Whilst anyone who is thinking about taking their career overseas will have thought (probably in detail) about how to apply for and accept a job, how to organise a visa and where they would like to live there are many other things that expats simply don’t think about.
These things may be often overlooked, but that doesn’t mean they lack importance. In fact some can be crucial if you are to get the most out of expat life - wherever you decide to call home.
Research the local customs
Wherever you choose to call home you have to be prepared for a vastly different way of life. Small things such as greetings, manners and jokes can be taken very differently in other societies and these should be altered to ensure that they conform with the traditions of your new country.
The best way to learn about the ‘do’s and don’ts’ within a new environment is by speaking to locals, or experienced expats who have lived in the country for a long period of time. Having a local friend who is willing to help talk you through the various customs can make an enormous difference - especially when you are moving to a country with a very different way of life.
Westerners moving to the Middle East are amongst the most likely to struggle with the cultural adaptations. Whilst The UAE, Bahrain and Qatar are far less conservative than Saudi Arabia, it is important to remember at all times that you are living in a Muslim country and, as a result certain things that can see small to you may have a big impact on your relationships with local people.
If you are in the company of traditional Arabs it’s important that you don’t eat with your left hand (as it’s considered unclean) or point the soles of your feet at someone as that is considered disrespectful.
Being aware of small cultural quirks can be a crucial part of expat life, and it’s something that many expats fail to fully research before making a move.
If you are thinking about making the move then make sure you book your place at our International Medical Careers Forum where you can speak first hand with insiders from the Middle East. http://www.imc-forum.com/
Get your finances in order
One of the most stressful parts of a move for many people is ensuring that their finances are organised, and their making the most out of their money, prior to boarding the flight to their new future.
Every expat has various financial decisions to make and decide on prior to moving. Credit and debit cards may need to be applied for or changed to ensure that they work, and provide you with the security you need, in your new country. Further to this you need to make sure that any outstanding debts in the UK (or elsewhere) are organised to prevent you from paying more than you have to, or damaging your credit history.
When you are taking your career overseas banks are here to help, and getting an understanding of the services that they can offer you is crucial for anyone working abroad.
Many banks will offer specialist expat services, with HSBC’s being the most well known around the world. They provide 24 hour phone lines for help and advice, and a useful application that makes setting up accounts, and managing your money in a foreign environment a far less stressful process.
As to do the National Australia Bank, with their expat services specialising in anyone from Australia or New Zealand moving abroad, or those from elsewhere moving ‘down under’. With local experts and established traditions they can be the ideal financial partners for expats who need help and advice to manage their financial situation.
Banking matters aren’t the only side of finance that many expats forget to organise prior to a move. If you relocate to another country then you should look into making sure that your pension scheme (whether company related or private) is sorted to avoid you being left out of pocket when you retire.
Finally there’s the issue of the physical currency conversion process. If you decide to commit to a move overseas then you will need to make sure you have a lump sum of cash available to help settle you into your new life. This can cover bills such as food and rent, or bigger things like purchasing a car or accommodation.
To help with this process London based Currencies Direct offer bank beating exchange rates, and FCA Authorisation to give you peace of mind. They make a process which is often stressful and frustrating quick, simple and as stress free as it can be making them the ideal choice for anyone taking their career overseas.
Many expats fail to realise prior to a move just how much financial planning it takes to get everything organised. Thankfully there are organisations who can help, and with HSBC, the NAB and Currencies Direct all being represented at #IMedCF it is a must attend event for anyone looking at taking their skills to a foreign climate.
Make sure you understand the new tax rules abroad - and those that still apply at home
The idea of a tax free life in the Middle East is something which plays a major role in attracting many people to the region. Countries like The UAE and Saudi Arabia are world renowned for being very financially rewarding locations in which to live, but residing there (or anywhere else away from home) doesn’t mean that you can just forget all about taxes. Many may still apply in your homeland - and understanding what (if anything) you still owe to the taxman can be extremely complex.
We would always recommend that you speak to an independent tax expert prior to moving to help you avoid getting in an unwanted situation with HMRC.
At #IMedCF we will be joined by former HMRC tax inspector Tim Keeley - who will help to provide the information you need to know regarding the latest ‘NonDom’ regulations in the UK as well as plenty of other useful tips on the taxation system - in the simplest terms possible. This can be invaluable if you want to maximise your money, whilst avoiding unwittingly breaking the law.
The Physical Move
It’s not until you actually start planning a move that many expats suddenly realise just how much they physically want to take with them.
First time expats often don’t consider how they are going to get their furniture or other household possessions to the other side of the world until late in the process - never mind the cost of shipping, or the different services offered by different companies that can help in the process.
On average it takes between a month and 3 months to have your goods shipped to the Middle East, and costs can range from £2000 to £6000 depending on the company, the amount of goods and the value of what you are transporting. Speaking with a number of companies to get quotes on the services and prices they offer is essential - and you should also research any potential import duties you may be liable to pay on arrival.
Relocation companies such as Santa Fe can provide much more than just the transportation of goods - they can offer help and support in every aspect of a move, from learning the language to storage facilities and even helping you to move any pets overseas!
To hear about the range of services Santa Fe Relocation have to offer, and to make sure that you don’t miss out any helpful, insider tips on how to get the right deal for your possessions a representative from the company will be speaking at #IMedCF.
The Length of your stay
People have all different reasons for moving abroad - some will do it solely for money, some will see where the journey takes them and others will move with no intention of ever leaving. It’s important that, at the start of a move, you set out your aims for your time as an expat.
Take into account the length of your contract, is it as a locum, for a fixed term or more permanent? Then consider your reasoning for making the move, is it to put yourself in a better financial situation, is it to immerse yourself in a new culture, or is it simply because an opportunity was too good to turn down.
By considering the length of time you want to stay in a country then you can make decisions based on this fact. Is it worth buying a car or house, applying for citizenship and setting up some permanent roots in the country, or are you simply attempting to maximise your earnings and leave at the earliest possible opportunity.
Making decisions around the time you want to spend in a country will make organising your new life abroad far easier.
Depending on where you move to, you might not have a choice about when you leave. So, if the country you are living in is showing signs of political or social instability, then be prepared to move back home (or elsewhere) without a great deal of time to prepare.
Moving as an expat is not an easy process. There will be emotionally tough times, and there will be times when (most people) begin to wonder why they made the move. To try and limit these feelings however you should make sure that you prepare yourself as thoroughly as you can for the move - preparation is the key to success.