Questions to Ask Before Moving Abroad for Work

For many people, the opportunity to work abroad is a dream come true. Career experience in another country is one way to intimately understand that place. At best, an international job changes the course of your life in tremendous, wondrous ways. At worst, it’s beyond isolating.

To encourage the former and avoid the latter, here are some helpful questions you can ask your intended place of employment, before you start packing your bags.

Q: What is the scope of work?

You likely aren’t familiar with another country’s labor laws. That naivete can make you vulnerable to pitfalls, dishonest parties, and unpleasant surprises. You should have a full accounting of your responsibilities, working hours, vacation and sick policy, and any other quirks of the job.

Q: What is the payment structure?

Of course you’ll need to know what you’re getting paid, but the questions may not stop there. How frequently are you paid? What taxes are you responsible for? Will you require an in-country bank account before you can receive your first paycheck? Will you also need to file for taxes in your home country? Setting yourself up for compensation can take a while, so it’s best if you go into your job with some understanding of the financial logistics.

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Q: What is the living situation?

Whether your job is providing you with accommodation or not, it’s important to understand the rental and housing ecosystem. Some countries have strict tenancy laws, such as rules about the number of housemates you can have in one space. In some cities, it’s normal to pay a large broker fee in exchange for help finding a place to live. Finding yourself without housing is one of the most stressful experiences you could face, so do everything you can to be knowledgeable about housing in your destination country.

Q: What are the social customs?

If you’re working abroad, chances are you’ll be regularly interacting under a new set of social customs. While learning the language can make you see the world differently, it won’t always guarantee you an immediate understanding of cultural norms. For example, if you’re at a business dinner in South Korea, you should expect the host to order for the table, and you should not expect to start eating until the host gives you the go-ahead. You should also expect to argue back and forth over who pays the bill, but ultimately cede the bill to the host, who customarily pays. Whether you’ll be working with students, tourists, or business professionals - ask and understand the customs you’ll encounter with them.

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Q: What is the transportation situation?

How do you get to work? You don’t want to find yourself in company-sponsored housing, far from your job every day with no car or public transport links. Make sure you understand how to get to and from your job each day, and make sure you’re prepared for it. If you’re lucky, your organization might even subsidize your travel costs.

Q: What is healthcare like?

Good luck to the foreigner who moves to America and must adapt to its complicated healthcare system. Similarly, an American moving abroad might find themselves needing to enroll in a universal healthcare system. Or, there could be some combination of private and public insurance, and you need to make choices. Your hiring manager will be a good resource to ask about the common ways that international workers deal with medical needs.

With all of your questions answered, the only thing left to do is brush up on your language skills. Why not check out our online group classes, bringing you the benefits of a classroom without having to leave home?