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How much different people earn - and pay - when abroad

There are many ways for young people to finance their life abroad, like being an au pair, doing work & travel, or taking up contract jobs. But young adults in particular often have to look closely at how much they earn working abroad - and how much the stay itself costs them.

The INITIATIVE auslandszeit, a network for overseas stays, has compared different options on their website to help determine the most cost-effective approach in times of high inflation. They provide ideas for fulfilling the dream of spending time abroad through work & travel, volunteering, farm work, or a semester abroad.

Stays abroad in comparison

Often the activities take place in schools, at home with host families, in tourism including hotels and restaurants, or in nature as part of ecological project work. An activity could be, for example, a harvest helper on a farm or a ranger in a national park. Handicraft work, medical assistance and working as a language teacher at schools in the host country are further options for making a stay abroad interesting and at the same time making a contribution to the local population. Depending on the activity, cities and rural regions are equally suitable for a stay in Europe or overseas.

Comparing International Experiences

Often, international experiences include getting a job in a school, in the tourism sector including an hotel or a gastronomic establishment. Many also take part in ecological projects work. An activity could be, for example, working as a farmhand or helper on a farm, or as a ranger in a national park. Craftsmanship, medical assistance, and teaching languages in schools in the host country are additional options to make an international experience interesting while also contributing to the local population. Depending on the activity, both cities and rural areas are suitable for a stay in Europe or overseas.

Different levels of income abroad

When staying abroad, there are two main possibilities of making money consider. The first is receiving monetary payment either in cash or through a deposit in a bank account. The second is a trade system where you provide work in exchange for free accommodation and meals, which is commonly seen in farm work and some international internships. There are also variations that include receiving some pocket money along with free accommodation.

Depending on the type of job or program you engage in during your stay, you may have to cover the costs of visas, health insurance, and flights on your own. However, in some programs, these expenses may be included. Additionally, the expected earnings can vary from country to country, typically based on the minimum wage of the destination country. It's important to note that for most volunteers, the primary focus is on the overall experience of being abroad, gaining exposure to different cultures and ways of life, and working with people from diverse backgrounds. The monetary aspect is often less important compared to the valuable experiences gained.

Which stay abroad offers the best balance between earnings and costs?

With Work & Travel, the potential earnings and costs are roughly balanced, ranging from 750 to 1,000 euros. If you opt for a contract job with a temporary employment agreement, you can expect to earn around 800 to 1,000 euros while having expenses of about 200 to 500 euros. However, being an au pair often ends up costing more than what you earn. Similarly, demi-pair, which combines being an au pair with a part-time job and language learning, typically results in earnings ranging from 300 to 800 euros per month.

VERMISCHTES Auslandsaufenthalte Vergleich EN

An international internship can be either paid or unpaid. However, there are likely additional costs ranging from 500 to 800 euros. Farm work, on the other hand, is primarily aimed at personal life experience and usually does not involve direct payment. However, there are costs to consider, ranging from 200 to 500 euros. A similar situation can be found with WWOOF (World-Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms), which offers volunteer work on farms in nearly every country. WWOOF, as an organization, has branches in approximately 100 countries.

In general, the costs associated with volunteer work range from 500 to 800 euros, which are significantly higher than the potential earnings. These amounts serve as average values for expected expenses. In some countries, wages have been adjusted for inflation, while aspiring participants can currently expect higher costs. Higher earning possibilities are most likely with contract jobs, depending on the specific industry and previous work experience.

Some periods abroad lure workers with relocation packages

Each form of working holiday abroad, such as Work & Travel, Au Pair, WWOOF, or Farmwork, has specific features regarding the included services and those that participants must pay for themselves.

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Different types of overseas programs, such as contract jobs, Work & Travel, Au Pair, WWOOF, and international internships, have varying arrangements regarding the services included and those that participants have to pay for themselves.

  • For contract jobs, flights, accommodation, and sometimes health insurance are often covered as part of a "relocation package." In contrast, participants in Work & Travel are responsible for paying their own visa fees, flights, accommodation, and health insurance.
  • Au Pair and Demi Pair programs, as well as some international internships, typically provide a pocket money allowance for personal expenses and leisure activities at the destination.
  • International internships primarily focus on gaining work experience and may or may not be paid, depending on the position. Some internships may offer a stipend or compensation.
  • Volunteer programs often require a program fee charged by the organizing provider.

Inflation in destination countries complicates the goal of a stay abroad

"Due to the Ukrainian conflict and increased energy costs, the inflation in 2022 and 2023 has made living expenses during an overseas stay significantly more expensive. There may also be further fluctuations and price increases to consider. Additionally, since the COVID-19 pandemic, flight prices have generally been affected. However, the pandemic has also sparked a renewed interest in overseas adventures among young people, leading to a desire for international experiences.

Many individuals are now opting for European destinations such as Spain or Greece, as they offer lower travel costs and fewer administrative barriers within the European Union. It's important to note that costs, expenses, and earning opportunities can vary widely from country to country, even within Europe. Switzerland, for example, has a significantly higher cost of living compared to countries like Greece, South Africa, or Thailand.

When planning an overseas stay, it's common for individuals to choose countries with a similar or higher cost of living compared to their home country. Countries such as the United Kingdom, the USA, Ireland, Australia, Canada, and the Scandinavian countries, as well as Japan, have a higher price and cost level. However, they also provide a similar cultural environment. On the other hand, Asian and African countries often have more significant cultural differences. This is particularly true for countries like Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan, which have working holiday agreements with Germany. In the USA, authorized agencies act as legal sponsors to facilitate overseas stays with work permits."

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.