Things you should consider before deciding to work abroad

Published: September 16, 2013

I believe that leaving one’s country, home and family is a big decision and must be taken with careful consideration. PHOTO: REUTERS

Pakistan produces numerous world class students every year. These students excel in a variety of fields including, medicine, engineering, accounting and business. However, due to the political and economic instability leading to high rates of unemployment, a lot of these students are forced to explore employment options abroad.  

The idea of shifting to an alien country creates hopelessness and frustration amongst the youth and this leads them to make impulsive and irrational decisions. And, they seldom consider the implications of their rash assessments. For instance, a person accepting a job abroad at a position lower than his qualification or experience just so that he/she can get an easy entry into the international market.

In the long run, such a decision might leave a person doubting his own abilities. It may also lead to higher levels of frustration as progression and promotion in foreign countries is often slower than most people expect.

I believe that leaving one’s country, home and family is a big decision and must be taken with careful consideration. So, if you are one searching for or are in the process of accepting a position abroad, below is a list of things I recommend you to consider before imprinting  your signature on the dotted line:

1. Carefully evaluate the job description of the position being offered

As noted above, people often move abroad for jobs that they are not fit for or are beneath their qualification and experience. Although, this might be an easy way out, as mentioned earlier, it only causes resentment and unhappiness later on.

Therefore, it is essential to carefully examine the job description of the position you are about take on. Keep in mind: a certain designation may be entrusted with a different set of responsibilities in Pakistan but might entail something totally different in a foreign country. So read your employment contract thoroughly and make sure you understand the terms of the offer. If you have any questions about your prospective job and designation, then be sure to clarify them before you accept the offer. Also, if you are thinking of moving without a job with the hope of doing odd jobs till you find a permanent one, then make sure you are ready to face disappointment and hardship – it isn’t as easy as it sounds!

2. Be aware of your visa type and the restrictions it carries

Knowing the type of visa and work permit that you will be allotted is perhaps even more important than knowing your job description, because different types of visas have different rights and restrictions attached to them which may vary from country to country. For example, restrictions on your work permit might not allow you to switch jobs for a certain period of time or may not allow you to bring your family to the country.

Additionally, if you are moving on a student visa, you may be restricted as to the number of hours you can work per week. Therefore, understanding the terms of your visa is absolutely necessary in order to avoid any complications in the future.

3. Take into account all adjustment factors and be prepared for a ‘cultural shock’

When deciding to move abroad, remember that you have to adjust yourself to the country’s environment and culture and not the other way around. From doing all your daily chores yourself to finding Halal food outlets and mosques to pray in, be ready for a cultural shock like no other! If you are resistant to change and find it difficult to adjust to new circumstances, then definitely do a little research about the country you are considering adopting as your new home.

P.s. There are usually no ‘Muslim showers’ in bathrooms in Western countries!

4. Take all taxes and deductions into account when considering your expected level of savings

Whatever position you are about to accept, take into account the effect of rent, rates, taxes and other statutory deductions on your salary when looking at expected level of savings. There are online tax calculators available for almost all countries which can help you decide whether the amount of prospective savings is worth the move or not. So, weigh your options wisely!

5. Be ready to acquire additional qualifications

Your basic qualification may give you an entry into an international market but to be able to compete with the locals you may need to acquire some additional qualifications, specific to the relevant country. So, be ready to put your nerdy cap on!

6. Be aware of travelling and visa requirements

One of the perks of working outside Pakistan is being able to travel to different countries for purely professional purposes. However, if you have a Pakistani passport, it may be a bit of a hassle getting the visa and other official documents sorted. In order to avoid this, make sure your employer is aware of this and takes the necessary steps for you to attain visas for any country that you may be required to travel to as a part of your job. Clarifying it in advance will only save you the trouble.

7. Always remember that you represent Pakistan

When moving abroad, do not forget that you are representing Pakistan and whatever you do, whether good or bad, it will reflect on the nation as a whole. Always keep in mind that whether you agree to it or not, Pakistanis don’t have the best reputation around the world and your aim should be to dispel this stereotype rather than enhancing it. Make us Pakistanis proud!

8. Leave your ego behind, be steadfast and stick to your decision

Once you have decided to move and take up an opportunity abroad, make sure to leave your ego behind. Don’t get flustered if your career progress is slow or if you are asked to step out of your comfort zone and do something you are not accustomed to. Take everything in its stride and you will definitely make progress. Things will seem difficult in the beginning, but you need to keep at it and hopefully things will get better!

The above list is not meant to scare you or discourage you; it is only a guideline as to the type of things you should consider when evaluating options to move to another country. Circumstances may vary from person to person and from country to country but in any case, make sure that you have considered all the required pros and cons before taking a leap into the unknown!

Good luck!

Faraz Hasan

Faraz Hasan

A Chartered Accountant from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan and is currently working in the UK & Ireland division of one of the big 4 audit firms. His interests include travelling, cricket and photography. He tweets @eff_eche ( and blogs at

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.


    Most importantly try to assimilate with the nationals of the country hosting you! Study reveals that majority of expat employees are unhappy in foreign lands due to one reason only – they don’t want to mix around and keep dwelling in their homesickness. Recommend

  • Asad Khan

    On Topic, Precise, Informative, Personal & Positive.

    Hurray for the Author.


  • hassan

    One important advice:

    Don’t talk religion with others. Recommend

  • Ammar

    Always stay prepared for unexpected to happen…and save something for rainy days…Recommend

  • 3rdRockFromTheSun

    Overall, sane advice – but “P.s. There are usually no ‘Muslim showers’ in bathrooms in Western countries!”

    So now even bathrooms are differentiated on the basis of religion?Recommend

  • Tj

    Finally a sensible articleRecommend

  • Blunt

    Superb !! A checklist for all those are going /want to go abroad for work. Recommend

  • Rajesh

    what’s a muslim shower?Recommend

  • Zulfiqar Ali

    one thing more that every expat have to pay high amount of tax and the benefits of those taxes are given to the other people .

    you are unable to make any friend i have lot friends in pakistan but here in Hong Kong you can not , they dont even wat to talk no matter how social you are.

    finally some one like Faraz will open his heart even though he is chartered Accountant.

    i read some where that luckiest person in the world is the person who died in the country where he born.


  • Muhammad Saim

    Few more shockers or reality checks (mid east sepcific):

    1- You are brown skinned, and hence you are second grade expats. Be ready for comments like “we give you livelihood”, depending upon your nature of job you can be treated any where between a “slave” to an “expat”.

    2- Ready for questions like “do you also have a kilashinkov in Pakistan”, “heard there is civil war in Pakistan?”, “is Karachi under seige?”…etc.

    3- Medical treatment is not same as In Pakistan, its bad or worse than an equivalent category hospital in Pakistan. If you fall seriously ill, chances are that you will land in hands of an avg. or below avg. class asian doctor, getting admission in any government hospital is as difficult as it is in Jinnah Hospital in Karachi or Mayo hospital in Lahore. Belive you me at least you get expertise in Mayo or Jinnah or else where.

    4- Schooling is average or below average. My organisation pays school fee for British or American schools but those school dont give admission to brownies, they will not flatly refuse but will politely tell that your kid has been put on waiting list…please check two years later !!

    5- Getting driving license is a nightmare !!

    6- You will miss Samosa, Pakora, Naan Chana, etc…….

    7- Except for few Shan masala’s you wont find the “good” quality grocery ! home made food is not as tasty as it was in Pakistan…Recommend

  • kumar

    where in the world do u live dude :PRecommend

  • HQ

    This I agree with. Not sure if I totally agree with the article though.Recommend

  • HQ

    I agree. I have no idea where this dude lives. I cannot even remotely relate to any of this. .Recommend

  • Umair

    You realize ‘Ghar ka khaana’ was a luxury you always despised..

    Skype/Viber will become an integral part of your daily life..

    When you pass your driving test, you feel more rewarded than when you got your degreeRecommend

  • ms ch.

    After six months in job, if your organization hires another Pakistani, you are doing a damn good job.Recommend

  • sana

    i think he lives in an african countryRecommend


    He means Kuwait/ KSA or Qatar!! I agree with him actually…Recommend

  • HQ

    I know people in Qatar/Kuwait/Bahrain and this has not been their experience at all.Recommend