By someone who’s been there, done that and doing it again. A guest blog post by Emma Taylor.
Scrolling through your phone, wistfully peering at the colourful lives presented to you on a small screen, the desire to work and move abroad is a favourite Monday morning fantasy.
It comes as no surprise that more and more Millennials are feeling the pull to leave their native countries and set up home somewhere new, compared to their Gen X and baby boomer counterparts. Working abroad scratches that want-to-travel itch with the need for a job.
Working abroad somewhere in a vague capacity was something that I’d always say ‘one day I’ll do it’, but that day kept getting pushed further away it seemed. Obviously, I was the one who was doing all the pushing; too scared to make the leap incase it was the wrong career move and ridiculously frightened I’d be left behind my peers while they reached life-milestones without me. It took my younger sister getting cancer and being stared down by the grim face of mortality before I thought f*** it, if not now then when?!
Literally the only thing that was stopping me, was me. What a cliché.
There are so many reasons why you should work abroad, but today you’ll have to settle with five.
1. Say ‘Bonjour’ to a New Way of Living
Snapped in Kitzbühel, my days off were spent looking at this..
Your current way of life will be turned on its head when working abroad and there are many practical points to consider like international bank cards and squeezing your belongings into a tiny flat. Don’t even get me started on foreign supermarkets. Not only will they possibly shut at times when you need them most, your usual food shop list will most likely be chucked out the window. Certain items might be more expensive, have less variety, unfamiliar, come in bulk (I could never find a single potato in the mountains, only hulking great sacks of 30+) which in itself is impractical as there’s a high chance you might not have your own car. If you’ve settled in a non-English speaking area, innocent labels will trip you up on the simplest of stuff. Like, have I just bought a pint of milk, or a pint of pouring cream? A strong appreciation for Tesco’s will emerge from nowhere, almost to the extent of adulation while you aimlessly wander the aisles clutching what you hope is a pack of chicken.
Niggly shopping dramas aside, trying on a different way of living is one of the best by-products of being an expat and eclipses the life admin by tenfold. Out-of-work activities that wouldn't have been possible back in the UK will open up to you. If you move somewhere coastal and sunny, going for an evening splash in the sea will seem totally normal after a while, or dinner could regularly be a picnic along the Seine looking at the Eiffel Tower. Whole weekends could be spent visiting the places your adopted territory is famous for. Your free time will feel like a permanent holiday, even as the realisation repeatedly dawns on you that you actually live there.
2. You’ll Be Pushed Out of Your Comfort Zone Whether You Like It Or Not
‘Great things never came from comfort zones’ Who hasn't seen this particular gem of an #inspirationalquote floating around social media? Put the cringing on hold for a sec and take this one on board.
So often the fear of failing and not being immediately brilliant cripples us from even trying in the first place. However, working abroad puts you in situations that’ll make you feel uncomfortable and forces you to step out of the snuggly comfort bubble of home you’re used to. For instance, building up a support network of friends from scratch in your new community, figuring out how best to work alongside colleagues of different nationalities, professional habits and embracing the inevitable culture shock that comes from relocation. Ultimately, the biggest takeaway from working abroad is exposing yourself to how business is done within a foreign market.
3. Work, Life and Satisfaction
Employment surveys tell us all the time how many young people are unhappy at work. The London School of Business and Finance partnered up with The Training Room and produced a report, for example, showing that 24% of Millennials hate their jobs and a staggering 66% say that they want to change careers. We’re the most anxious generation that's ever been (but let's not open that can of worms on the 4567 of possible reasons why) and yet the coveted state of satisfaction with a fulfilling work / life balance seems to elude us. However, spending some time working abroad could change all that, and it seems a huge number of younger people are looking to international shores to achieve it. The Expat Explorer Survey cites 49% of Millennials who have relocated are fulfilled in their new jobs abroad. That could be down to better job security, higher salaries and getting a fix of the wanderlust in their down-time as mentioned above.
The working culture of your chosen home might suit you better too, with shorter working weeks and more flexible office hours outside of the traditional 9-5 . Or how about being able to wrap-up your commute to and from work in 7-ish minutes, like the Danes.
Now wouldn't that be nice?
In Denmark, workers can also choose when to start their day and receive five weeks paid holiday a year, minimum. MINIMUM. Throw in their incredibly high standard of living, plus a 2016 first place world happiness ranking and I say we should all hot-foot it to Copenhagen.
4. Loads of New Skillz
You'll collect a stack of new skills working abroad. Granted not all of them will be hard, quantifiable, 'add-another-string-to-your-bow' type skills that you can proudly add to your CV with a flourish, but it will give you a favourable boost for future employment. It will be unforeseen little things like self-assurance with problem solving from minor to major issues, your ability to quickly adapt will sky rocket, you might learn how to put snow chains on tyres and receive an overall boost to your confidence when you realise how capable you actually are living in a new country on your own.
The softer skills you develop are just as valuable and transferable as the more tangible ones. Obviously picking up bits of the local language is a given, you might even reach fluency, you might only manage ‘ein Bier bitte’. But chances are, you’ll come away linguistically richer than you did at the start of your journey.
5. Politics, Politics, Politics
Politics is a relatively recent motivator for the Millennial generation to up sticks for a different home. With the world increasingly feeling like it’s about to set itself on fire, the mood of uncertainty around Brexit has rooted itself firmly amongst the majority of younger people. The threat to freedom and flexibility of working abroad in Europe inevitably is prematurely forcing the hand of a lot of expats and those at the start of their burgeoning careers who looked to the continent as an option. The opportunity to temporarily work, in a different country now might need to be reconsidered, replaced by the long process of qualifying for EU citizenship and the desire to protect the cherished right to free movement we’re so lucky to have been born with.
Sadly, with wages still falling short compared to the cost of living and the chances of owning our own homes getting slimmer and slimmer, why the hell not try your luck elsewhere for a bit, before the wonderful opportunity as we know it is potentially shut down forever.
The hunt for an outrageously gorgeous Danish person to “marry for the passport” is on, let those proposals come rolling in!