Skip to main content
Work Abroad
© Reese/, AdobeStock

Guest article: The 10 most important points to negotiate in your international contract

Guest article by Mareike Lott

Having moved three times in the last 10 years and arrived in new countries as an expat (France, China, and the Netherlands), Mareike Lott would like to share with you some useful tips and must-haves that you should definitely negotiate in your expat contract.

This way, there will be no nasty surprises once you arrive and you can fully adapt to the new culture, the new job and building a new life abroad:

1. Go on a reconnaissance trip

In order to gain the support of the entire family for the decision to move and establish a new life abroad as smoothly as possible, it is crucial to plan a "reconnaissance trip" that will cover more than just the tourist attractions of a new city.

This paid journey should be carefully organized in advance to include activities such as exploring different neighbourhoods, visiting potential homes, evaluating kindergartens and schools, as well as exploring recreational opportunities.

By providing specific details and visualizing the new life as accurately as possible, the excitement can be amplified, making the process of saying goodbye a little easier. It's important to ensure that each family member has a fulfilling experience and something to look forward to during the trip.

2. the right salary negotiation

When negotiating your new salary, it is crucial to remember that there is an additional factor to consider besides your competence, promotion opportunities, team responsibilities, bonus payments, and profit sharing. You should also consider the "cost of living index" and a potential risk premium, depending on the safety of the new country.

The cost-of-living index is a helpful tool that allows you to understand whether the overall expenses in the new country will be higher or lower compared to your home country. It takes into consideration various aspects such as the prices of everyday items like milk, as well as the cost of leisure activities. By comparing this index with your home country, you can determine the difference in the cost of living.

During salary negotiations, it's important to factor in this cost-of-living percentage, along with the local tax rate and any safety risks associated with the destination country. These considerations will help ensure that your salary is adjusted appropriately to account for the differences in expenses and potential risks in the new location.

3. assistance in finding accommodation

Many companies pay the rent or part of the rent in the destination country, as families may already own property in the home country. However, some companies do not, so it is important to try to negotiate this at the beginning. In addition, you should seek professional help when looking for accommodation. An estate agency that can advise on the right neighbourhood, arrange viewings, take care of any deposits and, most importantly, take care of the contracts and all the paperwork in the new language is essential for an easy start.

4. find schools and day-care centres

It is important that you find the right place that your heart says yes to. This will help you and your children settle in faster and reduce the pain of homesickness and missing friends. Ask your company if it will cover the costs if monthly school fees are incurred. International schools and day-care centres in particular are often much more expensive than in your home country.

5. residence permit and visa

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 assistance with a work visa for the partner when a new job is found.

6. have good health insurance

Make sure you have good overseas health insurance that allows you to be treated in international hospitals but also ensures coverage in your home country, for example during a home visit. Think about any special treatments you might need in the future that may not be covered. (For example, IVF treatments, preventive check-ups and so on).

7. plan holidays and home visits

Find out about the leave days in your destination country and compare them with your current leave entitlement. If they are lower, it is worth negotiating. Especially the annual visit to family and friends in your home country takes time. It is also important to negotiate one or two flights home per year.

8. apply for a travel allowance

If it is difficult to get around the new city on your own, if your driving licence is not recognised or if it is simply too dangerous to drive yourself, it may make sense to hire a driver. Or negotiate an appropriate fee and find a local driving service yourself.

9. support from the partner

It is not easy when a partner has to give up their job for your international move. Try to get a budget for "partner support". This can be used for anything your partner needs: language classes, additional cultural training or individual (job) coaching. This ensures that he or she can continue to invest in personal development and that (professional) life does not simply come to a standstill.

10. demand permanent support

Don't let your company stop providing support just before you move, but make sure that you and your family will continue to be looked after during your assignment. The really difficult and challenging problems in the new job, in the new culture or even between spouses only emerge gradually, no matter how well you plan everything in advance. Therefore, continuous support in the form of cultural training or individual coaching is essential.

The most important things in a nutshell

Good preparation is essential. What are the issues that are particularly important to you and where do you need support? What are the differences in cost of living, holiday days, bonuses, family support? Do your homework and go into the interviews well prepared. Informed experts often get better contracts than those who go into the negotiations naively. Research the important issues in detail on the internet and, above all, talk to other expats on the spot. What are their experiences, stumbling blocks and insights?

I strongly recommend not putting all negotiating points on the table until you already have a concrete offer. Too many demands at an early stage of the negotiation can also discourage employers from making the offer at all. So if you are sure that the offer is concrete and the company really wants to send you abroad, it is a good time to put forward and discuss your demands.

Last extra tip: If you always go into your negotiations a little higher than what you really need, you can still accommodate the company on some points and end up where you actually want to go.

Share this article with your network if you think it might help someone in their negotiation. And don't hesitate to contact Mareike Lott if you need additional support.

About the author

Mareike Lott is a passionate business and life coach and supports expats worldwide with their daily challenges, in a new job, with cultural adjustment difficulties or with big career decisions.

As a former marketing expert, with over 13 years of professional experience with large companies in the cosmetics industry and various start-ups, she has worked and lived in Paris, Shanghai & Amsterdam. She has also led (intercultural) teams and experienced first-hand all the day-to-day challenges of being an expat. From finding a job abroad, performing in a new work culture to becoming a mother abroad, with different customs and views, it was all there. Today, she uses this valuable experience in her coaching sessions with her clients.

Mareike Lott currently works and lives in Amsterdam, but mostly coaches online to support as many expats as possible worldwide.

If you would like to learn more, feel free to visit her website.



This article is from the 2/2023 issue of the magazine "Life Abroad".

The magazine is published four times a year free of charge with many informative articles on foreign topics.

It is published by the BDAE, the expert for protection abroad.