The world isn’t such a big place anymore. And with that, the concept of moving to another country is now the norm. But is it as simple as it sounds? Find a job, pack and move? Anthony Fortune, a PR consultant, has worked in London, Shanghai and Sydney. Here’s what he has to say about working in different countries.
The Visas Process
Depending on where you are moving to and the nature of your move the process will vary.
Anthony moved to Shanghai with a job already in place but still found the visa process to be long. “I made an appointment with the Chinese Embassy and filled out my online application. To support my application I had printouts of my flight details and Invitation Letter from the CEO of my new company. At the appointment, they go through all your documents and check-off what is acceptable. There were a few errors at first, such as my date of birth not being on the Invitation Letter, etc. so I had to go back to my employer to add this, then make another appointment at the embassy.”
On the other hand, for his move to Sydney, he had no job in place yet within thirty minutes of applying he was granted a Working Holiday Visa as he is under 31 years of age. The Chinese visa process took almost three weeks.
Choosing the right accommodation is probably your most important decision. You can love your job, but if you end up in a bad neighbourhood or an unpleasant living space then your experience will suck, and you won’t adjust. As an expat myself, I’ve spoken to heaps of people who deeply regretted moving all because of where they stayed.
“I used Airbnb for my first base. It was a shared apartment with similar expats, so it was great for my first month. It was also close enough to my new office, so I could walk as I needed time to get used to the Chinese subway system. Once I got my bearings, I realised the area my office was in lacked any character. So I decided to move closer to Jing’An and the French Concession with the cute alleyways and old town houses.”
When looking for a place ask the landlord how many people live there? Where are they from and how long have they been there? Do they keep to themselves or is everyone always in the communal areas? It’s ok to ask these questions. You’re safety and sanity come first.
What about your commute? Do you need to take a bus or subway? Are there announcements that you can understand? Or will it be better to live closer to the office and walk until you become more familiar with your surroundings as Anthony did? What is the cost of commuting in the place you’re moving to?
During our conversation, Anthony said that in each city there was a different work-life balance. London was pretty much 50/50 with standard work hours and time for activities such as the gym during the week. Syndey was the most social place, to the point where Anthony struggled to make time for the gym or even spend time by himself reading or watching T.V. Shanghai was the total opposite. “My company liked working long hours and even weekends to get the latest product launched. So everyone was all about work. Also, as Shanghai attracts large business, career progression is much quicker than if at home, especially if you’re an expat, so it feels more like a competition. I had to learn to say no to the expectations China has on employees and start making the most of my time in Shanghai.”
You also need to take into considering hygiene and manners. Coming from a country known for its etiquette, the smallest uncovered sneeze can send me over the edge. Be prepared to see some things you normally wouldn’t expect back home.
The hardest thing about moving away is not having your usual routine and friends. Work life pretty much sorts itself out, but normal life takes time and effort. In Sydney, everything was easy mostly because there was no language barrier, but if you’re moving to a country where you don’t speak their language fluently then something as simple as opening a bank account can be a struggle.
“Most of the bank staff didn’t speak English apart from one who had broken English, and you’d have to wait for ages to see them. Also opening a bank account required numerous visits and letters to prove everything a billion times, it was a headache. The longer I was there, I started to make friends with some locals who spoke English, and they became invaluable to help with these communication tasks. They would be my side-kick in banks and even the chemist to make sure I was getting the right pain killers.”
“Make a rough plan and time frame for your time abroad. It might change when you’re there, but it’s still good to refer to and tick things off your ‘to-do’ list. I loved diving right in and going with the flow. But if you plan to return quickly, you’ll be trying to pack in a lot more
before you return.”
“Also, get talking to friends who might know people in the country you’re moving to and get them to do the intros. This helped me when I moved to Shanghai. It set me up with a solid group of friends who knew a lot. If you don’t know of anyone, join some Facebook groups for expats/locals. Or if you have a job lined up, get in touch with some employees on Linked In and break the ice. I did this before the big move, and it really helped on my first day in a new job and country.”
Finally, be patient. This is a huge move and you will have your ups and downs. Not everything is going to be straight forward and certain things will bother you more than it should. It’s ok. You’ll adapt and eventually your new city it will feel like home.
And if you have any other questions or comments about moving to another country, please feel free to ask.