Not all expat packages are created equal. I always wanted to live abroad and knowing E’s company has offices abroad I always thought that would surly be the way to do it. But I never really gave the logistics much thought. Now that we are here, through E’s work, on an expat package, surrounded by lots of other expats, I’ve entered into a whole new world.
Maybe jaded from too much House Hunters International? Where about half of the shows are people just packing up and going off on a whim? I guess the other half is the husbands job (of course because we women just stick to the kitchen and birthin’ them babies)…so maybe I should have picked up on that and there is this whole world of expat packages. But whatever. After E was offered the job there was a lot of back and forth if we would actually go abroad. While I could work here…working a full time job abroad wasn’t really something I was pursuing. I sound like a pretty awful person, huh? Well, the thing is I’m excellent at being unemployed and not so great at holding full time employment. Although I am significantly better at it when it’s work from home. But seriously, I was at a bit of a crossroads in my career life after being laid off, and I don’t know what I want to do…. And taking a part-time job doesn’t make sense as I would be taxed to hard to justify having another obstacle to plan travel around.
So yeah, E had to get an expat package and that package had to be padded enough that we can live comfortably without me working. E’s company had actually gotten rid of expat packages the year before so this took a bit of work. We’re in a little different situation than most people in Aberdeen because E doesn’t work for an oil and gas company (like Shell, Chevron, etc.). But eventually it all fell into place with his company, they were going to offer us a package, and we were able to accept the position. But the overall theme of E’s company is discouraging of expats, and since there aren’t many of us left….there’s not a really thorough process of fulfilling the package.
For example, we just about bought a car when the night before we re-read the package and saw his company would provide one. That then took over a month just to find the right people to order said car. And 2 months to finally get said car. Not that I have anything to complain about: We got to custom order a brand-new Audi SUV. Ford Focus upgrade! Seriously, great. But if we hadn’t happen to re-read the contract, no one would offered up the car.
Getting a car is one thing that not a lot of expats get. But it seems the general consensus is that expats working within big (generally oil) companies get loads of money to come abroad. Big bonuses, business class flights, big living allowances (at least that was the theme when we arrived: now that oil prices are tanking lots of companies are scaling back)…I’ve even heard of some wives getting 10k a year as some sort of, ‘sorry to uproot your life for your husbands job’ bonus. But on the other hand, some companies put harsh restrictions on other things like what you can bring over. You might only be allowed 2 suitcases a person or 500 lbs. I also know people who are here on no expat package. Either their contract is short enough that it doesn’t make sense for them to go through the formal logistics, or their status of employment is as a UK resident where they’re paid in pounds and don’t get things like housing taken care of or any sort of adjusted living allowance or get to bring a shipment of stuff over. There is no one set standard of expat packages or situations. So there were things like bonuses when we moved, the car, and a (modest) living allowance. But the company doesn’t pay for a flight home until after we’ve been here a full year and even then it’s economy and E’s company has a pretty strong cap on the % of a raise you can have- so his salary didn’t jump loads moving here.
If you get the chance to go abroad with work and your partner’s work, it’s definitely up to you to figure out if you can work and live within the provided arrangement. Do your research, make sure you’re getting something fair. But also, don’t think you’re owed certain things. Expat packages from 10 years ago are typically laughed at today. Businesses are running a lot tighter. But once you work it out and get there, wherever there is, you’ll hear all about packages that can make you green with envy. But just remember that all expat packages aren’t the same. And you have already agreed to what fits your life. Focus on the value of living abroad and the opportunity itself, and not how cushy or sweet other people’s arrangements may seem.