I’ve now decided to write on this blog in English as another means for keeping up with the language study and possibly reaching out to more people. Skipping directly to the topic and making the long story short, the last 15 months have been very exciting and challenging for me. In August last year I received a job offer to work for an infosec consulting company in The Netherlands. Journey had begun.
After one year working there as a contractor, I got an opportunity to move to a permanent role in Germany. “So, that means you know Dutch and German?!” No way! Any native English speaker would easily notice that even my English needs some improvements. But that can also mean the infosec market is full of opportunities and professionals are in strong demand worldwide, they just need to get prepared and face the new challenge.
As one friend told me once: The greater the challenge, the greater the reward. I believe it’s really worth experiencing some time abroad, I got my own 10 reasons as anyone else might have theirs, so I will not elaborate on this here.
For facing the challenge and taking this big step, I have no idea how to advise you, but I would say it’s better to make sure your wife agrees with your decision, if applicable. As for the technical preparation, I dare sharing a few ideas.
Salary and all that matter$
This is the top question ever: what would be a good salary for a given position? Trying to avoid “it depends”, I would say trying to get in touch with someone on the same level of expertise you have or will have when applying for a job is mandatory.
Good/bad employers, must-have benefits, estimated expenses would be good starting points for discussion. Needless to say that you should not directly approach people or forums asking for people’s salaries! It’s quite normal to have the (yearly) salary rate on the job ad itself but you can also play the recruiter role and research on job boards about base pay for a given position.
Another very important step is to – at least – find out how much money will be taken by the government as income tax, but preferably to have full understanding about how to calculate the net salary after all taxes apply. Some people say it’s worth paying more if you get more as a return or gov benefit (security, public transport, health care, etc), but to avoid any surprise, a simple expenses vs budget spreadsheet will do the job.
Did you know? You must pay up to 9% of your salary if you declare yourself Catholic resident in Germany (otherwise, no wafer!). The Highly Skilled Migrant Program aims at professionals willing to work in The Netherlands and grants a tax free allowance amounting to 30% times 100/70 of the gross salary for eligible applicants (know as 30% ruling).
As most Brazilians, all I have is my blue passport, no Blue Card and no EU passport. After walking through lots of documentation and undergoing a few residence permit applications; I can say for sure, at least for Europe, the lack of a Bachelor degree or a good diploma is not good news for those willing to move. Unless you make it via a special programs, internships, or by providing a very good reason (family matters, marriage, etc), not having a high degree will only make things harder.
For those countries (NL/DE), the entire VISA process took about 1-2 months. In ANY case, make sure the employer will sponsor all paperwork-related costs, including the VISA and residence application. These procedures can be costly and it makes no sense paying for it, so if this is not possible, do yourself a favor and find another employer.
It’s also important to include relocation allowance as part of the package or at least to have the employer provide you a company to advise you in regards to paperwork. One single mistake can ruin your plan and schedule. Too many docs to bring together, translations, copies, forms, etc. So the best thing to do is either hiring a company (using the allowance) or being provided with relocation services.
Did you know? Once your work permit is granted for The Netherlands as a highly skilled migrant, the same rights apply for the accompanying spouse, which means both can work and enjoy the tax benefits mentioned above. Applicants willing to live/work for more than 1 year in Germany, excluding EU passport holders, must provide a certificate of German language skills, otherwise a high education degree is required prior to application.
Is it possible to make it with only English as a foreign language? Sure it is, I am here to say so. But have in mind that life extends beyond the office premises.
In The Netherlands, a 10 years old kid may speak better English than you, pretty much any Dutchman will be able to speak English with no big problems. I’ve listened to more Dutch from the train station speaker than in the office. In Germany, despite working for an American company, even in the office, you will be exposed to more German than anything else. This may differ depending on the region (Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich and other big cities).
Anyway, the better your English, the better your chances to succeed. English certs (TOEFL, IETLS) would stand out only if you are willing to study part-time, which is mandatory for some courses in The Netherlands, for example. For improving the language, nothing new here: Skype classes (cheaper, flexible time), tech podcasts, reading out loud (YES! IT WORKS!). What about writing articles (SANS paper!) and watching English subtitled movies?
Did you know? German government sponsors 600 hours language course for immigrants. In Amsterdam, there is a special immigration service office called Expat Center which provides advises for expats, including information about language courses and any help related to settlement.
I could spend days sharing tips, advantages, drawbacks and stuff like that, but hopefully this serves as a good start for those willing to move abroad. Comments are encouraged!