Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Expat Dilemma

I haven't written seriously about Expat Life for a while. (Only a little humorous post!)  The reason being that the topic is firmly in the hands of people or companies I find extremely dodgy - and therefore the whole  area becomes tainted for me. It's either handled by people who live about 30,000 miles from the next border and want to "coach" you to become a "Thought Leader"- for a $$-price naturally. Or by an offshore company who's ultimate aim is to convince you that "now is a good time to buy in Greece". So I kept shtum as I find these sort of bed-fellows very disagreeable.

HOWEVER (you guessed it...) The expat situation deserves a bit of non-commercial, unbiased scrutiny (and help if possible.) I'll concentrate on the situation I'm most familar with:  Let's take a British woman living an expat-life in Germany. Her situation will at first glance be quite enviable. On average, she will be well-off, have a job, live in a nice area, in a nice flat. Mostly, however, she will be renting. Simply because everybody does in Germany.

Say now, she's feeling a bit homesick - or wondering how to shape her future long-term. Going back to Britain? That would be very very difficult. Given that you have no property assets, you would have to start from afresh on the UK property-"ladder". Older than the average British first-time buyer, you would therefore have to be willing to start out buying an over-priced small flat in a dodgy area, and be financially, and lifestlye-wise an awful lot worse off than you were in Germany, renting.

Secondly, salaries are an awful lot higher in Germany than in the UK. There, you absolutely need a double-income to survive. Which, for the expat means her partner has to be willing and able to relocate back to Britain. Again, not at all easy - given language, job etc. constrictions!

If our female expat is planning to have a child in the near or distant future, again, things will have to be thought through carefully - in Germany you're looking at 12 months maternity leave at 80% of your salary. A perk you might not be willing to give up in a hurry.

And so it goes on - almost every area of life can easily turn out to be full of pitfalls that are difficult to computate. (And whilst this may generally be the case, as an expat you are just so much more aware of risks and consequences!)

I know from experience that being an expat isn't easy - hardly surprising, you may say - but I wanted to point out that it isn't just the usual moans and aches - language, food, carpets in the bathroom etc - but very concrete considerations that make you almost believe in the old saying "You Can't Go Home Again".

1 comment:

  1. This is also interesting from a historical point of view, because so much immigration has happened (and still does) due to economical factors. Many Finns moved to Sweden in the 60's and 70's because there were no jobs for them in their own country, and it wasn't until the late 80 and 90's when it was possible to reverse the trend. So it's not just the 'luxury' expts who have to consider if a move from one country to another is possible. Many have absolutely no choice where they live. And I'm not even going to go into the discussion about political refugees...

    Helena xx