Why you should spend your time as an expat at least once

Looking to broaden your cultural horizons and boost your career prospects? Tom Wilkinson of AXA healthcare explains how spending time as an expat can be a highly rewarding and lucrative experience.

Why you should spend your time as an expat at least once
As companies are increasingly operating in a global marketplace, relocating staff around the world steadily climbs the agenda. Spending time abroad can be a hugely rewarding experience but there’s a common misconception that, once you begin your career, you have missed the opportunity to travel and live in different parts of the world.Tom Wilkinson, CEO of AXA PPP International explains, from his own experience of working overseas, why he recommends that anyone looking to broaden their cultural horizons and boost their career prospects considers spending some time as an expat.

Improving your career opportunities

Showing that you have the courage and self-reliance to take a job in a foreign country isn’t just a fantastic skill to be able to boast about in a future job interview. Life as an expat can also present career opportunities that might not necessarily be available at home. You may, for example, have the chance to learn about new emerging markets or experience different customer segments. Should you decide to return home after your stint as an expat, the experience will help you stand out from the crowd.The insight that you would gain into the approach to business in different cultures will also be of great benefit. As an example, Sweden was named by Forbes as the best country in the world to do business with in 2017. An employee who has spent time working there and has experience of the business culture would be extremely valuable to a UK company looking to expand its operations into the country.

Better pay and benefits overseas?

As you might expect, business is done a little differently depending on where you are in the world and workplace perks that employees receive in other countries can be extremely attractive to those looking in from the outside. Finland, for example, would seem an excellent choice for any expats looking to start a family, offering the largest amount of paternity leave, at 45 days. Another example is that, in the UAE, many expats are given an allowance for accommodation as well as for trips home.In some countries, there is the possibility of jobs paying more highly than they would in the UK, although this should be taken with a pinch of salt. In New Zealand, for example, wages tend to be higher but so are the local living costs.

Improved work-life balance as an expat

A healthy work-life balance is imperative to success – both at home and at work – and the idea that this could perhaps be achieved more easily in another country is a large draw to the expat lifestyle. In Norway, for example, normal business hours are 08:00-16:00, which would significantly extend the evenings of UK workers who are accustomed to a 17:30 finish.However, if this is one of your key reasons for moving abroad, be warned that shorter working days won’t mean an easy ride. As a result of finishing the day earlier than in most other countries, working culture in Norway is renowned for being extremely efficient and task-oriented and the extra time outside of work is seen by most as time to be spent with family.
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New adventures in a new country

Of all the arguments for spending time abroad, the most compelling might simply be that it will be an unforgettable adventure. Living in another country will give you an opportunity to experience other cultures, see new places and meet new people. Seeing more of the world during my own time overseas has greatly enriched my perspective on challenges both at work and home. Even today, living in the UK, my experiences from living overseas have had a lasting effect on my outlook and my approach to everyday life.

The benefits to children of living in another country

Spending time in another country can be a hugely beneficial experience for young children, considering that many will live in the same town – perhaps even the same house – until the time comes for them to move away for work or university. Time abroad can open children’s eyes to new cultures, prospects and ways of living, all of which will be of great benefit to their personal development. There’s also a good chance that they will pick up the local language, which will strengthen their career prospects considerably should they return to the UK.It’s understandable that parents might worry about the prospect of moving overseas with young children and question how well they will adapt to such a drastic change in lifestyle. However, our research has actually found that children find it easier to acclimatise to the local weather, language and culture than their parents.

Why not?

The idea of leaving home and family behind in order to start a new life overseas might sound daunting. It might even seem frightening. However, if you have the opportunity, I would urge you to grasp it with both hands. I look back on my own time as an expat and consider it to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.If it’s something you haven’t considered before, why not do some research? You might just find it’s exactly the career move you’re looking for.For related news and features, visit our Global Health & Wellness section.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory  Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centre