8 Reasons Why Startups Are Good for Expats

The expat job market is a funny old place, and can usually be put into two main categories:

  • Those that have been offered a job in a foreign country.
  • Those that moved abroad because they want to live in another country other than their own, and find a job in order to stay there.

Sure, there are some jobs that are known as the staples for expats, (bartender, hosteller, language teacher) but these jobs may be harder to fulfil than you think:

  • For a bar job, you may be required to know the local language.
  • Hostel work is famously underpaid.
  • Language teaching is fiercely competitive and requires proper qualifications, especially in Western Europe.

Looking for another route abroad? Enter the Startup Industry…

Some call in the industry of the millennial, and whilst the industry has been around only a short time, it has impacted the global job market positively and is a fresh option for those of us wanting to move abroad. So here are some reasons why startups are perfect for expats.

1. The startup industry is booming

If you choose your city or country well, then you should be in a prime place to ride the wave of the startup boom. The EU has seen the oncoming trend and have acted accordingly. Its Horizon 2020  has bolstered confidence by reserving billions in grants and incentives for startups, entrepreneurs, and innovators.

The ‘startup capital of Europe’, Germany, has the largest economy on the continent and the fourth biggest in the world. According to ‘Facts about Germany’ there are more than 6,000 startups in the country, mainly in the capital Berlin, providing more than 80,000 new jobs since 2012.
Paris may be known for its history and architecture, but its startup industry is looking nothing but forward, having seen over €2bn in investment in 2016. Another bonus for potential expats considering moving to Paris is tech-friendliness of the French Government, establishing a streamlined visa for tech workers moving to France.
According to an analysis by the accounting and audit firm RSM, the UK saw a record 10,016 startups launching in 2017. The UK Digital Sector is also worth over £183bn, with startups popping up all over the country.

If this was written five years ago, then Silicon Valley would be included, but this article is looking at younger, more organic startups scenes across the world in which first-time expats can make it without experience or much capital behind them.

2. Startups value enthusiasm over experience

When it comes to startups, what is printed on your CV may not matter as much as you think. The industry has traditionally had a strong emphasis on attitude over aptitude when hiring. Although some roles, such as software developer or something in product development require a specific skill set or qualification, most newer startups value motivation, drive and determination over experience.

Happy at work

Of course, it would help your application’s chances by having some experience that could be applied to the new role, but your ability to adapt, embrace (constant) change, take risks and multi-task are essential startup employee qualities. A nice ethos across many startups is the idea that everyone has to begin somewhere, so just because people may not have the exact previous experience, it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t excel in the industry. This makes a startup company perfect for those who have little experience – fresh graduates or those looking for a career change.

3. English is often the lingua franca

Working abroad usually means a requirement to speak the local language at a professional level. However, Startup teams are usually very international and thus use English to communicate in-house. Being the de-facto and go-to business language, English can open many more doors abroad thanks to Startups.

There may be some requirements of proficiency in the local language, but it is not as important as it once was. Many startups even offer free local language lessons to their employees when they first move, making the transition in the new city even smoother.

4. Multi-linguists are highly valued

A Northwestern University study  found that bilinguals process information more efficiently and easily than monolinguals, and employers know this! If you are looking for a job abroad, then you will need to learn the local language, definitely socially and in most cases professionally, up to a point. Regardless of your English skills, other languages are still important. Although the language of the office might be English, most startups work in multiple languages and are always looking for native speakers for all departments. Multi-linguists are especially sought after in sales and customer service roles, but also in the marketing and PR departments. Larger startups may have dedicated translation teams who require multi-linguists and value language skills.

5. It’s a unique work environment

Moving abroad can be daunting, so make it easier for yourself and choose an industry with a supportive, innovative and sociable work environment)

That being said, it is not all ping pong and bean bags.

Startups can’t usually offer the high salaries of other industries, thus, expect the unexpected when it comes to work environments. It is common to hear of Startups with no HQ or office space, being run 100% remotely. Others may offer coworking memberships to its employees and more fluidity in work times and locations. Unlike in established companies, where promotion can take years, Startups have a far more fluid, horizontal hierarchical structure. In-house promotions are common and are dependent factors including commitment and performance.
If you are from a corporate background and are unsure whether the environment is for you, then check here to make sure.

6. You’ll make an impact

An early stage startup is a useful time to join for someone looking to have a real impact on the company. Discussion and idea-sharing are commonplace, and in the small team ethos, each member’s opinion is highly valued. The use of teams rather than traditional departments has allowed smaller, more compact units of people from different parts of the startup to work on projects together. The company will expect you to get stuck in from day one. This may mean longer hours, weekend work and fewer benefits. This may seem intense but, you can have far more impact, responsibility and project ownership than you would in a traditional, corporate role.
If you’re wondering which role can be applied to your skills or interests, maybe this can help

7. Startups are fast-paced and creative

Startups are the kind of companies in which employees find a problem and solve it themselves rather than contacting a certain department head to get clearance. Get used to change, and lots of it. The first few years of a Startup’s life often involve a lot of change in a short space of time. Whether it be different job titles, changing offices, desk assignments, project plans and much more, you just never know what will change day by day, so be prepared. Startups are very flexible and have none of the baggage that come with well established, older companies, which mean they can make these changes a lot quicker and easier.

8. You’ll meet fascinating people

Working in a startup is kind of like being back at university. You’ll meet people from all over the world, of different ages and life experiences. Because a lot of people will be expats too, it means they are often open to new friendships. Coupled with the startup emphasis on ‘company culture’ i.e. social events, language classes etc, you’ll find it easy to make friends and widen your social circle. Cities with a good startup scene often have regular industry meet-ups (with copious amounts of drinking) meaning you can meet new people, talk shop and network like crazy.

If a startup sounds like the right thing for you to learn more about, here is our handy guide to the best startup-friendly cities.


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