The chance to live and work in another country, whether that be overland or overseas is an opportunity that more of us are now lucky enough to take. A combination of the planet seemingly getting smaller in terms of travel and communications plus the increasingly global nature of business (often facilitated by these same reasons) means that what was once an imposing adventure can be viable chance to see the world.
So the feasibility is there, what about the finances? A gap year RTW backpack trek or a last fun holiday before starting a real job may have the emphasis on picking well-known budget locations or be capped by a short time-frame and the knowledge that coming home and starting to earn cash will soon get you back in the black. However, if your plan involves an expat job
for your time abroad, then a little more planning may be pertinent.
Search for Research
If your sojourn is part of a formal career plan then that subtle transition from visitor to resident means that the cost of living in your chosen destination will be a significant factor. Maybe not a factor in deciding to go – especially if part of an official relocation package from your existing employer – but it could be influential if moving to start your own business and you do have the luxury of choice.
Some organisations publish official reports covering the international cost of living, but changes in global financial conditions plus the nature of your business or reasons for your expatriation can all influence what really hits you in the pocket.
Life in Tokyo
Recent reports, up until late 2012, indicate that Tokyo has been topping the list of expensive temporary homelands. Factors such as local currency strength are always a major influence, but the geographical constraints of this island (density of population, high import levels) also contribute to the monetary challenges. Most resources have placed Japan’s capital atop the pile for around three years on the bounce.
Fluctuations in global factors, though, mean these tables change, so now in mid-2013 other locations have moved to the top of the list – ECA International currently cites Oslo as the most expensive for the expat. Tokyo still leads the field for Asia, though.
By the People for the People
Another resource relies on those actually living in a destination to record their real day-to-day expenditure
. As another way of totting up the outgoings, this still seems to track a similar trend in terms of the priciest places – at time of writing, again Oslo is featuring prominently. Although Singapore features highest for the Asian continent in this survey: its high standard of living, career progression and quality of life factors explain its increasing popularity as the expatriate destination of choice for that part of the world.
The nature of your project will be influential in the types of costs that you may incur over and above those basic fundamentals that apply to us all. So, whilst these reports are absolutely of value in planning this next step in your life, consider those factors which the research includes – or more specifically, those that are excluded or significant attributes of your personal circumstances that may not be applied.
For the long-term foreign student, recent research puts Australia at the top
of the high-expenditure table: the baseline living costs being augmented by university fees to earn the No.1 placing.
If the day-to-day workings of your expat life involve the dreaded daily commute, then transport will be a driving factor in working out your bottom line. Specifically researching transport costs and vehicle maintenance should be part of your preparations (and if applicable, factored into your employer’s remuneration package). Aetna International, specialists in expat insurance, has found that for some worldwide assignments, the car package is a major factor, certainly in making the daily routine less of a burden.
Additionally, unexpected expenses may not be part of the surveys, yet may be the most influential in terms of taking up a position abroad. If your relocation involves the whole family, then those excluded considerations; expat health insurance, rent and school fees with require your attention.
So do the maths, keep up with the admin and make the most of your adventure.