If you are moving home to a foreign country, the relocation is the first stage of the bigger picture : the expatriation.

In order for your family and yourself to adapt quickly to your new environment, to settle apace in your new life and to make a success of this expatriation, here are a few tips that are in my eyes of importance. 

Discuss this assignment with your employer in order to clear up details such as job description and targets, the duration of the mission, if it is a renewable assignment and the starting date of your new job (how long do you have to relocate?).

A move abroad involves significant expenses and it is important to clarify who will bear these costs. Discuss thoroughly and negotiate your work contract and/or relocation package with your employer. The following points should be covered: 

  • Salary, bonus, potential pay rises and other benefits.

  • Benefits in kind such a car, help towards monthly rent, refund of insurance costs, language courses, cultural training, tuition fees for the children...

  • Taxation: its calculation and the comparison of the effective tax rates (and net income) between the 2 countries.

  • Tax advice in the host country: do you qualify for free advice from your employer or for a financial advisor? Can you get some help with your annual tax returns?

  • The removers' costs: does your employer cover these costs? Is it just for the relocation or does it include repatriation?

  • The relocation: do you have to take care of it all yourself or can you get the help from professionals? The key to success is a good planning, the checklist of all tasks and deadlines, all contacts must be saved and easily accessible, a good monitoring of progress against schedule, be proactive.

  • Deposit for an apartment: in Germany, the estate agency fee falls upon the landlord.

      The tenant must pay a deposit, usually 2 months of rent. 

      What does your employer help you with: purchase or rental of a property? 

      Can he help partially or totally to cover the finance for deposit and/or rent(s) in advance

  • Schools and kindergarten: do you send your children to the local school, to a school detached from your native country or to the international school?

       What are the costs incurred? Could your employer help towards these costs?

       Should you decide to send your child to the school from your native country or to the

       international school, it can well be that your employer will help towards these costs.

  • Health insurance: Are all family members covered, especially relevant if you are not married to your partner? Is it the public health care system or is your employer paying for a private insurance scheme? Which steps should be followed to register to either scheme?

  • Can your spouse also benefit from advantages such as language courses, help and coaching to find a job, a training course, any other type of help?

If you do not know the language of the host country, try and learn it in advance and register to a language school once you are there. For a good integration, it is essential not to shy away from contacts with the local people.

The location where you want to live Choose it with uttermost importance : the quarter, close or further from work? Way up carefully the arguments: commuting time versus quality of life.

Think carefully of the school system in which you would like to send your children:

local, international or detached from your homeland ?

This decision also depends on the time that you are planning on spending abroad. 

In Germany, my recommandation is to send a young child to a "Kita" or "Kindergarten". He/she will still be learning at home the mother tongue. And the bonus, he/she  will be the best German speaker in the family!

From the age of 6 onwards, it is worth asking yourself if you plan on staying long abroad. For a short stay, it is not worth disturbing them too much and school in their native language might be more relevant. 

If you are not planning on having any professional activity in the host country, make sure that you have enough activities and entertainments. If you are a father or a mother "at home", you will have enough on your plate!

However, if you still have some spare time leftover, it might be just as fun as fulfilling to join a regular sport or cultural event.

Make sure that you settle as fast as possible in your daily routine. Do not wait to need some piece of information before actually going to hunt for it. First thing when you arrive, do some research on the local grocery shops that suit you the most. You might like organic food. Try and find the local suppliers and your nearest market.

Make sure that you have an official doctor, a dentist, an ophthalmologist. Plus a pediatrician and an ENT specialist if you have children. The direct dial for emergencies is also useful.

Do avoid the common mistake of joining the local community of your native country to see yourself only speaking your mother tongue!

I grant you that there is nothing like spending a meal or a good moment with compatriot friends, but it is also interesting and rewarding to browse local culture by spending some time with the locals. On top of spending a good time and getting to know more about the local culture, you will also get some good tips on the  local life.

Visit the website of your embassy in the host country. They always have some useful information. 

Be adaptable and open-minded: tell yourself that you are not surrounded by strangers but you are yourself the stranger in a community or a country where the habits and customs are different than yours. You might not understand all the new rules, but trying to follow and respect them is the first step to a good social integration. If you want to adapt quickly to your new surroundings, do not hesitate to join a country cultural training, in our case a German cultural training, which might help understanding the Germans and their language.