Updated: Apr 13
Start your contract negotiation well prepared with my top 10 tips and land an even better deal for you and your family.
After we have moved 3 times in the last 10 years and arrived in new countries as expats (France, China and the Netherlands), I would like to share a few useful tips and must-haves that you should definitely negotiate in your expat contract. So there won't be any bad surprises after arrival and you can fully adapt to the new culture, the new job and building a new life abroad:
1 - ORIENTATION TRIP
You want the whole family to support the decision to move and build a new life abroad for a while. Therefore, I find a "look and see trip" absolutely essential to get all family members behind your decision and to have a good feeling. However, this paid trip should not only be used to explore the tourist side of a new city, but should be planned well in advance. Take a look at potential districts, possibly apartments, kindergartens, schools, leisure activities. The more concretely one can imagine the new life, the more excitement one will feel and the farewell is a little less difficult. Makes sure that every family member gets their money's worth and has concrete things to look forward to.
2 - SALARY
The obvious first: Of course you negotiate your new salary, BUT this time with an additional factor. Not only the competence, promotion and team responsibility, bonus payments and profit sharing come into the calculation with a posting but also the "cost of living index" and a possible risk surcharge (depending on the security of the new country).The cost of living index is helpful in understanding how much more expensive/cheaper living in the new country will be. From a liter of milk to leisure activities, everything is taken into account here and you can compare with your home country. Be sure to include this percentage in the negotiation, as well as the local tax rate and any security risks in the target country.
3 - Housing
Many companies pay the rent or part of the rent in the target country, since families may already have real estate back home. However, some companies do not do this either, so it is important to try to negotiate this at the beginning. In addition, you should get professional help when looking for an apartment. A real estate agency that advises on the choice of the right district, schedules viewing appointments, takes over any deposits and, above all, takes over the contracts and all paperwork in the new language is essential for an easy start.
4 - SCHOOLS/ DAYCARE
Let someone help you to find a good school or daycare for your children! It is crucial that you find the right place, where your heart says yes to. This will ensure you and your children settle in more quickly & it can reduce the pain of homesickness and missing friends. Ask your company if they cover the costs, in case monthly schooling fees apply. Especially international schools and daycares are often much more expensive than in your home country.
5 - residence permit/Visas
Let your company take care of everything administrative and accompany the process for the whole family. A good question is also whether the company can provide support with a work visa for the partner if a new job is found.
6 - HEALTH insurance
Make sure you have good international health insurance, which allows you to go to international hospitals for any treatment, but also ensures coverage in your home country in the course of a home visit for example.Think of any special treatments you might need in the future, which are maybe not covered. (e.g. IVF treatments, preventive check-ups etc.)
7 - vacation and return flights
Check the local vacation days in your destination country and compare them with your current vacation entitlement. If these are less, a negotiation is worthwhile. In particular, the annual visit to family and friends in the home country takes time. It is also important to note that you should negotiate 1-2 flights home per year.
8 - transportation allowance
If it is difficult to get around alone in the new city, if the driver's license is not recognized or if it is simply too dangerous to drive yourself, hiring a driver can make sense. Alternatively, negotiate the appropriate allowance and find a driver yourself on site.
9 - Partner support
It's not easy if your partner has to leave their job for your international move. Try to get a "partner support" budget. This can be used for anything your partner needs: language class, additional cultural training or individual (job) coaching. This ensures that your partner can continue to invest in personality development and that (career) life does not simply stand still.
10 - on the job support
Don't let your company stop the support just before your move, but ensure they got you and your family covered as well during your assignment. The really difficult and challenging issues in the new Job, the new culture, or even between spouses, only surface gradually, no matter how well you plan everything in advance. Therefore, on-going support in the form of cultural training or individual coaching is essential.
in a nutshell
A good preparation is essential. What are the topics that are particularly important to you and where do you need support? What are the differences in cost of living, vacation days, bonuses, family support? Do your homework and enter the discussions prepared. Informed experts often get better contracts than those who start negotiations naively. Do detailed research on the Internet about the important topics and, above all, talk to other expats on site. What are their experiences, stumbling blocks and insights?
I highly recommend only putting all negotiation points on the table when a concrete offer has already been made. Too many demands at an early stage of the negotiation can also deter employers from making that offer in the first place. So once you are sure that the offer is concrete and that the company really wants to send you abroad, it is a good time to bring up your demands and discuss them.
Last extra tip: If you always start your negotiations a little higher than what you really need, you can still accommodate the company on a few points and get in the end where you actually want to be.
Share this article with your network, if you think it could benefit someone with their negotiation. And feel free to reach out to me, if you are in need of additional support.