How To: Move Abroad

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Last week, we spoke with Lee Smith, the Global Head of Shopper at Kantar TNS. Something we didn't have time to mention in the interview is that she moved abroad for that position! Since it's become fairly common to move to a different country to work, we decided to ask her more about it for her how-to. Here are the top things to watch for as you and your career move abroad.  

1. Cultural Differences.
“I think the cultural difference is often underestimated. You think, ‘I know my business, I know my industry, therefore when I go to X country…’ Even, say, between the US and Italy it took me a long time. Even now, after fifteen years, I still think, ‘I cannot believe I didn’t understand that.’ We have a small document in our company for when somebody goes to work in Korea, which tells them what to expect.”

2. Legal Considerations.
“I found, legally, you have to do a lot yourself, and HR is not always able to solve all the problems they might say they will. I would definitely plan—for anyone that’s moving to another country [and you have] to move your stuff, get a license or a permit or a visa or anything--plan on spending a significant amount of time on that. When I first got here, to Italy, I was having to run off to fill out papers.”

3. Income/Quality of Life Equivalencies.
“I would inform myself really well about salary differences and what standard salaries are. There’s a really interesting site called Expatistan. Basically, say I live in Singapore and I want to move to Munich, it tells you how much you would need to make. [Expatistan] breaks it down by housing, food, transportation, and all these things.”

4. Company Size.
“I’d say the one thing about being in a big company like the one I’m in, is that generally big companies will make an effort to keep you. It’s much easier to keep a good employee than it is to find a new one. If you say ‘My husband is moving to Paris and I really want to stay with the company and I want to move to Paris too,’ they will probably look to find something—maybe it won’t be the same job. But that is a big plus of working in a big company.”

Thanks so much for your insight, Lee! Readers, after looking online for open positions in your dream place to live, come back next week to learn from a lawyer with a very cool specialty in LA.