Guide for expats

14 August 2023

Recent emigration statistics show that just under 100,000 British nationals emigrated in 20221. Whether enticed overseas by higher wages, better weather, improved quality of life or new cultural experiences, the thrill of an international lifestyle remains alluring.

While the sense of adventure and fun is undeniable, living a global lifestyle undeniably brings with it a level of complexity, particularly when money is involved. 

In the following article, we explore four areas that might be worth reflecting on if you’re contemplating making a move. For anyone who has already taken the leap, you may find these insights provide a little extra clarity about your new life away from home.

1. Understanding your income

It might sound like an obvious thing to say, but clarifying how you will be paid in your role abroad is essential. This is partly because it’s going to fund your new life, and partly because different countries have different rules.

As an example, anyone moving to Dubai from the UK, should be aware that you need a local bank account in order to receive your (domestic) salaried earnings. Depending on your employment contract, your salary is likely to be split into different categories covering things like accommodation, base salary, school fees and so on. 

One perceived benefit of offshore banking, in parallel with local banking in your new location, is that Expats can receive payment in different currencies, without needing to open new bank accounts each time they move location. It is worth keeping in mind if you’re planning on living in more than one international location. A common ‘trade off’ with this payment flexibility, is that offshore accounts often require a fee to maintain access. 

As Shabeer Booly, Relationship Director of the UAE Market at Barclays International Banking explains, an offshore account can also be useful from a diversification perspective: “Different countries have different rules, which means your local bank account will be subject to domestic law and regulation. By running an offshore account in parallel, you can avoid putting all your eggs in one basket.”

While each person’s circumstances are unique to them, it’s not uncommon for Expats to have readily accessible funds in a local account covering daily expenditure and short-term costs. While larger funds, which don’t need to be touched in the medium to long term, are allocated to an international set-up. 

Barclays doesn’t advise on tax issues but understanding the tax regime of your intended location, as well as your income stream, is logical.

2. A home away from home

Long-term property options probably aren’t going to be on your mind when you first move, and many Expats start out in rented accommodation. 

As with so many things in life, it pays to be prepared when hunting for a place to stay. Spending a bit of time researching areas you might live in, and speaking to contacts already there, can help you avoid getting off on the wrong foot. As they say, first impressions count, meaning it’s vital you’re comfortable choosing accommodation that works for you.

Questions to ask yourself might include: 

  • How much could I need for a deposit?
  • What’s the maximum rent I’m willing to pay?
  • Will my rent be funded from a local account? Or an offshore account?
  • Have I got my references lined-up for the tenancy agreement?
  • How long do I envisage staying here? Is a long-term lease worth it?
  • Do I need to be near an airport for regular travel?

Inevitably, there will be some Expats who like life abroad so much, that they choose to settle down and buy something. As Nav Singh, Head of International Markets at Barclays International Banking tells us, there are a few practical considerations worth thinking about in these situations: “Unless you’re sitting on lots of cash, you will realistically need to borrow at some stage for a property purchase. It’s worth thinking ahead to how you might raise the funds. As an example, will you need to transfer money internationally? Will you need to sell something in another country to help? Will you be borrowing alone, or with a partner? All of these things can make a real difference – not just to your funding, but also to the time it takes to complete a purchase.”

3. Education and schools

For any parents contemplating life away from home, schools are a big topic. Understandably, a move can be an emotional experience, with new friendships needing to be made and new ways of learning needing to be grasped. While some children might thrive in a new environment, others might take a little longer to settle. 

As we wrote about last year in a separate piece, Moving to the UK? Find the right school for your child, the questions to ask yourself during any school search are varied. They might include:

  • Does the school I’ve found require an entrance exam?
  • Are there fees, and when are they billed? 
  • What are the term times, and when will the holidays be?
  • What’s the main language spoken?
  • What are my children’s strengths? And conversely, what type of school wouldn’t they like?

4. The realities of moving

So far in this article we’ve covered income, property and schools, but what about general logistics? There’s no denying that moving abroad is a logistical challenge for many people, which can cause a lot of stress. The good news is that there are things you can do to make life a little easier.

First, speak to people in your network who’ve done it before, and ideally who’ve done it recently. Can they recommend a removal firm? Did they have to arrange anything special for their pets? Did they bring their car over, or lease a new one on arrival? Can they recommend a local doctor and dentist? What are the local laws to know from day one? Did it take long to settle? 

It is important to remember that you’re not alone – many people emigrate each year, and if you don’t know anyone on day one of your move, you’re likely to make new friends in the months ahead. Finding out their so-called ‘pain points’ early, is one way of avoiding your own hiccups along the way.

As Nav Singh concludes: “Living abroad is one of the best ways to progress your career, experience new things and make new friends. It’s not uncommon for people to start with a 2-3 year timeline, and then to stay for 15-20 years. While the potential benefits are clear, there are always hurdles along the way. Having a plan for your money as early as possible, can free you up to do the things that truly matter.”

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