter sports may offer some compensation, but if you spend a winter in Vienna you will need to either wrap up warm or spend a lot of time in the (very cosy and beautiful) coffee shops. There are worse things to do with your time off.

Summary

The buildings, the culture and the sheer historic beauty are an obvious attraction, and provided you take enough clothing to survive an Austrian winter, there are many things to enjoy in Vienna. It is no wonder the Viennese are so proud of their city – just a shame that it sometimes feels like they’re not that keen on sharing it with everyone else.

The Rise Of Female Expats

Tuesday, 06 June 2017

The following blog post is from the FIDI-FAIM blog. Starline Overseas Moving is proud to be a member of FIDI and the only FAIM accredited moving company in the Province of Alberta, Canada.

The Rise Of Female Expats

Are organizations finally putting their gender bias aside? There has been a gradual rise in the number of female employees posted overseas – and those who are leading the revolution may well be getting the best return on their investment.

According to research from Communicaid, the proportion of female employees being chosen for global assignments has increased steadily over the last decades. In 1980 only 5% of expats were female; in 2010, the proportion had risen to 25%.

Overcoming Prejudice

It’s clear that the industry has a much more balanced and realistic attitude than it once did. Yet the spectre of gender bias still looms, and the same old comments are still sometimes heard (albeit at a whisper) by office water coolers around the world:

  • It’s a man’s job
  • It’s disrespectful to their culture to send a woman
  • A woman wouldn’t want an assignment away from home
  • Wouldn’t it just be easier to send a man?

These comments are unhelpful not only because they are wrong in principle: those organizations that are most active in providing equal global assignment opportunities for male and female employees will be the ones with the greatest chance of attracting the best talent. Here are a few things you can do to help make that happen.

1. Address Concerns Before They Are Raised

There are often intense conversations around candidate selection, with all kinds of pros and cons – and with different opinions on the candidates. The issue of gender should of course be irrelevant, but real life often doesn’t work that way.

You can help remove these concerns by preparing in advance, especially if the assignment involves travel to places with different views on gender equality. Why shouldn’t you send a woman to do business in the Middle East? The answer is that local cultural attitudes towards the role of women have little to do with their ability to do the job and most businesses accept this. The assignee is there to do a job and the fact she is female is not viewed through the same cultural lens.

2. Stress The Benefits (Diplomatically)

It is important to let colleagues – and the potential candidates – know of the research conducted into the qualities required of expats, and how female expats have been shown to demonstrate those qualities in abundance. Research from the Society for Human Resource Management states that female expats, amongst other qualities, have greater self-awareness and are better able to operate outside their comfort zone. In general, they are less confrontational and are more likely to adapt to a different culture or working practice in order to bring harmony to a team and a successful conclusion to a project.

However, be careful. Your job is to remove the gender bias – not reverse it. It is not an argument over which gender is best. Instead, you may want to focus on the task in hand, which is choosing the right candidate.

3. Prepare For Local Challenges

Myths abound on the subject of the role of women in different cultures. As explained earlier, this is not the problem some people believe it to be – but the best thing you can do to encourage female employees to put themselves forward for roles overseas is to do some of the ground work for them and make them aware of the precise cultural challenges they may face.

4. Give Them A Female Mentor

Try to make former assignees available to take on the role of mentor. Female employees will be encouraged to know that they are not the first, and that the role they are considering has previously been successfully filled by a female assignee. This idea of mentoring can also be extended to providing a network between female expats in different parts of the world, helping them to share their experiences with prospective assignees.

Moving In The Right Direction

The gender gap is definitely closing. But the most effective companies – and the ones who will have the most success in fulfilling the objectives of their assignments and attracting the best female talent – will be the ones who take active steps to close the gap even further.

Peak Season Relocation

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The following blog post is from the FIDI-FAIM blog. Starline Overseas Moving is proud to be a member of FIDI and the only FAIM accredited moving company in the Province of Alberta, Canada.

Peak Season Relocation: Are You Ready For A Busy Summer?

It all starts hotting up in March. Not necessarily the weather, but relocation fever.

The period between March and the end of the summer holidays marks the peak of the moving season. The better weather (in the Northern hemisphere, that is, where most relocations take place) and the natural break between academic years, makes this the time when most people would like to schedule their relocation.

Companies often find that the summer, with higher numbers of employees on holiday, is the ideal time to relocate staff. Major projects are typically scheduled once everyone is back, and global assignments are often timed to coincide with this timetable.

The summer is a great time to move – but peak season relocation also brings challenges, for example:

  1. Travel and transport are more expensive. Flights are more in demandand prices are often higher – even if you can find availability on your preferred flight. And owing to higher demand, the moving industry may not have enough trucks, people or time at their disposal.
  2. More volume, more pressure. With people being under pressure, mistakes may take place more often. Some – less professional – transport companies respond to the pressure by introducing seasonal temporary staff who may not have the necessary skills or training.
  3. You may have less support. Despite the increased activity in the relocation world,the wider business slowdownthat accompanies the summer months can cause problems. School planning, for example, may be harder once schools have closed for summer, and the agencies that assignees need (such as home search, or accommodation lettings, for example) may be short-staffed or even closed for a while during the holiday season.

Avoid Peak Season Panic

What can you and your assignees do to combat the pressures of moving during peak season?

1. Plan Ahead

The most obvious advice (and the least helpful if you are reading this in July) is to plan ahead. Choosing an experienced relocation partner and discussing schedules in the months leading up to the assignment is critical. In this way, you will know what needs to happen and by when – and you will also have the reassurance of knowing how much it is going to cost. This is especially true if you are travelling to a popular holiday destination: the requirements of your assignee may be very different to a typical holiday maker, but they are often competing for the same space and services.

2. Be Flexible

When resources are limited, you and your assignees will need to embrace a spirit of compromise. For example, when setting the moving day, it helps to be flexible and to bear in mind that certain days are busier (and therefore more expensive) for moving. You can save money and improve your chances of getting the preferred travel options by moving midweek. You may also need a little flexibility in terms of shipping goods. A small air-freight consignment sent ahead of the main shipment may be a wise option – and be prepared to use short-term storage or temporary accommodation on arrival. Try to take problems in your stride if your peak season move doesn’t go perfectly to plan.

3. Keep A Budget Aside For Unexpected Costs

One consequence of the busy summer is that, as demand goes up, so do the prices – and these can sometimes catch you by surprise. Careful budgeting and agreeing prices in advance with a reputable relocation partner will of course help, but you should be aware that unexpected costs can be more likely in the busy summer months.

4. Have A Back-Up Plan

As Plan A won’t always work, it’s more important than ever to have a Plan B. If a problem arises with your normal service providers or your preferred transport or travel options, do you have a fall-back? The choice of supplier in the first place will make a big difference. For example, FIDI’s FAIM accredited moving companies are required to adhere to strict quality standards that are independently monitored on a frequent basis. They are part of a network of companies who know each other and operate to the same standards, giving you peace of mind that your assignee is still in safe hands whatever happens. Of course, there is never a good time to choose a bad supplier. But when the pressure mounts in peak season, your decision to choose a FAIM-certified mover will pay dividends.

5. Tactics On The Day Of The Move

Your assignees will have prepared for their move, but these preparations become more important as the likelihood of delays and disruption mounts. Suggest they follow a checklist (such as this one) and take sensible precautions on the day of the move itself, such as packing suitable supplies and items in personal baggage just in case the main shipment is delayed.

Get Your Timing Right

There is perhaps a bigger question here. If you are likely to hit the peak season unprepared, why not consider postponing? We know the advantages of moving during the summer but bear in mind the flip side. Moving in non-peak times solves all availability problems at a stroke and for some assignees (especially those without family) the pros may outweigh the cons. Whatever the time of year, however, the same advice applies: get your planning, budgeting and your choice of moving partner right and your assignees’ time abroad will start with the minimum of fuss.

Expat Life In Sydney

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The following blog post is from the FIDI-FAIM blog. Starline Overseas Moving is proud to be a member of FIDI and the only FAIM accredited moving company in the Province of Alberta, Canada.

The Pros And Cons Of Expat Life In Sydney

It’s big and it’s brash and it’s very Australian. This, surely, is all you need to know to brace yourself for an assignment in Australia’s largest and most cosmopolitan city? Think again.

Australia has a national gift for easy-going irreverence. This is the country after all that was berated by more conservative cultures in 2006 for their tourist board slogan “Where the bloody hell are you?”. Yet Sydney is more complex than you might think. We’ve taken a look at the pros and cons of expat life in this fascinating city.

Pros: Cosmopolitan, Culturally Diverse

Sydney is a thriving, buzzing, melting-pot of a city. The population of around 5m people includes all nationalities and faiths. Significant Greek, Chinese, Lebanese, Fijian, Korean, Vietnamese and Italian communities exist alongside the Australian-born majority, yet all are proud to call themselves “Sydney-siders”. It is a highly tolerant society too, with all major religions accommodated and an acceptance of LGBT lifestyles.

Cons: Expensive

But it’s not a cheap place to live. The 2016 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, only ranks Sydney as the 42nd most expensive city in the world to live in, but this may come as a shock since the cost of living in Sydney has risen substantially over the last two decades. The mining boom, increased wages and strong exchange rates have had a dramatic effect, and expats will find many items more expensive in Sydney. A 3-bedroom apartment in the city centre will cost $4-5,000 (AUD), a bottle of beer around $7, and a loaf of white bread $3. And with cigarettes around $25, now might be a good time to kick the habit.

Pros: Excellent Health And Education

The national healthcare system, known as ‘Medicare’, offer high-quality, affordable care, for those who enroll in it, and Medicare cover is provided as part of a reciprocal agreement with a select group of countries. However, if you are not a national of one of these countries you may find at least a lot of red tape in your way if you want to be covered. If not, the Australian immigration authorities will want to know that you have private medical cover before granting a work visa.

Education is somewhat easier, with high-quality education available in the usual mix of state-funded and private schools. Expats will, however, be required to pay something towards education in state schools, which takes the form of either enrolment fees or ‘voluntary’ contributions (which are actually mandatory).

Cons: Remoteness

It doesn’t matter how often people tell you, it still comes as a surprise for many expats: Australia is huge, and Sydney is miles from anywhere. Apparently adjacent points on the map end up being a few hours’ drive, and the continent itself is of course massive. It will take longer to drive from Sydney to Perth than it would from London to Istanbul. Fortunate then that Sydney airport is well served by both international and national flights.

Proud locals will tell you that Sydney is a city that has it all; this is just as well because getting it from anywhere else will take hours if not days.

Pros: Climate

The Sydney climate is described as ‘temperate’ with warm but not oppressive summers and winter temperatures that rarely go below 10ºC. As a result, there is a strong outdoor culture combined with an all-pervasive love of sport, with joggers, cyclists, rowers and all varieties of sports actively promoted by Sydney authorities and undertaken by locals. There are more than 100 sandy beaches in the area and the beautiful natural harbor is dotted with sails against the backdrop of what is surely the world’s most recognizable opera house. Professional sporting events are also often staged here, and Sydney hosted the 2000 Olympic Games; there can be few more sport-minded cities in the world.

Summary

Sydney is hugely popular with expats, driven largely by its cosmopolitan style and booming commercial importance. It features in many list of ‘top expat destinations’: InterNations considers Sydney the world’s 8th best city destination for expats, while Mercer puts it in 10th place. It is a healthy, thriving, sporty metropolis: pack your trainers and set of for a few years of the good life – but be prepared to pay for it.

Expat Life In Singapore

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The following blog post is from the FIDI-FAIM blog. Starline Overseas Moving is proud to be a member of FIDI and the only FAIM accredited moving company in the Province of Alberta, Canada.

The Pros And Cons Of Expat Life In Singapore

In 1819, when the British arrived, it was little more than a swamp. But it was a strategically located swamp, a key point on the trade route between India and China, and Singapore soon became a thriving trading port. As business boomed, the city grew and its population was swelled by a huge influx of immigrants from all over Asia. Singapore’s commercial influence remains strong to this day and has made it a popular expat destination. But how is life for expats? What are the pros and cons?

Pros: Tailor-Made For The Expat

Singapore’s beginnings as a trading hub mean that the city has grown up with commerce in its blood. Large parts of its population are non-indigenous (or at least they were a generation or two ago) and it has a cosmopolitan feel that is more ‘international hub’ than ‘capital city’. It is ethnically and religiously diverse and a key base for many major multinational corporations, with the result that there are many expat opportunities here. The city is almost designed with the expat in mind.

Cons: Expensive

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Singapore is the world’s most expensive city to live in with prices “50% higher than New York”. Yet, once they are over the initial ‘consumer culture shock’ of paying $6 for a cappuccino, few expats feel the difference because typical expat salaries are so high. In fact, according to an HSBC survey in 2015, 25% of Singapore-based expats earned more than $200,000 per annum (compared to just 13% of expats globally).

However, this wealth is not evenly spread, and this creates another dimension of the city – its inequality. From the ivory tower of the expat community, this may not impact on your life, but be aware that the prosperity of the country does not mean Singapore has no poverty.

Pros: Great For Travel

If your move to Singapore is your first time to the Southeast Asian region, it is a near-perfect hub for onward travel. Its heritage as a trading post means there are excellent travel connections with regular and reasonably short flights to India, China, Thailand and Australia – which is of particular benefit to adventurous-minded expats from Europe or the US. Time to tick off those bucket-list destinations while you’re out there.

Travel within Singapore is also a joy. The public transport infrastructure is modern, well-funded and well-maintained. Getting around is easy and (relatively) inexpensive, which is just as well because owning and running a car is beyond the budget of most people (even on an expat salary). Cars are not only expensive but also difficult to buy: you are not even allowed to buy one until the Singapore authorities issue you with a ‘Certificate of Entitlement’.

The favorite independent form of travel is to cycle (which in turn means that pedestrians need to be watchful of criss-crossing cycle lanes) and taxis are numerous and naturally very clean and well-maintained.

Cons: Lack Of Variety

But while the local travel infrastructure is in a class of its own, there’s something missing. There’s nowhere to go. Singapore is not a big place, and some expats complain that once you’ve been there a week and visited a few shopping malls, you’ve seen it all. The shopping malls are beautifully appointed, but variety seekers will be disappointed.

The country’s size (the country and the city are more or less the same thing) also means that it is very crowded. Get used to busy roads, packed sidewalks, and endless queues – especially when something new opens as variety-seeking expats leap at the chance to do something different.

Cons: Local Laws

If you are a guest in their country, you need to play by their rules. But Singapore has a number of strict and sometimes unexpected rules (especially to Western expats). It is illegal to smoke in public, sell chewing gum, feed the pigeons, leave a public toilet unflushed, or connect to another’s WIFI without permission (classified as hacking and punishable by a $10,000 fine according to the country’s Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act. Oh, and homosexuality is also illegal.

Pros: Safety

Singapore is a small country/city, and the strictness of the government means that it is tightly policed and there are surveillance cameras on every street corner. So while some freedoms that are honored elsewhere in the world are not tolerated here, Singapore has a very reassuring sense of security (as long as you’re not feeding pigeons). For law-abiding expats, however, the result is that Singapore is a very clean, safe city that you can walk around in safety.

Summary

Singapore is an expat favorite, and frequently features in Top 5 lists. But compared to many expat destinations it is sometimes viewed as rather sanitized and the strictness of the rules may take a little getting used to. Our advice is to enjoy the salary, use the location to visit the rest of the region, take in the shopping malls, and remember to flush the loo.

Does An Expat Assignment Really Help Your Career Progression?

Wednesday, 03 May 2017

The following blog post is from the FIDI-FAIM blog. Starline Overseas Moving is proud to be a member of FIDI and the only FAIM accredited moving company in the Province of Alberta, Canada.

Does An Expat Assignment Really Help Your Career Progression?

The first impressions are often very glamorous. You’ve been chosen for a global assignment. You’re off travelling to exotic places, you’re fulfilling an important strategic role for the company, and they are clearly investing a lot of money in ensuring that your assignment is a success. You are the envy of your peer group, and clearly destined for a glittering career.

Or that’s how it seems. The voice of experience will, however, tell you not to assume anything. A global assignment can be hugely beneficial to your career – but it could equally damage your career prospects. Knowing how going abroad can affect your career either way will help you make sure that it is a springboard to better things.

4 Ways In Which It Can Help (If You’re Careful)

1. You Will Gain Access To The ‘International Club’

Tomorrow’s organizations are more global than ever. They span cultures and need to understand the bigger world picture. So the CEOs of tomorrow are going to be global citizens. Experience of other cultures is essential if you want to be considered for a senior role in a global organization. Add a dash of cosmopolitan personality style to your big-picture global thinking and you become perfect future executive material.

The statistics on the nationalities of top CEOs bear this out. A survey by Odgers Berndtson, a global executive search firm, shows that the number of foreign-born CEOs of companies in the UK’s FTSE 100 has doubled to 40% since 2006. While these are not necessarily expats, the implication is that international diversity is valued; if this trend continues, multi-cultural overseas experience is clearly going to help aspiring CEOs of the future.

2. You Will Learn New Skills

A global assignment will not just prove your multi-cultural credentials., You will be exposed (sometimes painfully exposed) to different ways of working, thinking and doing. The expats who gain most from their time abroad absorb this information and use it in their own development. This works on many levels: expats will learn about different technologies, as well as different management styles and business practices. They will gain experience of different kinds of markets, business models and customer types. The trick, of course, is to use it on your return – which is not always as easy as it seems.

3. A Chance To Prove Your Worth

One of the key career benefits of a move abroad has nothing to do with the destination at all. Given the expense of sending people abroad, companies will often send one (or a small number of people) with the necessary skills and aptitude to get an important job done. So the pressure is on. There is nowhere to hide. But ambitious people thrive on pressure because it gives them a chance to prove themselves. Get it right and the credit will be yours.

4. Open New Opportunities

Companies invest millions every year in global assignments – yet it is well documented that retention rates amongst returning expats is often low. However, the company’s loss may be your gain. With a global assignment behind you, you are able to consider career opportunities that would previously have been unthinkable. Not only have you proved that you can work in the host country where you were posted, but you have shown your flexibility and your ability to fit in with a new and different culture and working practices. In short, you are no longer limited to your home nation. Spread your wings and fly…

4 Ways In Which It May Damage Your Career (If You’re Not Careful)

1. Blotting Your Copy Book

The main risk of a global assignment is that it might go wrong. Even worse, it may not be your fault. You are stepping into the unknown. Will you be able to cope? Will your family be able to cope? Will you simply get unlucky? Despite your efforts to prepare, you need to accept that some global assignments are not considered successful and some of that blame – however unjustly – may stick to you. Imagine the interview question: “So why did you return from Hong Kong after just 6 months?” Of course you will take every precaution to avoid this scenario, but it is a potential black mark on the CV.

2. Reverse Culture Shock

Your assignment may have been a roaring success. But with repatriation comes a new set of challenges which can often be damaging to your career. Is there a role waiting for you back home that uses your new-found skills – and matches your new-found expectations? It’s unlikely.

3. Are You Falling Out Of Touch?

If you have travelled from an HQ to a subsidiary, the chances are that, for all its exoticism, it has taken you further from the leading edge. Geographic outposts may often be behind the curve in terms of technology and management thinking. You may be battling with systems that were long since replaced back home. How are you going to improve your modern CV by spending time in the past, while the people who stayed behind got a chance to work on the latest ideas and tech? The truth is they didn’t stay behind; they moved ahead.

4. Out Of The Spotlight…

The crucial point is that the decisions to promote are typically made at the global headquarters. That’s where the movers and shakers are. And if you’re on a global assignment, it’s where you are not. Sebastian Reiche of the IESE Business School reports a study that shows that global assignments can be damaging to a career because time spent overseas is time spent away from the company HQ and expats are frequently not in contention for the key promotions because they are simply not there. Out of sight, out of mind, it seems.

The Value Of An Expat Career Perspective

Gauging the effect of a global assignment is difficult. It may be good for your career or it may knock you back. However, the experience will undoubtedly benefit you in the way you assess your career options. Working in a different environment will help you to appreciate the career possibilities open to you. And if you don’t do it, you’ll probably wonder all your life what would have happened if you did…

The Expats Of The Future

Monday, 24 April 2017

The following blog post is from the FIDI-FAIM blog. Starline Overseas Moving is proud to be a member of FIDI and the only FAIM accredited moving company in the Province of Alberta, Canada.

The Expats Of The Future

Stereotypes are useful, but dangerous. They give us a nice easy, familiar way to categorize people and roles, but they are usually based on earlier experiences, which stick with us – which often make them outdated and inaccurate.

And so it is with expats. A few years ago, they were predominantly of a certain type. Usually male, often white and quite senior, they would spend 3-4 years overseas, with their family in tow. And because that was how they once were, it is a stereotype that stays with us.

But the world of global mobility is fast-moving and perceptions born in previous decades don’t serve us well. Driven by trends for equality and multi-culturalism, and the increasing specialism of global mobility professionals, expats are changing. We would like to introduce you to some of the new kinds of people who are taking on global assignments, which themselves are changing in scope and duration. Meet the expats of the future.

The Businesswoman

In the interests of gender equality, we should point out that females are no more or less ambitious than their male counterparts. But the last few decades have shown a marked increase in the selection of female employees to go on global assignments, and this is largely down to a changing, more open-minded business environment. Comparing figures compiled by Selmer (2003) and Brookfield GPRS in 2015, the proportion of female global assignees rose from a mere 5% in 1980 to a slightly more representative 25% in 2010.

Perceptions that women are less suited to overseas roles are far less prevalent these days. Even the most chauvinistic societies, who tolerate gender inequality within their own culture, have equal respect for work colleagues from overseas, whether men or women.

The Young Hopeful

Whereas expats were once sent overseas to lend their experience to a situation – or more specifically to help instil the values and practices of global HQ on geographical outposts – the ‘learning exchange’ now works both ways. Instead of the expat being a conduit of knowledge, the expat is now often the student rather than the teacher. Organizations recognize that overseas deployment is a key role to play in not only in the development of future leaders, but also in retaining that key talent. Global assignments are both a learning experience and loyalty-building exercise.

As a result, the expat profile is becoming younger and much more diverse. The pool of hungry young talent, full of potential and ripe for development is inevitably larger than that of senior, proven executives, so the proportion of younger expats is increasing all the time.

The big difference, from the perspective of the global mobility department, is that younger employees will probably have fewer commitments. This not only makes them more likely to want to travel, but it is also obviously far cheaper to move a single person than a whole family.

The Multi-Cultural Citizen

Increasing globalization has also meant that global mobility is no longer dominated by European or North American companies dispatching their European or North American executives to the rest of the globe. The return trade is every bit as prevalent, a trend driven not just by the growth of BRIC and other economies, but also by the realization that a multi-cultural outlook is a must for senior management recruitment. Industry leaders need to look outwards, not inwards, and companies are increasingly tempted to hire non-nationals for senior roles. In the UK, for example, 40% of the leadership of FTSE 250 companies were born outside the UK.

The Short-Termer

The duration of assignments is changing too. While 3- or 4-year assignments are still the most popular, shorter-term assignments are on the increase. Between 2008 and 2017, according to statistics from ECA, long-term assignments have reduced from 63% to 45% of the total, while short-term assignments now account for 22% – up from 14%.

This makes a significant difference to the kind of person who does the assignment, and the way they go about it. It will affect decisions on relocating families, schooling, renting or buying, and of course will make a difference to the degree of assimilation into the local culture.

The Day-Tripper

Another significant change over the last nine years has been the increase in international commuting. In 2008, 23% of all overseas workers ‘commuted’; this figure has now risen to 33%. Driven largely by ever-improving transport links, this trend may see weekly or even daily travel from the home country to the host country.

Crucially, it is simpler to organize and manage – they need no more documentation than a passport and typically make all their own travel arrangements. On the other hand, these travelers are sometimes called “stealth expats” because they are not classified as assignees, nor do they fit into any existing corporate expat policy. As a result, day-trippers can fly under the radar, with serious risks regarding tax liability, social security, and immigration procedures.

Celebrating The Diversity Of Future Expats

What about our 45-year-old, white male, with his trailing spouse and 2 children on a long-term assignment? Although his stereotype may have become redundant – the role he plays is far from redundant. As companies seek to standardize work practices, and cross-pollinate by global interactions, the overseas deployment of skilled, experienced, senior execs is critical.

But now, by working with the other emerging groups of expats he is now part of a wider and more diverse global workforce, which is collectively able to serve the company far more effectively than it did a decade ago.

6 Strategies For Picking The Right International Moving Company

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

The following blog post is from the FIDI-FAIM blog. Starline Overseas Moving is proud to be a member of FIDI and the only FAIM accredited moving company in the Province of Alberta, Canada.

How do you choose a moving company to help you with your (or your employee’s) relocation? Recent developments, such as the dramatic skills shortage in qualified, experienced truck drivers has made life harder for companies trying to plan relocations. It has become more important than ever to select the right moving company.

We have put together 6 key strategies to help mobility professionals to ensure a successful outcome.

1. Spread the Load

Ensure access to capacity by using a number of quality-oriented movers. The driver shortage is just one factor that has reduced overall capacity – so it makes sense to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket by building relationships with multiple, reputable partners. This is especially important during the peak summer moving period.

2. Expect Fair but Realistic Pricing

Resist the temptation to cut costs at every stage. It is far better to pay a little extra and be sure of better service.

3. Explore Small Shipment Programs

Some relocations may not require the typical ‘full load’, so many movers offer small shipment programs which may offer better value.

4. Plan Ahead and be Flexible

You are more likely to secure the capacity you need if you can give your mover plenty of notice of what you will need and when you will need it. If you can also offer a degree of flexibility this will also help.

5. Cut Out the Middle Men

Reduce reliance on third-party movers. For example, work with a relocation company that owns its own vehicles, and is therefore in better control of the availability of both vehicles and drivers.

6. Look for Independent Seals of Quality

International moving can be a sensitive business. With possibly your whole life’s assets on the move, you want to be as sure as possible that your mover is reputable, qualitative and solvent. Some moving companies are independently audited and rated, making them easier to gauge than others. FAIM, which you can read more about here, is such a seal of quality.

Bearing these tips in mind will help companies to ensure they are best placed to make a success of their relocation projects.

Returning Expats: How To Ensure A Soft Landing

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The following blog post is from the FIDI-FAIM blog. Starline Overseas Moving is proud to be a member of FIDI and the only FAIM accredited moving company in the Province of Alberta, Canada.

Returning Expats: How To Ensure A Soft Landing

Repatriation can be a troubling time both for expats and employers. While the expat is likely to find it harder than expected to get back into the swing of things, the employer faces a more business-like problem: a high proportion of returning expats leave their jobs. Expats are typically highly valued employees – which is why they were chosen for the expat assignment in the first place – and expat retention is therefore a key part of every large organization’s talent strategy.

Why Does This Happen?

Repatriation Is Not Strategic

Whilst the need to start the global assignment was almost certainly driven by a strategic imperative (to transfer skills, start up an overseas division, deal with a specific one-off project) there is little strategic need for the returning expat. They come home because their task is complete, not because they are necessarily needed.

Repatriation Is Not Easy

It is understandable that people see the outgoing journey as more complex, and therefore more worthy of the HR or global mobility department’s time and attention. The return journey involves no house search, no schooling problems, no language barrier – surely just a glorious homecoming? The truth is that the ‘reverse culture shock’ can be every bit as difficult, since many expats expect life to be as it was, but the world has often moved on without them – leaving them feeling out of place. The disillusionment that follows is often the catalyst for changing jobs.

No Demand For Freshly Obtained Skills

Expats gain and refine skills when they are overseas. But since there is rarely a strategic need for their skills (even though they are arguably more employable now) it can be hard to find a truly appropriate role on their return.

Raised Expectations

Expats can live a privileged life during their time abroad. This happens at home and in the workplace where they are often seen as being unusually skilled and often something of an exotic celebrity. Even the most balanced people will have raised expectations after such an experience.

How Do I Promote Expat Retention?

When you look into the factors, it’s easy to see why returning expats struggle. But what can HR departments do about it? After all, they’re the ones who will shoulder the blame for poor retention statistics.

The solution to the problem can be broadly divided into steps taken during the assignment, and what can be done after repatriation. A little thought in both areas will help HR managers to help returning expats – and ease the expat retention problem.

Pre-Repatriation

It is wise to remember that repatriation is not just a simple movement of people and possessions from the host country to the home country. It is the process of changing from living and working in one place to a similar situation in another. That change is gradual: it therefore starts long before they actually board the flight to return home. In fact, if you want to really prepare assignees for repatriation, you start the moment they fly out…

Post-Repatriation

Even the best-prepared expats will face challenges as they struggle to re-assimilate themselves with their former workplace and social lives. But there is a lot that the employer can do to make sure that the homecoming is a happy one.

Stay In Touch…

One of the most important ways to avoid the repatriation blues – and the talent drain associated with it – is to ensure communications channels remain open with the expat during their time abroad. It is up to the company to ensure expats stay aware of business activities and priorities back at the “home office”. A regular dialogue with expats will remind the expat that their assignment is a temporary state of affairs and they are still very much part of the global organization, and not just the location where they spend their assignment.

Plan The Next Role

Many employers are guilty of failing to prepare for repatriation. The returning expat will be armed with new skills and greater confidence yet according to a 2016 survey only 23% of companies talk to people from day one about the roles that might be open to them when they return. This should be a key part of the ongoing dialogue.

Help Them Integrate

A softer side of the HR department’s job is to offer encouragement and help returning expats to get involved. The sooner they are back into a routine – both professionally and socially – the more likely they are to thrive once more. Look to include them whenever possible, and to ensure managers and co-workers are not only aware they are coming back, but that they may bring skills and qualities that are much in demand.

So, what can you do about the retention conundrum? It boils down to planning and patience – on both sides. HR departments have a responsibility to support expats – both on their return and throughout the time overseas. For their part, expats also need to prepare themselves for repatriation. Arguably, the HR department’s biggest challenge may be to make it clear just how important this can be.

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