The Best Cities to Work in for International Citizens
Living and working abroad is an exciting opportunity that exposes you to an entirely new way of life. But unless you’re wealthy or retired, you’re going to need to generate income will living overseas.
Finding work can be one of the most challenging parts of expat life.
To be frank, the best places to work in the world are the places that are hiring.
Don’t assume you can pack up, move, and find a job as soon as you step off the plane. In most scenarios, it’s best to have a job lined up before you relocate.
It’s also very important to understand local visa requirements because, in most countries, you are not legally employable unless you have a proper work permit.
It all depends on where you plan to live and what type of work you plan to do. If you’re ready to move and work abroad as an expat, there are some key things to keep in mind before you decide where to go.
The Countries with the Most Job Opportunities for Expats
Some people have their heart set on living in a certain country and are willing to deal with the possibility of not finding a job right away. But if you want financial security and stability, it’s best to consider moving to a country that has great job opportunities for expats.
Related: The 5 Best Countries to Work In
For example, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia are all English speaking countries with booming economies. Since the economies in those countries are healthy, there are many expat career opportunities for Americans and other native English speakers.
If you prefer to live in Asia, the countries of Singapore, China, and South Korea are seeing rapid growth in the technology and finance sectors. If you can overcome the language barriers and have IT experience, you can make a lot of money in these Asian countries.
If you’re more interested in living in Europe, look into Germany and Denmark. Germany, in particular, has a high number of jobs in the manufacturing and engineering sectors making it a great place to work for experienced engineers. Conversely, it is very difficult to find employment in countries like Spain due to their extremely high unemployment rate.
Find a Country Where Your Skills Are In Demand
Just because a country has good employment opportunities for nomads doesn’t mean it’s right for you. You have to find a place where your particular set of skills are in demand.
For example, you’ll find world-class engineering and aviation jobs in Europe. There is a wide array of healthcare industry and information technology jobs in Canada. Working as a skilled tradesman is one of the best jobs in Spain, while engineers and financial services professionals should have no problem finding work in Singapore. And if you want to put your English skills to work as an educator, there is a massive need for ESL teachers in Asia.
Understanding Salary vs. Cost of Living
It’s easy to get excited by the possibility of doubling your income just by moving to a foreign country, but keep in mind that the salary you earn is relative to the cost of living.
For example, if you’re moving from a small town in the USA to London, there’s a good chance you’ll earn a higher salary doing the same job, but the cost of living in London is on par with expensive cities such as New York and San Francisco.
The same goes for cities like Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Zurich. Even though salaries in those cities are high, they are some of the most expensive cities in the world.
Alternatively, you probably won’t make as much money if you move to Central America, but the cost of living in Costa Rica is relatively low, so your dollar will go much farther.
Consider Work-Life Balance
Another thing to consider when looking for the best places to work abroad is the local lifestyle.
For instance, if you are a workaholic and want to spend 12 hours a day at your job, China could be a good fit for you. On the opposite end of the spectrum, many countries (mostly in Europe) work less than 40 hours a week on average.
If you’re not sure what it’s like to work in a country, check out websites like Glassdoor for reviews from company team members. This will give you a great idea of the company culture and work environment.
If you’re looking for great work-life balance, Scandinavian countries are exceptionally liberally with their vacation time and parental leave. You could also choose to work in a low cost of living country and work fewer hours. It all depends on what you’re looking for.
Proper Work Permits and Visas
Every country has its own set of immigration laws, and that includes visas and work permits. Some places make it easy to establish residency and get a job. Others do not.
Before you decide where you want to move, make sure you qualify for the proper visa or work permit. Unless you're retiring, don’t move to a foreign nation unless you know that you can legally gain employment once you’re there.
It is notoriously difficult to procure work visas in China and Russia, while the process is much simpler in Australia, South Korea, and Ireland.
Most countries list work visa requirements on their government websites, but the process can be a little daunting. Check out local expatriate communities on Facebook and other social media sites and ask questions there. It’s best to get advice from people who are currently living and working in your country of choice.
What to Consider if You Plan to Start a Business or Work as a Freelancer
Seeking traditional employment in a foreign country is much different than working as a freelancer or starting a business abroad. Before you move, make sure that you’ll be able to pursue your dreams when you get there.
Certain places, such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and the UAE, make it rather easy to start a business, while others such as Thailand, are ideal for freelancers and digital nomads.
One of the most significant benefits of moving overseas as a freelancer is that your work is not location dependent. If you have a job that allows you to work from anywhere, you might not need a specific work visa.
As a freelancer or an entrepreneur, don’t assume that you can just move anywhere and continue with your remote work or start your own business. In order to do so, you’ll need to look for cities and towns that offer a few key things.
First, look for cities that have a stable economy. You don’t want to start a business in a city with a high unemployment rate and a failing economic system. Also, look for countries with good infrastructure, since strong and reliable internet access is vital, especially if you do digital work.
It’s also important to know what countries make it easy to establish a business. Consider the tax laws as well, as some nations have very low tax rates to encourage local economic growth.
Before you decide where to move, make sure that you’re able to find work before you get there.
As we mentioned in the beginning, the best places to work in the world are the places that are in need of your skills and are willing to pay for it.
Research which industries the nation focuses on and what jobs are in high demand. Depending on your skill set, there may be dozens of countries looking for candidates like you. But if you lack the necessary experience, there may only be one or two countries that need your expertise.
Once you’ve done identified where your skills are in high demand, research the visas and work permits required to seek legal employment.
Don’t be disillusioned by the possibility of a higher paying salary alone. Make sure that you account for the cost of living, as the two go hand in hand.
And if you’re planning to work as a freelancer or start your own business, there's even more research you'll need to do: learn the tax laws, check to see if there is a stable economy, and make sure the country has a solid infrastructure.
Don’t make the mistake of moving to a foreign nation only to find out that you can’t advance your career and pursue your goals while you’re there. If you can’t find work, you’re dreams of living as an expatriate could be short-lived.