Benefits of Expat

Hi there,

I’m currently in an interview process for a senior leadership position in Shanghai. While it was always a dream for me to work abroad for some years I started to make my calculations and concluded that from a financial stand point it’s quite a big backdrop to my current position here in Switzerland. I truly believe that the exposure to a total new culture will give me and my family (wife and two kids 3y and 6y) a lot of benefits and living some time in a metropolis will create unique memories.

However, at the other hand when I look at the pure financial aspect. When I stay at my current job I will be able to retire before 50 and could then travel and enjoy full time any place in the world.

Can anybody share their experience from expat assignments and how you felt the non-financial benefits (if possible as family)

Thanks a lot,


This discussion might help

I have of course read that thread before and I liked it very much. Thanks to that I actually started to look at taxes for an expat assignment. However, I would be very much interested about the general benefits and real world example from somebody with experience doing an expat assignment. I have seen of course all the google hits like great to have a new culture etc. but I still feel unsure whether if we sum up we might get a positive outcome of such an adventure for the entire family or not. When talking to one of my mentors he mentioned the key is “happy wife, happy life” but that is applicable all over the world :rofl:

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This is relevant: if your wife would not be able to work in China and she would instead like to, that might become a problem.


I totally agree on what your mentor said: “happy wife/family, happy life”
2 stories

I have done it myself. Limited time. 2 years. South America.
Overall experience great. My wife use the time to do an MBA, so she was somehow busy but having time to enjoy the time

1 work colleague. His dream was to work in USA. He applied every year to the green card lottery and finally got it.He dropped a highly pay position in CH and move to the states with his wife and kids(between 6 and 16yo). Result in less than a year they were back as the family did not like the States.

@Giff and @Broth thanks a lot for your feedback. Indeed, my wife plays an integral part in it. However, she has not returned to work yet after having the second child. She is from South America and hence it would not be for her to leave her place and she is familiar what it means to change all your life (as she did when she came to Switzerland). She is in favor of the move but it’s hard to imagine how she will feel over there. She could do a lot in China (specially doing contacts and work for Bolivian KMU’s which are exposed to China) , but it would be mainly dependent how much she wants to do there.

@Broth do you know if your colleague regret that they went to the US? I personal feel that it would not be a huge loss even if we would return after a year. However, it would suck if I would need to take a job which I like less (and potentially get paid less) than my current job.

Well let’s see what the company offer in terms of family support such as education, housing etc. The headhunter mentioned already that they did not want to pay to much but are maybe forced as there is very limited talents which fulfill all requirements and are willing to go to China right now

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That is the question. I think there’s a saying that you (often) regret most the things you didn’t try or attempt in life - rather than the ones you did. Even if you failed or didn’t like the result in hindsight.

Broth‘s colleague got to scratch the itch he had - had he not done it and least tried it, his regret might have been much greater.

Aren’t they already exposed to a different culture through your wife?

Personally, I‘d ask a another question, in addition to the thread title („benefits of (being an) expat“), namely your intrinsic desire and motivation to go to the place/country:

Have you always want to work abroad „wherever that may be“ (Congo, Nicaragua, Eastern Siberia) or did you have places in mind? Do you want to live in China. Can you envision yourself liking it? Are you interested in Chinese culture, etc.? Or you rather indifferent band China’s something you may just be considering due to practically being offered the opportunity!

I am certainly not one to diagnose you from afar. But I am going to say that „cultural exposure is always good“ and „hopefully they’ll have to pay me good money“ along with the notion of „almost no one qualified would be willing to go to China“ doesn’t strike me as having a strong desire of wanting to move there. And the cultural exposure and money may just be ways of supporting the idea by rationalising it (to yourself).

Then again, maybe you are the adventurous type, your family would be all up for it, and have just a little doubt remaining about the economics of such a move? Or you always wanted to be an expat and will always have that nagging regret if you don’t do it?

I do not think that he regrets it. It was his dream, he realized it and see that it was not as good for his family as he thought. But I’ve never asked it directly.
It cost him few years to get a similar position again, but he did it.

@San_Francisco thanks so much for your inputs. I totally love this forum and the support you get :heart_eyes: I think you are right in some aspects. I was born into a family where different cultures where always seen as interesting and traveling was also big as well. So I got really “infected” by the fever when I was 16. Initially my biggest dream was to live sometime in South America. Therefore, I quite my job with 23 and went 2 years to South America which was really great from several perspective (I also met there my wife) and it changed me quite a lot also from a personal perspective.

Now my kids do get a different exposer due to my wife but it’s somehow limited as we live in this very protected village where they are several people (some of my friends from local football club) that have never seen the world except from holidays in Mallorca.

So that is a part that I would like to show my kids that there is a world outside of picture perfect Switzerland.

With regards to China I’m with mixed emotions. If it would just be myself I would not think twice and go there even if there is currently no specific place where I would go (I would feel ok in Congo, been to Nica, but Sibiria would be to cold for me :wink:)
So I guess what I try to find out for myself is that my family will be ok with it. That is also the financial aspect. I’m totally fine with a reduced salary as long as we have good support for the family and nice schools where they feel completely happy. At the other hand it’s also quite unique to live in a place where you 4 year old children can go out by themselves.

Again thank you very much for your inputs as with other topics in this forum it helps me a lot

I would seriously consider the air quality as well. I would not want my children to play outside in Shanghai. It depends on where you would live as well of course