Hello! Welcome to “Location Independent, International Jobs,” the Wednesday series where I showcase stories from people who have become location independent, work internationally, and/or continuously travel. I’ve interviewed some fascinating individuals who all have slightly different takes on location independence or living internationally. Recent posts include Mrs. Adventure Rich, Kerri, who owns a top-earning Etsy business, Steve from Think, Save, Retire, and Pete of Do You Even Blog?.
Guest posters will be sharing how they became location independent or how they got jobs abroad, but most importantly, they’ll share how their lifestyle has positively or negatively affected their finances and how they got to the life they’re living now.
The reason for this series is to showcase people who have already achieved what the ThreeYear family is working towards: location independence and/or securing international jobs. Today I’d like to introduce Jonathan, a Belgian financier and blogger who’s lived abroad for the past ten years. His story is really interesting, because he moved to Norway, then moved “abroad” to Paris for a year on a work assignment. Today he tells us why he took on that project and how it’s worked out for him.
Jon and I chatted via Skype and here’s what he had to tell us:
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
How did you make the decision to move internationally?
The first step to go to Norway was to join AIESEC (pronounced eye-sec), the international student organization. And they give opportunities to students around the world to do internships abroad. I joined that community to find a job abroad [Laurie: they’re one of the largest student organizations in the world that I’d never heard of, and are in the US, too, for those looking for internships abroad]. I didn’t have in mind to move to Norway specifically, but an opportunity came along there and I took it.
What was the process like for finding jobs?
I ended up living in Norway and I eventually changed companies to a more international one. It offered the possibility for expatriation abroad so I asked for it. After a few years, the opportunity came up (almost ten years after I first moved to Norway). In this company, it’s common to have people moving around. This opportunity came up to transfer to Paris, and they were looking for people in my field, so I talked within the company, and then I had an interview with the group in France, and it was done quite easily.
What was the best part of living and working in Paris?
Do you have any funny culture shock moments?
In Norway, there were a lot more shocks. I knew nothing when I moved there.
A first shocker was alcohol. They have monopoly shops for alcohol. It’s very restricted–you cannot buy it whenever you want. On Friday, past 8pm, you can’t buy alcohol in the supermarket. If I want to buy wine, I have to buy it before 6pm.
I tried to buy alcohol after 8 pm on a Saturday before going to a party. After a discussion with the cashier, needless to say, I came empty-handed to the party, but we all had a good laugh about it! Velkommen til Norge.
A funny shock for me is that Norway is a society of conformity. People have their own tastes in music, clothing, etc. but after living for a few months it is easy to see that general trends appear. I found much more variety in lifestyles of people from other countries.
One “positive shock” is that people are nice, trustful. When they say something, you can trust them. If they borrow your bike and say they’ll bring it back tomorrow, they will.
In Norway, it’s not very easy to chit-chat with random people. They keep the conversation to a minimum. In general, people aren’t very outgoing at first. But as time goes by, people will become more open.
It’s like a peach and an orange. In some countries, like Latin countries, people are easy to peel, but as time goes on, it gets harder to get into a closer friendship. But in Norway, at first it’s difficult to peel off the layer, but as time goes on they get easier to connect with and once that peel is removed they will be friends for life!
Why would you recommend a short term international assignment to someone? Or not?
For me it was easy because I’m single. I recommend doing it for your career. It’s great work experience. It felt almost like being in a different company, even though it was the same company. The projects and areas were different. For the career it’s very good. The financial part is good. If you want to save a buck or two, you can stash some money.
If you’ve never been abroad, it’s the experience of being challenged. It will put you out of your comfort zone.
Why should someone NOT go abroad? If you have a family and your kids need to go to school, it’s an interruption and harder to plan. Maybe your partner might not be in that same spirit. When you leave the company for one year or several years, people in the main office may forget about you. You’re not part of the meetings any more. I was in touch, but it’s easy to be forgotten. You’re a bit outside of the system. Depending on what you want to do, it can be a negative.
I have my friends in Norway, and we stayed in touch, but you’re missing out on events, on birthdays, on whatever.
All in all, it was a really positive experience, in general. Paris is not that bad [Laurie: Jon, I think you’re the king of understatement!]. If I went to a country where I didn’t like the food, speak the language, or connect with the people, it might have been a lot harder.
How has working remotely positively (or negatively) impacted your finances? (since this is a personal finance blog!).
It was quite attractive, because the company paid for my accommodations as well as other bonuses.
I started my blog around this point, and my goal was to help myself and others understand the basics of money (what is a stock? How is money created? What is an interest rate?…), to talk about it in a healthy way (debates on money and ethics, in which company should I invest? ), and to attain our financial goals (Real Estate, passive source of income…).
What are your future plans?
I came back to Norway in early 2017. I did some evaluations of where I want to be. Now, I’m deciding whether I want to stay in Norway or go somewhere else. I’m looking at my options. My family lives in Belgium, and while I lived in Paris, it was good to be close. My cousin came to visit while I was there, and I got to visit my family a lot. I could see myself moving to Paris, or Belgium, or simply a bit closer to home, to be closer to my family.
When it comes to investing, I do a little bit of everything. I’d like to continue in real estate. I’m fond of real estate. It’s easy to see and understand–there are capital gains and income. It’s possible to have a lot of creativity. It’s not easy, because it takes effort, but the numbers make sense to me.
At some point, I’d like to have a few units (why not one in Paris?), making enough to retire on that income.
Wow, Jonathan, great job with being proactive with your extra cash and eventually deciding to invest in real estate. It also sounds like you’d love to be closer to your family in the long run! I don’t blame you! Me, too!
Jonathan would love to have you visit his blog, and if you want to stay in touch, join the mailing list. He’s on Instagram and Facebook so you can connect with him there! Or just leave a comment in the comment section!