Expats have been asked what they wish they had known before starting on an international assignment and many cite living costs as the great unknown.
The high cost of living is the issue that is most commonly given and it is specific items that cause surprises such as the cost of petrol and eating out, according to research from ECA International.
It takes them time to adapt to price differences in shops and they can end up paying more for groceries, for example, until they find out which outlets are cheaper. They can often fall into the trap of not realising that while some items are more expensive than at home, others also cost less.
Their spending power is also affected by housing costs and by currency changes if they are paid in a currency other than the one in the country where they are working. Currency changes can be positive or negative according to where they are living.
The second most common issue relates to the quality and availability of goods and services. Commonly expats will report that they can’t find particular types of food that they are used to, or that good quality clothing and shoes are not available in appropriate sizes.
The research points out that by doing some research in advance expats can be more aware of what is available and even take a supply of their favourite product if it is not going to be available locally where appropriate.
Bureaucracy in one form or another is another source of great frustration for anyone moving to a new country. Many expats complain about the length of time and long winded procedures involved in obtaining residence permits and visas in particular, with driving licences, bank accounts and processes related to setting up home not far behind.
Managing expectations about accommodation is another issue. Although expats frequently complain about their housing budget, they may be used to and expect a size or style of property that simply doesn’t exist in their new location. Additional costs for service charges, housing taxes and legal fees can be considerable and should also be considered when setting budgets, the report says.
Traffic jams and dangerous standards of driving that are commonplace in many parts of the world can be incredibly frustrating and isolating for those used to driving themselves from A to B at home.
Similarly, those used to travelling around their home city using an efficient public transport system can find it hard to adjust to a culture where driving is the only way to get around.