Research Before Negotiating Expat Relocation Package

Contributed by Mieu Phan Coaching, 18 February, 2019

Expat relocation package involves understanding your needs and how they can be negotiated in an enforceable binding agreement in your host country. There are a number of considerable areas to look into for yourself and your whole family before negotiating for a relocation package.

1) Know how other expats live

Knowing how expats live is a window to how you would live. Some of the questions you might ask are:

These are the people who you will have a quicker connection with. They know what you are going through and what is to come. They are most likely going to be your first set of friends. They understand you. They are most likely going to want to make new friends as well. One common mistake first time expats assume is that they can live like a local. They don't realize that the locals have had a lifetime to adapt to their lifestyle plus they have a built-in support system that you don't have.

2) Understand the needs of your children's schooling requirements

Most major cities have international schools representing education in the United Kingdom, education in the United States or other international curriculum. These international schools are costly. It is common for locals to send their children to international schools to learn a new language. Or perhaps, your children might do well in local schools and save your company a lot of cash. Either way, enrolling your children in a foreign country puts your children's university/college application in the unique pile for knowing another language and experience.

3) Know the taxation requirements for both your home country and your host country

It is important to keep careful record as tax treaties between your home country and host country are complex. There are possible double taxation from each country. Generally, companies hire an international account for tax equalization. Tax equalization is meant to ensure you pay your proper share of tax as if you were living/working in your home country. It is also worth noting that your employer is paying for your tax preparation so the accountant's interest might be for your employer. Often times, the host country will require the company to set up a retirement account on your behalf so this is another reason to keep careful record.

4) Understand your conditions of satisfaction

This cannot be stated enough. It requires you to really look deep within yourself. Expat life is hard and rewarding at the same time. Any underlying issues with your health, stress within your marriage and family, and unresolved mental issues will magnify once you are thrown into an unknown environment. Some possible questions you might ask yourself and each member of your family are:

These are just a few questions to ensure that this move will satisfy your condition of satisfaction.

5) What are your family's must haves?

Having a little comfort from home can make all the difference when all your senses are challenged. I prefer having a good night sleep so I ship mattress toppers. I do not want to spend the time looking for it once I get to the host country. For you, it might be another must haves. You might have young children who are picky eaters. Making sure these darlings are set for the first months while everyone is settling in might saves you a few grey hairs. It is also worth noting that not all moving companies allow food items or some household kitchen supplies. The trade-off for shipping food items might be a lengthier process time at immigration.

6) Expenses and time to setup household

Some items to consider are insurance, rent, setting up utilities, purchasing a car, getting a driver's license, tips for movers, clothing and accessories to acclimate to climate, supplies for household, hiring service people to help setup, and other discretionary expenses. Whatever the max number you have come up with, expect to spend more. Often time it is comforting for expats to eat what they are used to like peanut butter or lasagna. You host country may have those items but at a considerable markup.

7) Spousal support

In some host countries, spouses of the relocating workers may not be able to work. Compensation for lost of income might be offered. In other cases, spousal support could include employment support such as visa and job finding support.

8) Repatriation duties and expenses

For long assignments, it is common for individuals to sell their cars and belongings. They might even have rented out their home. The expense for setting up household expense upon repatriation may be similar to that for expatriates. Asking for temporary assistance such as housing, car rental and per diem expense are reasonable. Often time, companies are not aware of repatriation challenges so these expenses may not be in the budget. A creative way of being compensated may be in order.

Moving abroad is challenging and even serial expats face these challenges. Being prepared helps mitigate the impacts. These are the common challenges for expats and their employers.

1) Loneliness - Being thrown into the unknown is a time when you need your support system the most. Yet, your support system aren't as reachable and do not relate to what you are going through. If you are lucky, you might meet potential friends the first months. You are luckier still if you meet those who can help you navigate you through the minefields of expat life. In our digital world, it is easier to meet these people online. You can also meet people who are already living where you are relocating you. These priceless individuals have the gift of preparing you for the eventual outcomes.

2) Culture shock - Not understand the meaning behind actions by the locals can quickly zap your time and energy. Conversely, not knowing how to get your ideas across is one of the quickest way to isolation. From these places, growth appear to be stalled.

3) Relationships - We are habitual creatures and most of us prefer the certainty. When things goes in the wrong direction, the finger pointing usually goes to the person(s) who made all this move happen. Family who have an open discussion of the eventual move with some topics in mind such as condition of satisfaction for each member of the family, learn each others ways of handling problems, and learn each others ways of feeling heard and needed are more likely better at problem solving the unknown.

4) Expense - Foreign relocation is expensive for both employer and expat. For the employer, a relocation is seen as a transaction with a productive investment is in mind. The expenses for the employer may include immigration, shipping, tax preparation, hardship compensation, spousal support, children education, accommodation, car, travel, and staff hours. For the expats, the expenses may include hired help, initial setup of household, and emotional support from professionals. Being that an expat family costs from 2 times to 3 times the local expense, an unsuccessful expatriation is quite expensive and those investments cannot be recouped. An unsuccessful expatriation reflects badly on all parties involved, and it is common for the employee to find new employment upon repatriation.

Doing your own research puts in the driver's seat of your own destination. No one is going to understand your family's needs or care as much as you do. Doing the research after-the-fact is like playing catch-up once the race has already been decided. If done well a successful expatriation reams wonderful rewards down the road.

Tags: Lifestyle | Expats | Lifestyle |



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