The Digital Nomad Lifestyle

A wall full of globes in different sizes.

Are Digital Nomads the Same Old or a New Breed? 

Contrary to what many might think, the term “Digital Nomad” isn’t an invention of the 21st century. The word was first introduced in Wiley’s homonym book “Digital Nomad” published in 1997. However, until recently, people tended to connect this denomination with names of fancy Facebook groups or forums where a small number of privileged and techy professionals were allowed. Until ten years ago, the typical graduate who entered the workplace would be shown their desk and tied to it afterward.

If, on the one hand, a few digital-first companies were already offering the possibility to work flexible hours and/or from home, on the other hand, most employees could not even dream of working from a paradisiac location ten thousand miles away from the company’s office. 

Digital Nomadism has become a real working trend, and it is becoming increasingly appealing among Millennials, who will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025, according to IncWith this data, it’s easy to see that we’re dealing with a new breed, not a restricted circle of tech-savvy gurus. At this point, it’s also easy to predict that the rise of this category of workers will also have a substantial impact on Global Mobility policies. You probably want to choose a great location before embarking on your journey, so check out this resource on cities for digital nomads.

The Six Points You Need to Make Sure to Check

Ayeesha is a determined woman who works as a freelancer in Global Mobility. She recently moved to Switzerland, where she continues to work, and calls herself a “Digital Nomad.” If, like her, you too are a Digital Nomad and you’re about to or have just moved to Switzerland, this article might enlighten you on some fundamental technical issues you must be aware of in the Helvetic Confederation. Despite this article being Swiss-specific, these points are worth considering wherever you dream of living, either temporarily or permanently.  This is an overview of risks we see frequently. I recommend seeking advice from specialists in individual areas for more profound advice on your situation. I’m happy to introduce you to these specialists in Switzerland.

1 – Labor Law 

The labor law that applies to your case changes significantly whether you are classified as self-employed or employed. In Switzerland, being self-employed means working on your behalf, being independent, and assuming financial risk. You may decide on the type of company you build.

You will need your infrastructure, you draw up invoices in your name, you assume the risk of collection, and you work out your taxes. Additionally, you decide on your organization and your method of working. You may outsource work to third parties and work for multiple clients. Based on this employed/self-employed differentiation, the aspects concerning your work permit also vary.

It is also possible that, due to different legislations across countries, the Swiss labor inspection authorities could qualify you as an employee of your current “employer” or “client”. This can happen even when your status is self-employed or freelancer in your country of origin. If this should happen to you, you must provide further documents to the competent authorities. Based on your host country, you must familiarize yourself with the local employment law, especially if you plan to hire other people for your business.

Ayeesha
Ayeesha

2 – Immigration

You will probably travel often if you share the typical Digital Nomad spirit with Fatima. Even during Corona times, you will most likely travel more frequently than a traditionally employed person. For this reason, you must have the correct permits to enter and work in these countries. 

If you’re an EU / EFTA national not yet residing in Switzerland and working there over eight days per calendar year, you will need both a residence and work permit. If you only work here for up to 90 days per calendar year, your employer must register you via the online registration procedure. Usually, the permission will be given. However, you can only work here for 90 days in a calendar year. 

As a “third-country national,” you must know that work visas are limited to quotas and are not easy to obtain.  You are not allowed to work in Switzerland while on a tourist visa. You don’t want to get into trouble with the Swiss authorities.

The permits that allow you to work in Switzerland are L, B, C, and G. They have different purposes and durations. If you want to read more details about the characteristics of each permit, check our resources at the bottom. As an expat spouse, you are generally approved when you receive a B-permit. With the L-permit, there is often a restriction. Do you feel confused? Trust me, it’s normal. That’s why it’s always best to get advice from an Immigration Specialist. I suggest you contact BecomeLocal

You might be up-to-date already, but if you didn’t know it, some forward-thinking countries have already introduced specific visas for Digital Nomads! These visas are not for any Digital Nomads, and every country has listed its requirements and benefits, but it is worth checking them out. Up to today, the countries that offer this opportunity are Barbados, Georgia, Estonia, Bermuda, and Thailand, while Croatia is next in line. Check out our resources below to learn more about the topic! 

With the Digital Nomad trend rising, Ayeesha wishes that Switzerland, too, would have this specific type of visa, simplifying the bureaucratic burden she must endure. You can find more details and updates on Digital Nomad Visas here.

3 – Personal Tax

According to Swiss federal tax law, you become a tax resident after living and working in Switzerland for 30 days or after 90 days without earning any income. In Switzerland, you are responsible for paying your taxes. You are taxed only on income generated in Switzerland and not on your worldwide income. This applies regardless of whether you’re self-employed and does not depend on whether you receive a one-time payment or a regular salary. You must learn to differentiate between your turnover and the potential salary that you are paying yourself. My most important advice is to find a good accountant like Joerg Blaettler of Winston Wolf or learn accounting with basic software such as Bexio.

Contact Card 2

4 – Corporate Tax

If you work for an international company without an office in Switzerland, be aware that your presence could create a “Permanent Establishment” for the company. This means that the company might have to pay corporate tax. If you want to keep working from Switzerland, you should discuss this with them beforehand. If you own your own company and are registered outside Switzerland, corporate tax issues could become even trickier, and you might incur double taxation. Treaties have specific clauses depending on the countries involved, and you will have to look at your particular situation. 

5 – Social Security

For Digital Nomads like you and Ayeesha, it can become challenging to ensure at least basic insurance for retirement, disability, or unemployment because social security is generally connected to the country of employment. 

The first thing you need to know is that Swiss social security is based on three pillars that I will explain here briefly. The first pillar is basic insurance (old-age, survivors, disability, and unemployment insurance): this is mandatory if you are a resident and earning an income in Switzerland. If you are self-employed, you must pay the total contribution through a self-declaration made to the authorities. If you don’t do this, the rules will estimate and claim the gift, and you will incur a fine. 

Let’s focus on the pension scheme. When you reach the official retirement age (64 if you’re a woman and 65 if you’re a man) and have contributed for at least one year, you can claim the retirement annuity. Please remember that the assistance is limited and calculated based on the years of contributions.

The second pillar is the employee’s pension scheme. This is mandatory and covers the same risks as the first pillar, but it’s provided by the employer instead of the State. 

When you leave or give up your job in Switzerland, a vested benefits account lets you keep your retirement savings. You can look at how to open this type of account (Freizügigkeitskonto in German) with a bank such as UBS. 

The third pillar is additional private savings, which you can undertake, depending on your preferences.

If you have a foreign employer who can apply for a certificate of coverage, they might be exempt from Swiss Social Security. If not, the foreign employer might have an obligation to register in Switzerland and seek a first—and second-pillar solution for you while you’re based in Switzerland. 

6 Health and Accident Insurance

As a Swiss resident, Ayeesha needs to have mandatory health insurance in Switzerland. She’s entering her third month in the country, and her time to stipulate one is almost over. You have up to 90 days to sign your health insurance contract when you set foot in the country.

All health insurers in Switzerland provide the same benefits under basic insurance. However, if you want to be covered for other needs, such as better hospital accommodation, legal assistance, and so on, you need to add voluntary supplemental insurance. 

In Switzerland, each person must pay health insurance premiums. The premiums are independent of the individual’s income but vary depending on age, residence, and health insurance, so you can choose the health insurance company with which you wish to take out basic insurance.

If you move to Switzerland but still work in an EU/EFTA country, you must be insured in the country where your employer is based. This also applies if you are self-employed. In this case, you can’t purchase health insurance in Switzerland. If you feel lost and need guidance in making the right choice, please email us.

As you figured out, there’s a lot on the list of items you must consider when deciding to work as a Digital Nomad in Switzerland. Having a clear vision of how everything works isn’t easy, especially if you need to understand bureaucracy in a language you speak poorly. This is why we always recommend contacting a trusted expert in the field. If Ayeesha worked it out, you can certainly do it too! And remember, it will be worth it; Switzerland ranks number 1 in the world for quality of life! 

We have published “The Global Rockstar Album, ” a self-help book for managers and nomads who want to bring purpose, performance, and productivity to their work while becoming more inclusive servant leaders.

Resources: 

https://www.kumospace.com/blog/cities-for-digital-nomads

Job Board for Global Nomads

Global Relocation Checklist_10_2020_Weinberger Angie 2020_1

 



Unpacking the Shortcomings of Lifestyle Expats


I have been a strong proponent of Global Mobility for years now and most readers and clients will know my general optimism towards it. I will be taking a critical look at the trend towards more Lifestyle Expats and various shortcomings that need to be addressed by Global Mobility Managers, Recruiters, and HR Directors if we want to hire qualified professionals from other countries into the German-speaking regions without annoying them in the process.

Another trend we have to take into consideration here is that our populations are a lot more diverse than they used to be ten years ago (Weinberger, 2019). We especially see a rise in female expats such as Ayeesha on assignment (Yeah!).

As I already wrote in The Global Mobility Workbook (2019): “In recent years, we have come across a new source of mobility traffic. We can call this driver “lifestyle”. Through technology, the economic crisis, and mobile mindsets, younger professionals are more willing to move to other countries to find work. The local-to-local hires from abroad are often “coming for love and staying for the job”. Locations with a high influx of foreigners due to low unemployment, high staff turnovers, and perceived high quality of living – such as Australia, Canada, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, and Switzerland – attract professionals from many countries. The jobs require academic backgrounds and professional experience but can be filled by local staff if the talent is available in the marketplace. There is, however, a downside to this trend. Not many professionals think about the long-term consequences of moving from one place to another. Social security is covered in a later chapter, as well as other potential issues that can arise for global mobility professionals.”

Lifestyle expats are often expat spouses in Dual-Career couples, Third Culture Kids ((TCK’s), and Gig Workers (or Digital Nomads as they tend to be called). Also, as an international employee or migrant, you could face similar challenges. Often the packages of lifestyle expats are limited. They have a local employment contract in the host country and sometimes get help with the immigration and relocation process. The company does not always offer international medical insurance or an international pension plan. In many cases, this is not because of bad intentions, often, local HR Directors have not considered it as they have misconceptions about how these systems work globally.

Meet Yuki, a dreamer envisioning a move to Brazil. The excitement of the idea soon gives way to frustration as she navigates the complexities of immigration. Politics and an insistence on perfection turn the process into a labyrinth. Yuki seeks legal counsel, illustrating the challenges of realizing one’s aspirations in Brazil.

Introducing Luca, an adventurous soul planning a move to South Korea. Before he packs, safety concerns in the country catch his attention. Luca diligently researches, checking government resources and noting his Embassy’s location for emergencies. His tale emphasizes the priority of safety when exploring new destinations.

Enter Sasha and her partner, starting anew in New Zealand, only to discover they’re expecting. The catch? No health insurance or social security yet, leaving them in bureaucratic limbo. Sasha’s narrative sheds light on the hurdles families encounter when relocating and the challenges in accessing local healthcare facilities.

Meet Aiden, a young individual pursuing job opportunities in Germany. Sounds promising, right? However, his job contract implies potential deportation if he loses employment. Aiden grapples with understanding his rights, obligations, and the role of his residence permit in job security. His story underscores the importance of being well-versed in the rules when working abroad.

Enter Mia, an ambitious professional opting for a work-life adventure in Canada. Expecting a new experience, she encounters a work culture vastly different from what she’s used to—long hours and constant socializing. The fast-paced environment takes a toll on Mia, illustrating the significant variations in work cultures across countries and their impact on work-life balance.

Let’s delve into the world of Raj, ready to work in Australia. However, he faces a unique challenge—taxes. Distinct tax situations for local hires and expats require Raj to comprehend the intricacies. His tale underscores the importance of understanding the financial landscape before embarking on a professional journey in a new country.

And you already met Ayeesha who moved to Zurich, Switzerland recently.

What they usually need help with

  • Immigration Process
  • Partner Career and Life Support
  • Education of Children
  • Health Insurance
  • Old-age pension transfers from their home countries
  • Potentially relocation, settling in, and moving of their household goods.

What I advise you to do about it in the Corporate World

1 – Have the Global Mobility Leader Report to the CEO

What can be done to improve on these shortcomings? On an organizational level, I strongly feel that making Global Mobility a  function reporting to the CEO is the most logical path to positive consequences. Global Mobility activities need to include all sorts of cross-border activity including weekly commuters, International Business Travellers, International Hires, and “Digital Nomads”.

It would allow for smarter, involved decisions as part of the company’s expert staff. Looking after the well-being of your international workforce is now considered essential to an organization’s success, there really is no justification for slacking off on that front. Having the CEO directly involved with Global Mobility allows them to devise budgets and become the escalation point for critical hires and moves. Often, CEOs only hear about expats when things go pear-shaped and there is, for instance, a real life-and-death situation such as a terrorist attack or a tsunami – at times like these the Global Mobility Manager might not be able to get through to them because there are too many layers of organization between them.

2 – Address the Package Issues through an International Permanent Hire Guideline

We should address the package issues and devise at least medical coverage, support with the immigration for the expat and spouse, international pension, pay for the move and repatriation in case of redundancy and ensure the personal safety of the expat family.  Let’s make sure the expat experience is well taken care of as there is a need to sort out the details of the package, making sure there’s proper medical coverage. It’s crucial to provide support with immigration not just for the expat but also for their respective spouse. International pension arrangements should be in place, and the costs of moving and, if needed, returning home in case of job changes should be covered. Above all, we must ensure the safety of the expat and their family in their new environment is made a priority.

3 – Support with Relocation Planning through Career Coaching and an Expat Helpline

Many companies have not implemented great processes for hires from other countries. HR often works ad-hoc and as mentioned doesn’t understand all implications. I once met an expat who moved to Switzerland around the New Year and didn’t have a place to stay when she arrived! Normally, the company could have provided temporary accommodation but that did not happen, the expat ended up having to figure things out on her own. Despite the tougher aspects of being involved in being a Lifestyle Expat  I still maintain my optimism. We will be able to support our diverse global clients even better than today. Great strides have been made in recent years and I am certain that the coming days will see more positive resolutions to people’s pain points and enhance the expat experience.

 

Check out our new offering to enhance the Expat Experience via our RockMeApp Expat Experience Coaching for Global Rockstars.

 

 

 

 

 

The Push for Rainbow Talent in Global Mobility – Part 4

Rainbow Talent

I recently started this series of posts on the push for “Rainbow Talent” in Global Mobility. The Push for Rainbow Talent in Global Mobility is a series we created for Pride Month to raise awareness of the issues diverse and queer talent might experience in the realm of Global Mobility. In Part 1 we focused on the WHY and in Part 2 on the HOW. Here we focus on the benefits of a more inclusive Global Mobility program. In part 4 we will focus on WHAT you can do to change with ten concrete action steps. We discussed the background here (Part1) and here (Part 2). I’ve also given you lots of reasons why it makes sense to support Rainbow Talent further here (Part 3).

I haven’t concentrated on what it would look like to make that happen. 

The reason why I follow up with the reality check so late is that we will often hear “reality” as an excuse to not take action at all, which in my book is not good enough.

Let’s also remember that we have a lot of “Rainbow Talent” in our industry. Most of us are female and/or gay come from bicultural backgrounds, are married or partnering with a person with a different cultural background, speak three to four languages and we all drink too much coffee.

The Global Mobility industry attracts us like bees to the honey pot and let’s be honest we even sometimes shy away from the additional complexities of working with “Rainbow Talent” ourselves.

I committed in 2020 to help more marginalized groups with one-to-one coaching and my internship program and now I need you to help me in this mission of bringing the Human Touch back into Global Mobility. 

Let’s all fight for what we believe in and start in our own backyard.

This post includes eight action steps for Senior and Global Mobility Managers to consider. 

What are these legal and immigration issues?

Most countries still don’t allow same-sex marriage. Homosexual conduct is still illegal in 69 countries according to the human rights campaign for Foundation 2021. There are still seven countries where homosexual conduct is punishable by death. In most countries in the world, it’s still hard to obtain immigration sponsorship for unmarried partners or de facto spouses.

With dual career couples among the Rainbow Talent the lack of career opportunities for the partner could be a serious problem and even a reason to decline an international assignment who you consider to be a Rainbow Talent will depend strongly on your home base in your home country, usually the country where your headquarters are. We recommend you adopt our summary of all marginalized groups into RAINBOW TALENT from here.

Let’s remember that despite the common challenges we can support more and do more with small steps.

The Macro Level of Rainbow Talent

So here’s a reminder why this is important don’t forget that in the last three years and even before in global mobility we have been dealing with the so-called BANI world (which stands for brittle, anxious, non-linear, and incomprehensible) and we have been focusing on the global eco disasters the pandemic the war in Ukraine and usually we get involved in all of these let’s say global crisis and we have to deal with them all the time so we became crisis managers and in the case we don’t face any global crisis you can bet we have some crisis going on in our personal lives so we’re really good at managing crises.

With the work-from-anywhere movement, administrations are now starting to reduce hurdles and barriers social security laws are revised to match the expectations of cross-border commuters and we see our population and Scope increasing evermore. I did already predict that this will happen when I first started out to write “The Global Mobility Workbook. The last edition already had this definition of the scope of global mobility but what we cannot stress enough it’s the complexity that we are facing right now.

 

Another topic that is on the agenda everywhere and the bust of the day is the ethical use of machine learning and artificial intelligence in global mobility. And on the job market you probably also notice the trend towards great resignation and we are also facing recession and inflation currently. and global mobility managers have been dealing with these topics all the time but what we tend to underestimate is that marginalized groups usually suffer more from these issues than let’s say the white male mainstream character who always had better chances in the world not to condemn the white old man, I still think we need the superheroes and as I recently learned it’s also important that we’re grateful for what they have built. I also want to remember that in Europe in the generation of my grandparents for example we faced war, trauma, and destruction and our grandparents and parents basically rebuilt Germany and many parts of Europe.

What we have observed though is that psychological safety has not improved during the pandemic it has rather declined especially in global virtual teams it is harder now to build trust that turnover is higher retention is more difficult, especially among the younger generation people who joined companies during the pandemic it’s a lot harder for them to feel that they belong to an organization. so we need to do more about this and we also need to remember societal changes and demographic changes.

Michael and Rob

Londoners Michael and his husband Rob received an offer to move to Hungary with Michael’s work but they declined it due to a new law that discriminates against gay couples. They decide to move to Zurich, Switzerland instead. In Zurich, Michael feels safe at work and his career hits off well. Rob, on the other hand, has a hard time finding a job. His last name is Vracovic and his slightly olive skin tone always seems to turn people off. Even though he is at a B2 German level and has a Masters’s degree in Digital Marketing he does not land any interviews and after 12 months of job search feels depressed and lonely.

The Micro Level of Rainbow Talent

Global mobility policies and communication still is often written for the white male Expatriate with a wife and two children and a nice golden retriever called Timmy and we have to remember you know that if we would like to address other talents we also have to change our basic assumptions and how we communicate with our population.

We think that the sustainable Expatriate experience includes technology that helps us improve the human touch and is focusing on providing a long-term career experience that is integrated into succession planning and Talent development. In this sustainable expat experience, we see improved diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in the selection process.

We ensure that there is good mental health and well-being on any kind of international assignment project or business trip. while we do not always know everything about our employee’s personal life because not every employee is out of the closet we need to remember when we are dealing with a new democratic such as Michael that we would like to see how we can help them and how we can talk to them about their personal issues in relation to Global Mobility.

If you belong to RAINBOW Talent in Global Mobility or if you are a Global Mobility Manager you can always contact me for a first conversation here

How to Talk to Rainbow Talent

We define “Rainbow Talent” as an umbrella term for these marginalized groups of talent:

  • Women of all skin colors,
  • BIPOC: The acronym BIPOC refers to black, indigenous, and other people of color and aims to emphasize the historical oppression of black and indigenous people,
  • LGBTQIA+: LGBTQIA+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Queer or questioning, and other sexual identities and genders,
  • Religious and cultural underrepresented groups in your home and host countries,
  • People with disabilities,
  • People with a broad range on the mental health spectrum, 
  • Refugees and Asylum Seekers.

We need to remember that you might yet have to understand the different needs of your Rainbow Talent. Hence, for a pilot period of at least one year, I would recommend you regularly ask them and listen to what they tell you. For example, if they feel challenged by the immigration process you should ask them what they found helpful and if they see room for improvement. While you won’t be able to change the legal system in the host country, you will be able to improve their expat experience.

Ten Action Steps

1 – Start small with inclusion, and think big by setting goals for Rainbow Talent in Global Mobility, potentially focusing on one marginalized group only in the beginning. For example, you could start with women and set a goal of 30% female assignees by 2030.

2 – Redefine “Family” in your Global Mobility Policy, and include all marginalized groups, their partners, and also members of the family that a traditional policy would usually exclude such as parents, in-laws, and older relatives. Consider adding adopted and foster children, as well as de facto spouses. Decide what you accept as proof of a (de facto) marriage such as a shared rental contract, an affidavit, or a same-sex marriage certificate, even if it does not qualify in the host country’s legal system. 

3 – Review all communications for inclusive language by applying the United Nations guidelines for inclusive communication.

4 – Update the Benefit Matrix, offer tax support and spouse career coaching to dual-career couples, and change parental leave regulations. 

5 – Support Expat Partners through Immigration by upgrading your support for immigration by increasing the budget and finding a provider who is specialized in helping with complex immigration situations.

6 – Expand Your Health Insurance to include the relevant family members in the coverage.

7 – Expand your International Pension Plan to include the relevant family members in the coverage. If your provider does not allow to include all relevant family members consider moving to a new provider who offers specific solutions.

8 – Review Compensation for Equity. Make sure that your Rainbow Talent is compensated on an equitable level with other talent and conduct non-biased research to ensure equity. Offer a box of chocolate (core-flex) approach to make sure that you meet the needs of your Rainbow Talent.

9 – Ask Vendors to Increase Representation of Rainbow Talent. Work with vendors who share the proportion of Rainbow Talent you wish to see in our world.

10 – Remember the Pets. Many Rainbow Talents might not have children but it could be that they have a dog or a cat that means the world to them. Make sure that you include the furry friend in the package by offering special support through the move, quarantine, or temporary lodging.

If you are ever unsure what to do next you can refer back to the “Ten Commandments for the Global Mobility Manager“.

Sign up here for more: https://globalpeopletransitions.com/become-a-reader-of-the-global-people-club-sandwich/

Do you need more support for a breakthrough in your career? You can contact me for a first conversation by filling out the contact form. Sign up here for more.

 

Terminology

Explanation of “The Box of Chocolates”

  • Budget the cost of the move with a simple spreadsheet
  • Allow flexibility within the budget by monitoring actual expenses
  • Take services out of compensation and pay schools, landlords, and other providers directly
  • Let Heidi and Govind select what they need from the box

 

The Definition of Rainbow Talent:

RAINBOW TALENT according to us:

  • Women of all skin colors,
  • BIPOC: The acronym BIPOC refers to black, indigenous, and other people of color and aims to emphasize the historical oppression of black and indigenous people.
  • LGBTQIA+: LGBTQIA+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Queer or questioning, and other sexual identities and genders.
  • Religious and cultural underrepresented groups in your home and host countries,
  • People with disabilities 
  • People with a broad range on the mental health spectrum.
  • Refugees

 

Expat Coach Angie
Expat Coach Angie

About the Author

“I’m on a Mission to Bring the Human Touch back into Global Mobility.”

Angie Weinberger is the Global Mobility Coach and author of The Global Mobility Workbook (currently on sale). Her upcoming publication “The Global Rockstar Album” is a self-help book for becoming a more inclusive leader. Sign up to get invited to the book launch event on 26 September 23 of “The Global Rockstar Album”: VIP Readers.

Read her blog: Read the “Club Sandwich” – Global People Transitions

 

Further Resources

The Push for Rainbow Talent in Global Mobility – Part 1

The Push for Female and Minority Talent in Global Mobility – Part 2

The Push for Female and Minority Talent in Global Mobility – Part 3

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/exercises-psychological-safety/

The Importance of Looking at the Whole Family in the Expatriation Process will raise Global Mobility to the Next Level – The Bridge School: Powered by American Virtual Academy 

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/our-ten-commandments-for-the-global-mobility-manager/

Unpacking the Shortcomings of Lifestyle Expatriation – Global People Transitions

The Female Expat and Cinderella

Enhancing the Expat Experience – A deep psychology approach

Enhancing the Expat Experience

Expat Experience

Once, I gave a talk discussing the Expat Experience in Zurich and how to enhance it. Zurich is a typical inbound hub, so many of the ideas in this article will also apply to places like Dubai, London, Hong Kong, or Singapore. As the most populated canton in Switzerland, Zurich is becoming home to an ever-growing population of expatsToday’s typical expats look like this expat couple: Heidi and Govind. Heidi is a Director who works in banking and is a credit guru. She met Govind, her husband, at the London School of Economics. From there, they moved to New York and later to Abu Dhabi.

Govind now works for a pharmaceutical company that has stationed them in Abu Dhabi for the last three years on a local plus contract. Then, the company asked Govind to move to Zurich to join its headquarters. With their three children, Anush, Anya, and Anjali (9, 7, and 2.5 years old, respectively), they joined the 55,000 other immigrants to Switzerland last year and exchanged the desert for snowflakes.

What attracts expat couples like Heidi and Govind to Zurich? Obviously, in their case, they had the company offer and certain personal considerations. Still, I’ve found that for most expats, the main reasons to move to Zurich are love, the quality of life, the outdoor lifestyle, job opportunities, and good salaries. I asked expats what they would change about Zurich that would benefit them. Their answers ranged from “We would like to change the people so they would open up more,” “We would reduce the cost of renting apartments,” and “We would reduce the cost of living, especially essentials like food.” 

They also desired better career opportunities for expat spouses, a recurring theme in most expat stories. Both Heidi and Govind belong to a cohort group targeted by project ZRH3039. This group of mainly globally mobile professionals living in Zurich would like to participate politically. They would like Zurich to show and live the diversity that it offers. They want the city to accept and cater to new life and living realities – these are the motivators of today’s expats and worthy of our attention. It’s not all about the package.

Returning to our expat couple, Heidi’s current focus is to look for a job in finance while also finding full-time education for their children, Anush and Anya. Since Anush and Anya were always in the international school, Heidi and Govind are looking at schooling options. There is also the additional challenge of deciding whether a Swiss kindergarten suits their youngest, Anjali. This brings me to my next point: providing expat couples with advice on schooling and education options is a crucial way to enhance their experience. 

“Lifestyle Expats” have different Challenges

Most “lifestyle expats” in Zurich are on local contracts – it is an entirely different experience if you have to pay for international schooling, and it might not even be necessary. However, as an international parent, you need advice as you don’t understand the Swiss school system. The next underestimated challenge is Swiss culture. Something about Swiss culture seems to make it more difficult for people to arrive in Switzerland than in other cultures.

Let’s break this down. What does this imply? I think it means that while we emphasize the importance for expats to learn about Swiss culture and assimilate with the locals, we need to shoulder some of the responsibility as well. Granted, we cannot control what sort of neighbors expats will find, nor can we change all neighbors! However, is there any point in expats learning to integrate and facing issues despite fitting in or blending perfectly, simply because the locals did not join intercultural training? 

I think we need to start with ourselves and raise our global competency. We need to understand the little nuances, for instance how the word “service” has a different expectation for people from China, India or Brazil than for Swiss people or anyone from a European background. The demographics of Global Mobility are changing. We can expect from diversity of culture and backgrounds from expats – more dual career couples, more female expats, more same sex couples, more patchwork families. Only by learning things like this, we can understand how to serve clients from other backgrounds in a better way.

What does this mean for Global Mobility?

Basically, we are moving away from policies and focus on individual offers and value propositions. The objective here is to provide better service while keeping the cost at the same levels. For example, we could say we have a budget we need to adhere to so we could provide spousal support but maybe the expat does not get support with the move. Or, we provide expat children with schooling but they have to tackle housing on their own. We could also allow the expat more control over what type of service they would like instead of either/or scenarios. Essentially, GM policies need to be geared more towards the individual. We are expecting that the scope of Global Mobility will be changing as more international hires and more international permanent transfers come in. In the past, the classical departments that took are of international assignments only took care of that “thing”. When we talk GM today, we mean departments that take care of all sorts of international movements, from business travelers to commuters, even digital nomads. In fact, digital nomads bring up interesting challenges. These are people who work through the internet and therefore theoretically could be working from anywhere. What would their home base be? And what implications would this have on their pensions?

I feel that we also need to re-evaluate our definition of the word expat. In the Global Mobility Workbook, I talk about the Lifestyle Expat. These are families or dual career expat couples like Heidi and Govind, where the roles are fluid. For instance, Heidi was the breadwinner in New York and then they moved to Abu Dhabi, where Govind was in the career driving seat. Now, they are in Zurich where Heidi needs to develop her career again after the 3 years she spent out of the workforce in Abu Dhabi. Their children have parents who belong to different cultural backgrounds, they’ve lived in multiple countries and don’t mind this lifestyle as they are used to it.

Contrast this to what we think of when we use the word migrants. I would say migrants move to another country because they want to find work there. Their expectations are of a better lifestyle and better living conditions in the new country, and they often move on a permanent basis while they still care for family members in their home country. Migrant should be a more general term but has a different connotation than expat

However, in some countries, the term migrant and expat are used interchangeably. We should be open to this too, an expat is not someone who is just being moved by a company with a fat package. They could also be migrants or lifestyle expats who move on local contracts. 

What we can do as service providers in this situation is to support global recruiting and talent acquisition. We could improve the experience for lifestyle expats by addressing some of the issues they face, such as issues with the immigration process, medical insurance, employment retention and language barriers. A recent survey by AIRINC found 63% of companies currently working on enhancing the employee experience, indicating that this is indeed a very prominent topic in Global Mobility.

Is Expat Experience (XX) the same as User Experience (UX)?

I think “Expat Experience” is more than just a case of user experience. There are several sub-categories to it. As we start to develop the idea of the Expat Experience I think we should discuss all of these aspects:

  • the service expats receive at touch points, 
  • the cultural adjustment process, 
  • the learning journey
  • the “deeper expat experience”
  • the transition to another location, 
  • the expat’s performance during the assignment, 

I will pick out a few topics and hope we can start a longer discussion on this concept.

The Service at certain Touch Points

While observing the interactions at touch points can help measure service quality, this is only one side of the coin. I think we fail to understand here that global couples aren’t robots. We cannot just send them through a move, open a bank account, help them sign a lease and expect them to be happy.

The Cultural Adjustment Process

Academics usually focus on the cultural adjustment process. They try to understand how expats adjust to their new surroundings and how it relates to their performance. It is commonly known that in the first six months expats generally don’t perform as well as in their home country due to the adjustment period and cultural transition. In the normal adjustment period curve, there is a phase where the adjustment almost always leads to psychological mood swings and symptoms close to depression – this is commonly referred to as “culture shock”

The Communication Hole

In contrast, what we do in Global Mobility is that we focus on communicating with expats during the initial phases of the assignment (decision, move and arrival). When they have moved to the country, we sometimes provide intercultural training, help with settling in and then we expect them to handle the next steps on their own. Here expats often discover the true value of their packages. The spendable income in Zurich might be eaten up by daily necessities, medical expenses and lunch money. The commute to work might take longer than expected and the next person in the grocery line already shouted at them as they did not follow the protocol correctly.

Essentially, right when they need our support to keep them delivering high performance, we leave them alone. 

The Learning Journey

That, I believe is actually an issue we could address quite easily. Why? Assume that an expat has already gone through a tough phase – the family isn’t happy, they are all experiencing culture shock, the expat’s performance is low. They’re all out of their comfort zone and are in fact in a panic zone. Simultaneously, they are also experiencing what it means to be alone because of the loss of their support network from back home. 

I also noticed that in this phase, difficult situations seem to pop up more frequently and often together. Expats could get robbed for instance, and they could also find out that someone from their family in the home country had passed away. In Heidi and Govind’s case, Rashmi (Govind’s mother) falls ill and needs help at home in India. As Govind is the only son, this is his responsibility.

Here we could help by providing support in small, incremental steps and by listening to the expat couple and their needs.

The Deeper Expat Experience

The deeper expat experience that I alluded to earlier, it is something many of us don’t know about. Perhaps you have heard of the famous swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung? 

He talked about how we often reflect our “shadows” in another person. Being in a different culture could also make you reflect yourself in the people of the host culture. 

After the “honeymoon phase” for a while your reflection is negative – you will see things in other people you do not like about yourself. And you might not overcome this phase easily if you don’t discuss it with a professional coach. I think we still underestimate the consequences of the expat experience on our psyche:

“Expatriation is a deep experience. You meet your core, the essence of who you are and who you could be, a true journey of self discovery.” @angieweinberger

What does that mean for you?

 I believe that you should define your ideal client going forward and review your business model. Think about who your future clients will be and ask yourself the following questions: Are they still corporate and institutional clients only? Or could your clients now be private individuals? What does that mean for your prices? Consider adjusting your services and prices for private clients, market your services more on the Internet, build your reputation and followers, and develop your own intercultural competence. 

If you would like to do this exercise, I recommend you start to work with the golden circle, a term coined by Simon Sinek. 

Basically, if you would like to move to the expat-as-a-client model of business, think about why they would contact you? How would they find you? What can you do for them? 

Please contact me if you would like to discuss how you can enhance the expat experience or how you can adjust your business models to lifestyle expats.

In my view this our higher purpose is to bring the human touch back into Global Mobility.

For more please contact me via angela@globalpeopletransitions.com or book an appointment via Calendly here: https://calendly.com/angieweinberger.

Finance Planning for Expat Coaches


Finance planning is connected to food intake. If you have a bad relationship with food, chances are high that you also have a bad relationship with money. You might tend to overeat and overspend, especially when stressed out. “Why did I not learn more about Finance?” I repeatedly asked myself. Since I started my own business, will I ever understand the financial side? Will I ever get better at managing cash flow?

It didn’t make sense to me. I was good with computing cost projections and balance sheets in Global Mobility. I was an excellent math student in high school. I like numbers. My issue was that I lacked the practical understanding of a “good housewife.” I was curious to know how much a liter of milk would cost in the supermarket. I learned those little secrets of saving money in Switzerland, such as Migros and Denner, which are essentially under the same corporate umbrella, but you can buy twice as much food at Denner.

Working as a Global Mobility Leader, I had a good paycheck. In Germany, I would even go grocery shopping in the “bio” shop Alnatura. My mother would say I could go shopping in a pharmacy. For me, this meant “quality of life.” I would not be stressed at the cashier on Saturday because five other people were in line behind me. Another reason I stopped learning more about finance planning, investments, and retirement savings when I was employed was because I had a bad relationship with money.

Money stinks. It doesn’t make you happy, and when you have it, you don’t talk about it. I had all sorts of relationship issues with fortune and with food. Over the years, through consulting and coaching, I have worked on my relationship to financial planning, and food planning came along with it. I feel ready to share my lessons learned with you and give you a few tips. 

If you start as a business owner or feel you need to heal your relationship with money, this article is for you. You may also read this article if you are not a female founder but feel you need to get better with money. Let’s try to understand a few basics of Finance.

1 – Maintain one spreadsheet called Cash Flow Plan

If you want to run a sustainable business, work with a cash flow plan. It can be simple, but you must have your finances in order. In the early days of my business, I asked my BFF (a Finance guru) to review my business plan. She explained that I would need to ensure that there is a cash flow in and that it is bigger than the cash flow out. It’s easier said than done, but I still use that same plan over ten years into the business.

TEMPLATE_300_Business Plan_&_Project Plan_Weinberger_v1

 

2 – Move to a Fluctuating Income

When you are used to a particular lifestyle with a fixed monthly income, you rely on that paycheck often because you tend to tailor your lifestyle around your consistent monthly payment. If you are unemployed or start as a freelancer, you must get used to a fluctuating income. You probably had 100,000 CHF in your bank account as a starting capital and reserve, and in my experience, you will need that in Switzerland in your first two years of business (unless your business is a hobby).

 

3 – Find your Finance Guru

Finding the Finance Guru is a challenge I have addressed with bankers several times. Most financial writing is so that no one wants to read it. Some of it does not even make much sense. I received a weird letter the other day and sent it back with edits and side comments. The main message was: We could not deduct money from your account, but there was much fluff around it. It took me a while to understand why this company wrote to me. I have started to read the Cashguru blog now, so at least I know what is happening at the SMI in Switzerland.

The most important figure I remember from uni is the relation between borrowed capital and your capital. Now, if you start, you should use your cash. That’s a lot smarter than lending. It would help to find a healthy ratio between investing and earning for the years ahead. That’s all. Remember that if you have a sole proprietorship in Switzerland, many of your reporting obligations change at the magic 100k CHF turnover mark.

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4 – Learn Vocabulary 

Suppose you want to appear financially competent when talking to your bank manager, financial advisors, insurance brokers, mortgage providers, or lawyers. In that case, you must know a few basics and speak their language. For example, you need to understand the interest and how it works. Also, adverse interest, debt, and how you get into debt. What is the advantage of a mortgage versus paying rent? How do open and closed investment funds work? I agreed with my bank lady that we would meet in person once a year to review the main issues, look at my risk profile, and discuss my financial planning for the year. I enjoy having a personal contact and someone who helps in case I need urgent support with online banking.

5 – Budget the Fun Stuff

In the early years and even before I launched my company, I used to spend more than I earned. I applied “Reaganomics .” That did not work. At the time, I needed to understand that this early investment could hinder my potential to get out of the red figures in the long term. In the past, as a female founder, I made bad financial decisions. For example, I started to pay myself a salary too early. I listened to an advisor and should have listened to my gut feeling. Remember that other people’s experiences in the business world could be biased. They opened their business many years ago. Switzerland has also suffered from the global economic crisis. The Swiss often have access to networks that foreigners will not get into. Also, men might have faster results than women because of the unconscious biases of their buyers.

Depending on your type of business, you should have a current account that balances your company’s investments and costs. Please separate your private and company accounts. My business is cyclical, and once I understand the cost and earning cycle, I can prepare myself better for downtime. For example, I have a lot of annual invoices in January, but January is often a slow month. It’s generally better to split invoices into smaller parts. When you ask the insurance provider, they are often willing to support you on a payment plan. If you want to be ahead of your costs, ask for larger invoices and pay them as soon as possible.

One cardinal rule is that I pay all my vendors in advance so that they always get their money. This means that I have to budget their quarterly invoices, too, and it has happened once or twice that I had to put a service on hold because of a lack of funding.

Another principle I have developed is to check my account twice or thrice a week, sometimes even daily. I will issue an invoice once the service has been delivered or the booking has been confirmed.

Many large relocation companies and training agencies have very long payment periods. I suffered greatly from these in the early years of my business. I had delivered a service but sometimes was only paid 60 to 90 days later. Occasionally, invoices got lost in cost center discussions and destructive processes. Once, an invoice was not paid by the company I worked with for over two years.

Now, I am more careful about the agreements in the contracts, and I follow up on outstanding invoices faster. Although I still see room for improvement, my financial stress eased greatly when I started using a tool for small businesses called BEXIO.

Even though Finance is not my favorite subject, I discovered that if I research more about a topic, I can reduce hassle and costs for my business. For example, I clarified how the VAT system works when working across borders. On invoices I received from service providers outside of Switzerland, I asked them to change their invoices so that my company would show as responsible for VAT. I also found a good rule for issuing invoices for service providers located out of Switzerland. 

I allow most of my investments to be investments in myself. I enjoy having a beautiful working space where I can hang out all day. I love to go to seminars and invest in my skills and knowledge. I know that I have to be better than average to stay competitive, and that requires keeping up to date with technology and knowledge in my field and updating my skills constantly. Keren-Jo Thomas helped me organize my pension and understand what I needed to improve in case I plan to stay in Switzerland during my old age. While this was a down-turner, to say the least, it helped me gain clarity. I also set up my last will as I do not have children and in case of an emergency would like to ensure that my elderly relatives have financial support. Money and food have a lot in common too. If you tend to overeat, you might also tend to overspend. 

Before we discuss this further, I would like to remind you that you can always talk to me. Book your slot here via Calendly.

 

Thinking about Starting a Business as an Expat Coach?

Starting a Business in Switzerland – Helpful Links

General Overview of Legal Structures

STARTUPS.CH

Social Security – Self-Employment Declaration

Beiträge der Selbständigerwerbenden an die AHV, die IV und die EO

Rechtsform wählen – Selbständig werden – was tun?

 

Funding

STARTUPS.CH | Guidelines for self-employment

 

Immigration Support

BecomeLocal: https://becomelocal.ch/en

Prime Relocation: https://www.primerelocation.ch/service/

Auditing and Accounting – Joerg Blaettler http://winstonwolf.ch/

 

Print material, business cards and advertising: 

  • Marie Platten, our graphic designer via marie@globalpeopletransitions.com
  • Herr Richard Gautschi at Schnelldruck Thalwil GmbH, Zürcherstrasse 73, 8800 Thalwil, tel: 044 720 49 07, email

 

Freelancing – Payrolling Companies

 

Insurances

 

Digital Nomad Series

Digital Nomad Series Part #1
Digital Nomad Series Part #2
Digital Nomad Series Part #3
Digital Nomad Series Part #4
Digital Nomad Series Part #5

Marketing and excellent Copywriting

Ash Ambirge – The Middle Finger Project

Podcasts on building Digital Nomad Businesses

Financial Planning:

Keren-Jo Thomas, Financial Planning for Women, www.kerenjothomas.com, kerenjo@kerenjothomas.com