The World is Your Oyster: Are you thinking of moving abroad?

What prompts people to consider working abroad? We give you some answers in this month’s newsletter and a short checklist to use when making one of the bigger career decisions – changing jobs and relocating.


Due to globalization and the increasing accessibility of information, educated professionals are being attracted by new or better career prospects and salaries abroad. Some are pulled by social factors such as fulfilling their passion to experience new cultures, seeking better quality of life or to be closer to family and friends. Decreasing airfares aids international travel for many, making experiencing new countries and cultures a norm for a lot of people.

Current State of Play

In recent years, an increasing number of professionals have chosen to move to Asia from around the world to take advantage of the existing and anticipated economic growth in the region.

In The World Bank’s 2016 economic forecast, the Chinese economy, is forecast to grow by 6.7% in 2016 and 6.5% in 2017. Neighboring nations such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong remain industrial, technology and financial services powerhouses; this means there will still be demand for skilled professionals to sustain their growth. These destinations are considered more attractive compared to the West since the global financial crisis; the same forecast suggests the UK to grow by 2.4% in 2016 and the US by 2.7%.

In addition, there is a new trend in the “boomerang” generation of expatriates. These mainly Western educated Asians are returning to build careers in Asia. Younger western professionals are attracted to Asia by the economic prospects and adventure. A 2015 WSJ article stated that there now only 30% to 40% of expats in Singapore, Hong Kong and China that fit the traditional description, “Westerners on short term assignments that offered generous housing, schooling and travel package”.

There are also many Chinese professionals who opt to leave China because of the stressful work environment and unstable political climate. During 2000 – 2010, there was a 45% increase in professionals leaving China for the 34 OECD countries. According to the US Department of Homeland Security, in 2011 there were well over 2000 Chinese nationals receiving investment-based green cards, twice as many as all the other nationalities receiving residency in the US combined.

Another talent rich country whose skilled professionals are migrating to other English speaking nations is South Africa. Up to 50% of South African expats are skilled professionals and 25% of them being in top management positions – much higher than the global average of 11%. Personal safety, crime considerations are amongst the top push factors and 70% of South African expats are “generally satisfied” in leaving the country.

Getting Ready to Go

Depending on the individual’s circumstances and mindset, there may be different pull and push factors that lead them to contemplate and eventually contribute to their decision to migrate.

As an insurance recruiter who lived in 3 continents for 7 years, I have met professionals from many countries. Their and my own experience in planning, relocating, settling and enjoying life in a new country can be a real life changing adventure. Personally, I have encountered more pull than push factors but I have garnered knowledge and experience. This enables me to share valuable tips and advice to international candidates in assisting them to relocate to their new homes.

Below is a list of items to consider when deciding whether relocation is for you.

Friends and Family

Often it’s easier for single professionals to move to another country. The decision becomes more complex when families are involved. This could also determine the duration they would want to live abroad. Consideration of your partner’s career prospect or children’s education must be taken into account.


Think about which markets require the skills and experience you have to offer and the return you will get in investing the time working there. What tangible and intangible benefits does the market offer offer? Equally important, think about what is to like or dislike about the destination against your current place of residence. Compare the benefits with the shortcomings? It is crucial to think about what you may have to sacrifice.

Cost of Living

Understanding the value of new wages against the living cost can be tricky and takes time. Be realistic and comprehensive. Consider everything small to big, for example, daily cost of commute to work, groceries, cost of childcare, rental expenses, utilities and taxes. Think about the cost of moving back if things do not work out. How much savings is needed for the initial settlement? Online cost-of-living-calculators provide some ideas as to what can be expected. Talking with someone who lives in or is from the country of your destination can give you invaluable insight.

Future Employment and Career Prospects

Other than job related skills and knowledge many other factors could contribute to the success or failure of employment. Being open minded and adaptable to new ways of working and new corporate culture is incredibly important. However, gaining more information about the inherent culture of the organization, the style of management and even the financial status of the company can help minimize surprises in the future. Speak with the recruitment agents who have relationships with these companies, use social or professional media or groups such as LinkedIn, InterNations etc. to enable access to valuable information and insights.


Working abroad is not for everyone. Venturing out of your comfort zone can be extremely challenging mentally, physically and even spiritually. However, it presents great opportunities to meet unique people, form amazing memories and life experiences as well as achieve career and personal growth. Living in another culture also enables one to see the world and life through a different lens which can lead to new revelations on believes and values. This could alter and widen the pre-existing global perspective.

Before embarking on a potential life changing adventure, adequate planning, research and preparation can make the decision-making process more straightforward and minimize associated risks.

Kind regards
Dan Lee

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