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Guest Post by Valerie Priestley

Moving country and within a country has become a way of life for me. Along the road I learned first how to adapt to the employment market: going from a city to a little province town taught me the importance of researching employment possibilities and thus being able to make an educated decision: Could I only work in a market research consultancy specialized in the construction industry or was I agile enough to embrace a career change?

My next big move forced me to consider my family as a whole and decide what was best for us as a unit. The advantages of opening up to a new culture, mastering a new language, thus giving a huge life advantage to our two daughters, moving forward the career of my husband largely outweighed my newish promotion as a branch manager. This move which started as a bit of a dare soon evolved into a project which had to be led successfully. The integration of 4 people depended on it. The financial aspect came only second to the improvement of quality of life.

Working in the financial sector obviously helped me enormously to fathom out what our financial or taxation situation would be; i.e. no double taxation within the EU. We got help where needed to correctly appreciate the remuneration package that was laid on the table, for example to try and evaluate the cost of living, renting levels (1st item on a family budget),… We both activated our networks to gather as much information as possible before accepting the relocation. The head of HR of a big international company explained the different items they offered their expats. Other expats we got to know gently offered their time to walk us through their integration.  Their experience raised more questions, forced us stop and think about what we expected from the change in our -until then, very rewarding life, to examine what education we wanted to give our daughters, the effect on both our careers.

I took a huge amount of time and effort to get to know  where the schools were, how they operated, how easy it was to travel by public transport, what social life we could have, how the social security system and health insurance work and cost, where to find a GP, health specialist, shops… These every day details have to be taken into account to decide where you would like to settle down. This should not be underestimated: I have witnessed families failing to integrate because of a lack of prior questioning and knowledge.

Relocation agencies, are they worth it? The answer to that question relies not only on the quality of the provided service but also on the allocated budget. Their knowledge of the local market is an undeniable asset. But the last move unveiled yet another reality: some landlords are reluctant or totally against dealing with relocating agencies. So be prepared to have to roll up your sleeves if you want to make sure you live where you evaluated would be the best spot for you. Priority setting is a must: location versus cost of rent for example, this needs to be agreed upon by all involved in decision making.

Choosing a new home could be turned into a great opportunity for younger ones to feel involved in the decision-making process: before making visits our daughters were briefed to take care of certain missions. Each one was to concentrate on assigned rooms, take pictures and make note of what she liked most about it or what would make it hard for her and us to consider living in the property. The debriefing turned into a lively conversation and in the end help towards the success of the relocation.

I took the opportunity of each move abroad to master a new language: without a budget for it at first – I learned on the job. English then became kind of my second mother tongue or family language.  Language courses designed for expats or even better a one on one course should be included in a relocation package as speaking the local language is not only a question of politeness to the locals but also a passport to finding a job specially for the accompanying spouse or partner, a necessity to be understood by your new car mechanic, GP etc.

With the move the honeymoon period of the project finishes, the hard work of making a nest, joining communities starts. Join existing clubs to meet your new best friends.  Truth be told with each day you are given new opportunities to learn something new. I could not live without that challenge.

During this phase, discover and make the most of the new surroundings as you never know how much time you have to enjoy it. Life is full of surprises. No matter how well you planned your career, for example going back to university to retrain and find your dream job – my case, some economic or personal parameter changes and throws a spanner in your well-oiled system – my case !

And it is time to start afresh…new experience, new excitement, new opportunities to learn something…

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Valerie Priestley

Valérie Priestley is an experienced professional with a focus on HR and a background in both financial services and the marketing sector. Her thirst for knowledge and desire to help others grow led her to return to university and successfully gain a Masters in training in 2014. Bilingual French-English she rose to the challenge and now works in German.