An Expatriate’s Guide to Renting a Property

Unless you’re moving abroad to live with family, or your new job provides you with accommodation (as can be common in certain fields such as education), you’re going to want to find a new apartment pretty swiftly after you arrive to your new home. Exactly what type of apartment you’re looking for, where you want it to be, and how much you expect it to cost all depends on personal preferences, but there is some advice that can be useful no matter what you have in mind. The following guide should hopefully make that settling in period a little clearer and easier to deal with.

1. Research before you arrive

Whether you’re eager to move in quickly or are in no particular rush, researching in advance can still have its benefits. A few searches and questions posed in forums, on social media and across letting agencies should give you a rough idea of what kind of price range you can expect upon landing, and which districts of the city or town you’re moving to are the best to live in. It’s also a good idea to ask around about what paperwork you might need to prepare in advance to rent a property. In some countries, moving in is as relaxed as paying some rent in advance, while in others you may be required to obtain residency permits, large deposits and willing local guarantors.

2. Ask for help

If you don’t speak the local language, then chances are you’re going to find it difficult to rent an apartment on your own – especially if you’ve never lived in that country before. Start off by asking your new employer whether they offer any support in finding accommodation for new employees, as quite often they do. It might not be much more than an estate agent recommendation, but it’s not unheard of to be assigned a translator to help you in signing your documents and agreeing on a price. And you’ll probably also be informed of which local complexes or agents are worth looking into too.

Don’t forget though to consider also asking the locals, especially other expats and new colleagues. First-hand advice is usually the most reliable at determining which districts are worth living in, where offers good value for money, and which letting agents are worth your time of day. You’ll also no doubt be given advice about any documentation you’ll have to gather, any pit falls to avoid, and perhaps also ways of saving yourself a bit of cash here and there – which is always a good thing. Letting agents are salesman at the end of the day, and they can be negotiated with as much as they can offer up a good con.

3. Arrange a number of viewings

If you’re in a hurry, you’ll want to arrange viewings as soon as you land – if not before you’ve even arrived. It pays to be a little patient though, and to make sure you’ve seen a variety of apartments so that you’ve got a good idea of the range in price and quality on offer. If you can, you might also want to take a peek into an existing employee’s home, as seeing what such an apartment looks like fully-furnished is often more evocative (and encouraging) than seeing that apartment either completely empty, full of junk, or clearly in need of work! It can also be a good idea to book viewings with a number of letting agents, although do be prepared for some pushy sales tactics should you suddenly confess your disinterest!

4. Meet the landlord

Although it’s not always possible, do try to meet the landlord before signing any kind of lease or contract. Any work that needs to be done on the apartment in the future will usually have to be signed off by that landlord, and if you’re planning on staying for the long term it might be worth seeing if your they are likely to do so too. A landlord on death’s door for instance may mean that a sale in the next few years is likely, and you wouldn’t want to be kicked out of your lovely new apartment before you’re ready, would you?

Landlords will also be able to fill you in a little on who’s currently living in the neighbouring apartments. From experience, middle-aged couples with children who have recently moved out of home tend to offer the most stable and honest situations. Most new tenants prefer to find a landlord that is professional and friendly, but that also keeps themselves to themselves. Being surprised in your new apartment at random hours with gifts (or general curiosity) can make settling in that little bit more… exciting/stressful(?).     

5. Negotiate a package

A year’s rent can be quite pricey in certain parts of the world, so you could be saving yourself quite an amount if you’re simply willing to engage in a bit of healthy haggling. Convincing the landlord to be around on the day of signing should make you much more likely to negotiate a better deal, and enquiring with your estate agent as to what the personal situation is with your new potential landlord can help too. If they’re looking for a quick sale, you’ll certainly have more wiggle room – especially if you can deliver the cash quickly up front and in full.

Your agent should be able to negotiate a good price on your behalf, particularly if you don’t have the confidence or language ability to do so yourself. Although it’s not just the monthly rent that you’ll want to negotiate. It can pay off to look into any additional fees that you might incur, such as building maintenance, parking, or local government taxes, as these can really add up. How long your contract will stay at the same price for, how furnished your new home will be, and whether any utilities such as gas or water are included are also things that can be discussed on the day. Of course, you’ll want to offer your new (quite human and hopefully personable) landlord a fair price too, so do keep that in mind when in the process of haggling. And don’t get too aggressive; they can back out as easily as you before anything is signed.   

6. Keep an eye on things

Find out if there’s a time-frame for when (and if) any white or brown goods are replaced, and enquire as to whether you’ll be responsible for things like the plumbing, or lighting and general fittings. Some countries will cover small items for the first month only, and then you’re on your own after that if you’ve got a blocked toilet or something similar. A good idea can be to photograph all of the little things that are wrong with the apartment and send them to your agent or landlord with a brief description, letting them know that you’re not too bothered about getting them fixed yet but that you want to raise them to their attention. That way, further down the line, these small issues once grown shouldn’t become your responsibility.

An Expatriate’s Guide to What to Take Abroad

One of the most pressing questions for expatriates – especially those that are moving to a new country for the first time – is what to take with you during that big move. Of course there’s no straight answer to this question as there are a number of factors and variables that may determine what you should be packing. Nevertheless, we’ve come up with a fairly short guide that might make your next big move a little easier to pack for.

1. Know your luggage allowance

This is probably one of the most important first things to consider. The country you’re travelling to, the type of transport you’ll be travelling on, and the company and carrier that you’ll be travelling with all affect how much luggage you’ll be able to take with you. People from the USA, for example, tend to be granted a larger travel allowance on flights than a lot of other world regions. As unfair as it may seem, an American might be allowed two 20kg+ bags in the hold, while you might only be afforded one. 

With this in mind, research how much luggage you can take, and then look for ways to push that boundary to the max. Many airlines for instance will also allow you carry-on luggage as well as other loose items such as a laptop bag, a small handbag, or some light reading material – but this varies from airline to airline so definitely look into this before heading to the airport. What’s more, as carry on luggage is rarely weighed, it’s often easy enough to get away with going over the weight limit here. Books are heavy items, so if you’re taking these then add them to your laptop bag or carry-on luggage, or even stash them in the pockets of the jacket you’ll be wearing on the day. In fact, there’s no real restriction to how much clothing you can wear on board, so it might be worth layering up with some of your heavier items if you’ve got a tight weight restriction ahead of you. 

2. Look into overseas shipping

If your new company doesn’t offer overseas shipping as part of your benefits package, it might be worth looking into it yourself anyway. Shipping luggage by sea is almost always cheaper (and obviously slower) than shipping it by air, and depending on where you were living before transporting luggage in this way can actually be surprisingly affordable as long as you’re willing to wait… and are happy to occasionally have your boxes rifled through! One option that you should rarely consider is  paying for excess luggage during your flight. Not only will it be difficult to get to your new accommodation from the airport with all that luggage in hand, but the premiums you’ll pay for such a service are usually ridiculously high!

3. Decide what’s necessary

Unless you’re going as someone else’s dependent, there’s a strong likelihood you’ll be moving abroad to start a new job. So one of the first considerations you’ll have to make before packing is exactly what you’ll need to be professional in your new position. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for a good deal of your checked luggage allowance to be taken up with the documentation you’ll need to process your residence permits, your work clothing (suits and shoes are particularly heavy), some casual clothes, and an array of laptops and other electronics. Any spare room after that will no doubt be taken up with the items that you then decide are most necessary, so finding out what’s on offer in your new locale should probably be high on your agenda when preparing too.  

4. Find out what’s available locally

Doing some online research as to what’s readily available where you’re headed and how much it costs there can really save you valuable packing space. Herbs and spices don’t weight much and can be difficult to come by in certain regions of the world, and luxury(?) bedding items such as sheets can actually be surprisingly expensive and are often  necessary to have pretty swiftly after arriving. Clothing can also be quite varied in fashion, and if you have large feet or are particularly tall or wide, you might want to bring some shoes or trousers with you as the culture you’re joining may not offer the sizes you’ll be needing in your day to day.

Other speciality items also warrant consideration, such as any medications you might require, or any gear that could help you to enjoy the surrounding environments such as sleeping bags and tents. Aside from asking questions about local availability in forums, it’s also worth looking at the goods on offer in online marketplaces. Although availability can often be quite poor especially in developing countries, many nations the world over are rapidly increasing their online access to globally in-demand products. You might in fact be surprised by exactly how much you can get hold of once you’ve settled in – so perhaps just consider packing only those items that you’ll need in the short term.  

5. Consider when you’ll be home next

Finally, it’s quite probable that you’re going to return home to visit your family and friends at some point, so there may be some items that you can wait to get hold of on your return. Especially if your company pays for a round-trip flight every year, it can be quite useful to journey home with a mostly empty suitcase and then fill it up for your return leg. This can be a particularly good way of doing things as it allows you the time and opportunity to determine exactly what items you can and cannot find in your new home.  Plus it will probably make you even more excited about returning to your home country and then taking all those wonderful things back with you.   

An Expatriate’s Guide to Remitting Money

Whether it’s to pay off debt, top up savings or simply for peace of mind, transferring money from a country of residence into a home bank account is a usual necessity for most expatriates. Exactly how this is done varies across the globe, but the process is fairly consistent in just how time consuming it can be. It’s true, remittance is rarely a quick or painless process – especially the first time in each new country. The following advice hopes to explain the process somewhat, and might even save you some valuable seconds the next time you’re at the bank abroad. 

1. Know your bank details

This might sound plainly obvious, but be sure to have as much information about the bank account you wish to transfer to before you set off to remit your money. If the bank needs a detail that you don’t have on your person, you’re not going to be able to make your transfer at that time. Bring along your account number, sort code, the IBAN, BIC and SWIFT codes, any national insurance numbers, the address of the account you’re remitting to, and the account holder’s full name and address… and you should be fine. This information is usually readily available either through online banking or on an old bank statement, but if you can’t find it all then just contact your bank and they should be able to help.

2. Give yourself time

Be prepared for all the form filling and document checking to take a good hour or two the first time you remit money. Even return visits can take up to an hour, especially if the country you’re in doesn’t permit remittance through online banking (which is a real blessing when it happens). Such a consistently long wait could be because the bank teller is not familiar with the process or simply because of the nation’s intricate bureaucracy. Regardless of why, it is almost always necessary to enter into the process with patience and good humour, and to remain considerate of the locals who are waiting behind you. After a few lengthy experiences, you’ll no doubt learn to limit your remittances to a small number of times a year, and you’ll probably avoid going during the lunchtime rush too!

3. Prepare your documents

You could be delayed in remitting money home if you don’t have the necessary identification documents with you, such as a residency certificate or passport. This can be tricky at first as these documents might be needed for visa processing and you could be without them for as long as two months. Find out what your new country’s banking system requires and see if there’s a backup document that can be used in its place. If not, you’re going to have to wait to remit your salary, and perhaps even to get paid your first paycheck or two. However, because of exactly these types of scenarios, some employers offer support in the way of cash-advance loans that are definitely worth looking out for.

4.Know your limits

There is almost always a limit on how much you can remit, and it’s often related to how much you can earn either annually or monthly. Some countries even offer a daily restriction such as $500, which is really actually more of a service used mostly by those who don’t have residency in the country. To what extent these limits are followed is very much dependent on the country or teller you are dealing with and how much you are personally comfortable with flouting the laws. It’s not uncommon, for example, for expats to use locals to remit money home for them to avoid those frustrating remittance limits.

5. Look for shortcuts

If you’re in the right part of the world, you might be able to set up online banking which can allow for money to be transferred easily and quickly abroad from the comfort of a computer. Should that service not be available (it is mostly available, just often only in the local language), some countries allow a remittance deposit account to be set up in which any money that’s deposited is automatically remitted to an account of your choosing. If available, your new employer may be able to guide you on some or all of the above should you need help with language issues. Otherwise, you’ll have to go to the bank in person every time and queue up patiently with the rest of the folk to remit your money. If this is what you’ll be doing, just remember to take the documents from your last remittance along as these should speed up the process a lot. 

An Expatriate’s Guide to Finding a Job

Unless you’re a dependant or are living somewhere illegally, being an expatriate in today’s world almost certainly means having to secure a job and processing all the paperwork that goes along with it. But how do you get that job exactly? Do you find employment in advance of arriving, or once you’re on the ground? Do you do it online or in person? What restrictions are there when getting a job abroad? And what should that job offer you for it to be worthwhile? Knowing the answers to some of these questions might very well make that first move less of a leap into the unknown and more of a step in the right direction.

1. Knowing your skills

Language is one of the biggest barriers to finding employment abroad, but if you speak and are trained in English then thanks to globalisation you now stand a better chance at finding a job than most. It’s also important to make sure that you possess the necessary field-specific skills and experience that makes you competitive, as a country rarely wants to hire someone for a job that a local could easily fill. Professions such as healthcare and education are always in demand worldwide but are still competitive, especially for the good jobs, while caring, cleaning, cooking and construction also tend to attract foreign staff who are often more willing to work for less than favourable wages. For other fields, make sure that you’re well qualified, easy to talk to, and efficient in your application process, and you should be able to find work abroad at least somewhere if you’re flexible.

2. Finding a job in advance

The better jobs tend to advertise well in advance, and because of the often lengthy visa application processes you’d be wise to be applying ahead anyway. While the best jobs are most probably found through recommendation and word of mouth, there are still many great positions available worldwide that are advertised on the internet (and occasionally still in newspapers). Between three and six months is usually enough advance to send out applications, but some jobs may post their vacancies as little as two weeks before the start date or as much as a year before the position begins. Last minute jobs are not uncommon either, though you’ll most likely be replacing someone who backed out at the last minute or didn’t return from holiday. Either way, be prepared to be interviewed by phone or video, or even to be asked to visit the country for a face to face meeting – although this is admittedly less favourable and much less common. While finding your next job in advance gives you the opportunity to research the institute and speak with current members of staff about the working environment, even after contracts are signed jobs can still fall through or end up being quite dissimilar to how they were sold – so do be cautious.

3. Finding a job on the ground

An alternative to sourcing your job in advance is to find one upon arrival, and many people do do this. Worldwide, this seems to be more common with entry-level jobs, although there are some geographical differences too. Latin America and Europe, for instance, tend to hire expatriates currently in the country and therefore interview predominantly in person. There are some definite positives to getting your job in this way, such as having the ability to experience your new place of employment and colleagues in person. There’s also more room for negotiation if you’re able to speak with your potential employer face-to-face. However, collecting the necessary documentation while in the country can be difficult, especially if you have to convert your tourist visa to a working visa, or are put on a business visa that requires frequent border runs to renew. You also run the risk of being pushed into illegal employment to save the company money, which is unfortunately an all-too-common scenario for desperate or inexperienced expatriates.

4. Working freelance

Working freelance is also an option, especially if the field you are in allows for it – such as teaching, or website programming. Many full-time expatriate contracts don’t allow moonlighting however, but there are certain types of visa that may allow such additional employment. This can be especially true if you share heritage with the country you are trying to work in, as the visa you can obtain may very well have more flexibility in looking for employment than the average tourist visa. Of course, building a freelance clientele can take considerable time, which your visa may not allow for – plus you may not be granted any of the official benefits that a full-time contract would offer such as healthcare, insurance, or a pension. In general, online businesses are the most welcomed abroad as these tend to bring money into the local economy without putting too much of a strain on it.

5. Getting a good deal

Finally, it’s important that you are given as many benefits as possible when working abroad. This is because you won’t have the support network that you might in your home country, such as having family or friends nearby, or a welfare or benefits system to support you in difficult times. It’s not uncommon for good contracts abroad to include yearly flights, accommodation (or at least an allowance for it), healthcare and insurance, and sometime schooling for your children too.

Another issue that you’ll want to consider is contract longevity. In general, the longer your contract, the more stability you should have in your new job. Yearly contracts are the most common, but they can go without renewal at the last minute, potentially leaving you without a job until the next hiring season rolls around. Ultimately, unless you’re moving abroad for a brief time just for the experience of it, you’ll want your job to offer you a better saving potential than your home country does. If it doesn’t, you may find it more difficult to move on elsewhere or return home in the future.