I’ve wanted to live abroad since I was a very young child. As a beady-eyed youngster I distinctly remember telling my parents I was going to be a vet out in Japan working at the base of mount Fuji. Obviously, at that age I had no idea the logistical challenges such a move would bring. Even if I were to study veterinary medicine and Japanese simultaneously, I very much doubt there would be any appetite for a practice opening at the base of a mountain. Bit of a flight of fancy, but the point remains I knew I wanted to get out of the UK.
This feeling has only intensified as I’ve got older. I’ve travelled around and studied in Asia, and have vacationed in many places across Europe. Every time I plod my way back to the soggy, grey drear of the UK with a heavy heart and a strong desire to leave. Familiarity certainly does breed contempt, and the country’s apparent need to throw away all ties to the world have only deepened my sadness at its trajectory.
So, with the UK cutting itself off from the world and with a pandemic raging outside my door, I decided to take the plunge and start looking for work abroad. Seems crazy in hindsight, but somehow it has actually paid off.
Quite simply, Brexit was one of the biggest determining factors in all of this. I have been dreading the end to my freedom of movement since 2016 as I see it as an essential part of who I am. My heritage is French and Irish, and all my life I have been a free moving European citizen. I am not ready to lose this, and if it means I have to pick between living in Europe and living in the UK, I’m afraid the UK is going to lose every time. It simply has less to offer.
On a similar note, the technology industry in the UK has taken a big hit. We’ve already lost a lot of talent to the EU post-2016 and several companies have actually taken themselves over to the more stable and connected countries of the EU such as the Netherlands and Germany. As somebody whose technology career only started in 2016, I knew I had to follow the jobs out of the country.
Where do I start?
The hardest part of any of this was actually making the decision to go for it. After all, I had a stable job and a place to live in the middle of a pandemic. But actually, this played into my hands. The pandemic meant that I knew only companies that could work remotely would be looking to hire from abroad, at least for the short term, so I would have time to get to grips with the job before needing to move abroad. Once I started looking around, I saw that the EU’s market was generally a lot more open to remote work than the UK’s, so it wasn’t going to be an issue.
The second thing I had to consider was exactly what I wanted to do. When I first started in IT, I was a support agent working with Windows. I then moved into Windows systems management, then to second line support for a software company, then to integrations development. The only thing I knew for a fact I never wanted to do again was helpdesk support, but besides that I didn’t really know what I’d be adequately qualified for. After some thinking, I decided to shoot for a technical writing job since my education is in English and my professional experience is technical. I’m surely a catch, right?
What’s in a resumé?
One thing you need to understand about working in the UK is that if you don’t already have a job title, you’re unlikely to be considered for it elsewhere. I’ve never officially been a technical writer, and because of this I’ve never even been considered for work as a technical writer in the UK. I have a master’s degree in English and experience working in a number of technical roles, but because my degree isn’t explicitly in technical communications and my experience doesn’t carry the title “Technical Writer”, I may as well not bother. I’ve mentioned several times while working on hiring boards that what is written on the resumé is largely irrelevant, and that a person should be able to prove themselves if they’re trying to switch paths. Alas, there is still a faction over here that cling to this old world ideal.
When applying in Germany, however, this never seemed to be an impediment. I was getting invites to interviews on the same resumé that had failed me in the UK, and was being asked to prove myself as part of the interview process. What a concept!
Money is not really of the highest importance to me as long as I can live comfortably, and I knew that moving to Germany was going to incur a lot of up-front cost and high taxation, but I had already made my peace with that (as long as the public transport actually runs on time, unlike in the UK). However, the remuneration on offer generally seemed a lot fairer than what I was being offered in the UK. It wasn’t a knockout difference, but it was enough that the increased taxation wasn’t going to diminish it to the same level as what I was earning. I will be earning more as a technical writer than I was as a developer, and that’s not something to be sniffed at.
The cost of living in Berlin, it turns out, is not significantly higher than Exeter, where I currently live. This means that with the pay increase (even after tax) I’m going to be better off living in a major European city than I was in a minor British one. Unfortunately, I won’t have a low-rent situation like I do when living with my parents. Boo.
Relocation, relocation, relocation
One of the reasons I accepted the job I did was their relocation package. The hardest part of all of this is going to be the visa application and physical relocation (visas wouldn’t have been an issue before Brexit, so… thanks?), but the company has offers in place to lessen the financial and administrative burdens of moving. Very welcome. I’m currently in the process of trying to apply for permanent residency, which is challenging. At least the immigration company is doing a lot of the heavy lifting for me.
There is going to be a hell of a lot of work involved in now physically hauling myself out of the UK, but I feel like I have a good infrastructure behind me. I’ll be starting my new job remotely next week, so hopefully by the time I leave I’ll be confident in what I’m doing.