Salary Negotiation 101 for Expats: The Ultimate Guide to Negotiating Salary in Another Country
Updated: Jun 19
Excited about your move to another country? Of course, it’s one of the most exciting life experiences! If you’re moving for work, it’s also a chance to make a fresh start, gain new skills, and advance your career.
However, negotiating your salary in another country is one of the biggest challenges you'll face when searching for a job abroad. Knowing what's a reasonable or fair salary for a new job in your new location is not easy.
That's why we have created this *ultimate* salary negotiation guide for expats.
Here you'll find answers to all your questions about negotiating a salary, including:
Bookmark this guide now and use it as a reference for your salary negotiations to get the best deal possible. Ready to learn more? Scroll down and let’s get into it.
How to calculate your target salary in another country?
Before we dive into salary negotiation tips and tricks, we need to cover the basics. Knowing your numbers is the first step in the negotiation process when you're moving to another country.
The best math you can learn is how to calculate the future cost of your current decisions.
The thing is, moving and working abroad requires careful planning and budgeting. So, as a starting point, you must know how your salary will be calculated and determine your ideal salary in a new location.
Fortunately, calculating your expat salary doesn’t have to be complicated, even if you’re unfamiliar with the market.
Here’s how to do it in five easy steps:
Step #1: Explore salaries for your industry and similar jobs.
Doing some research before engaging in salary negotiations is crucial. Knowing the local industry standards and average salaries for your profession or position can help you avoid being taken advantage of by employers who may try to lowball you. There are many online resources, including Glassdoor and Numbeo, that offer reliable information about average salaries in the country you'll be moving to. Start your research there.
Step #2: Research the cost of living in your host country.
The second step is understanding the cost of living in your host country. Different countries have different costs associated with day-to-day living expenses such as housing, food, transportation, etc. To find out how much money you’ll need each month to cover all of your expenses, research the average costs for those items in your new country. Use the cost of living calculator for assistance.
Step #3: Factor in local taxes and benefits.
Different countries offer different benefits and tax rates for their citizens. Remember to factor them into your calculations when estimating your expat salary abroad. Also, keep in mind that some countries offer additional incentives, such as housing subsidies or tax breaks for long-term expats. Add these additional benefits when calculating the worth of your overall compensation package.
Step #4: Calculate and decide on your target salary.
Once you know what it costs to live in your new country, compare that amount to what you currently make in wages and benefits at home. Again, Numbeo can help. This comparison will help you understand the salary needed to maintain or improve your living standards when you move abroad. And this is the minimum you should ask for when negotiating your salary.
Step #5: List your non-negotiables.
Besides the salary, make sure to write a list of your non-negotiables, such as a performance-based bonus, health insurance coverage, vacation days, and more. Knowing what you want to get out of the future opportunity and negotiations will help you make the most out of the process.
What else can you negotiate besides salary when moving abroad for work?
While most people automatically think of salary when they hear the word “negotiate,” there are many other things you can negotiate when moving abroad for work.
Let’s look at some other compensation elements that can be negotiated.
#1: Relocation expenses
Moving abroad is not cheap! When relocating, you'll have a range of expenses—packing and shipping your belongings, flight tickets, visa fees… the list goes on and on! Discuss relocation expenses with your employer before signing an employment contract. Many employers are willing to cover at least some of these expenses as part of a compensation package.
#2: Housing allowance
Some employers offer a housing allowance as part of their compensation package for expats, and it's also negotiable. Check with your future employer if they're willing to offer a housing allowance or increase it, if needed. Alternatively, ask if they can cover additional costs such as utilities or furniture rental. Keep in mind that renting prices vary widely by location, so make sure to do your research before making any requests.
#3: Visa help and assistance
Moving abroad often involves navigating complicated visa regulations and paperwork. Fortunately, many employers assist with visas and other immigration requirements. If you need a visa or work permit, ask about official support during negotiations to know what type of help will be available before and once you arrive in your new country.
#4: Tax support
Tax regulations vary widely from country to country, and some employers are even willing to provide assistance with filing and handling taxes in your new home. Asking for tax support in negotiations can make your life in a new country much easier. You may be able to get help from your employer or a trusted third-party provider. In addition, you should also research the tax regulations of your new country to understand what kind of tax breaks and deductions you may be eligible for.
#5: Settling-in support
Did you know that some employers offer settling-in support to help their international employees make the transition to their new homes? This may include language classes, cultural adjustment programs, or a small budget to cover expenses related to setting up your home and getting settled. Ask about these types of benefits during negotiations; they can make moving abroad much easier.
#6: Vacation time
Vacation time can also be negotiated when moving abroad for work. Many countries have different laws regarding vacation time and paid leave, so make sure to research local regulations before requesting more days off than what is offered by default.
#7: Pension and retirement plans
In some countries, employers are required to provide employees with a pension or retirement plan as part of their compensation package. However, depending on the country you’re moving to, your employer may not be legally obligated to do this. Confirm pension contributions while negotiating your compensation and check if they can be increased.
#8: Health insurance
Health insurance is often included in a compensation package, but it's important to check exactly what is covered under the healthcare plan. In some countries, health insurance plans may not cover certain medical procedures or treatments. If this is the case, ask your future employer to about supplement the existing plan with additional coverage.
#9: Life insurance
Finally, some employers provide life insurance as part of their compensation package. If this is something that would make you more comfortable with the move, discuss it with your employer during the negotiation process.
What is a typical expat package in Europe?
The specifics of an expat package depend largely on the employer, but it’s common for employers in Europe to include several components.
Besides a base salary, an expat package typically includes relocation expenses (covering travel, visa fees, and shipping costs), benefits such as health insurance or a pension plan, vacation time, tax support and advice, and settling-in support.
In addition to these standard components, some employers may also offer other perks such as language classes or housing allowances.
Remember—it’s important to research local laws and regulations to ensure that you understand your rights as an expat in Europe. Additionally, it’s wise to discuss all of these items with your employer during the negotiation process to ensure that you receive a fair and comprehensive compensation package.
Can you negotiate your salary in Europe?
Salary negotiation practices vary from country to country, and even from company to company.
But generally speaking, yes, it is possible to negotiate your salary in Europe.
However, the specifics of how to do this depend on the country you’re moving to and the employer you’ll be working for. Before you start negotiations, research industry standards in your new country so that you have a sense of what kind of salary is fair and competitive. Then you can use those figures as a starting point for negotiations.
HR tips for negotiating a salary when moving abroad
Now that you’ve got the data and information you need, it’s time to get into negotiations. To help you get the most out of it, here are a few HR tips for negotiating salary when moving abroad.
The Expat Salary Negotiation Do's
Let’s start with what you should do.
Do your research.
Make sure you are well-prepared before entering into negotiations. Conduct in-depth local market research and get clear on competitive salaries in your industry.
Also, define what benefits are important to you and how these might be included as part of your compensation package. Come equipped with well-structured arguments detailing why the offered salary should be increased based on factors such as market trends and your qualifications.
Understand what you want out of the negotiations.
Following the previous tip, it’s important that you think about what it is that you want out of it.
Are you looking for a higher salary? A better benefits package? More vacation days? All these things should be considered when formulating your negotiation strategy.
Once you've determined what it is that you want out of the negotiation, take some time to practice communicating this clearly and concisely so that there is no room for miscommunication during negotiations.
When negotiating your salary, remember that there is an actual person on the other side of the table who has their own needs and goals they are trying to meet. And this person will potentially be your new colleague.
Be respectful of their time, opinion, and culture. Show up prepared with facts and figures that support why they should pay you what you are asking for. Showing respect will go a long way.
Know when to compromise.
Negotiations involve give-and-take from both sides. Sometimes, making compromises can help move things along faster. If an employer has refused your initial demands but offered something else (e.g., more vacation days), consider whether this alternative offer could satisfy your needs instead of a higher salary—especially if other aspects of the job offer already meet or exceed your expectations.
Adjust your negotiating strategy.
It's important to remember that every culture has its own unique approach to negotiations. In some countries, talking about money is considered inappropriate and employers may not be willing to discuss salary with candidates until the very last point in the hiring process.
Be aware of cultural differences so that you don't accidentally offend anyone by making a demand before they're ready to hear it. Adjust your negotiating strategy to the employer's culture. And whenever you get to negotiations, negotiate in a polite and respectful way.
Be prepared to walk away.
No matter how prepared or confident you feel going into salary negotiations, there may be times when an employer refuses to budge on certain points or offers terms that are unacceptable to you.
In such cases, it pays (literally!) not to settle. Walk away from the deal you're not happy with—even if it means sacrificing short-term gains. Remember: there are plenty of opportunities out there, and if one door closes, another will eventually open!
The Expat Salary Negotiation Don'ts
Here’s what you should avoid while negotiating your salary for a job abroad.
Don't dismiss non-financial benefits.
A base salary doesn't always tell the whole story regarding the job offer value. Although money is the main point of consideration when deciding whether or not to accept a job offer, don't dismiss additional non-financial benefits.
Benefits like flexible work hours, health and wellness programs, career development opportunities, mentoring and training programs, or a positive workplace culture matter. They can significantly increase your job satisfaction and overall happiness down the road.
So, make sure to take benefits into account when considering your job offer.
Don't underestimate yourself.
Going into negotiations feeling undervalued or lacking in confidence can put you at a disadvantage. Trust us–it pays off to boost your morale beforehand by reminding yourself why the employer selected you from all the applicants and how much value you can bring through your skills.
Don't make it personal
Negotiating salary is often an emotional process, but it's important not to take it personally when discussing terms with potential employers. If something isn't working out during negotiations, try not to make assumptions about why that might be or get defensive if someone doesn't agree with your offer. Remain professional at all times.
Don't rush to accept an offer.
It's easy to feel pressured into accepting an offer right away due to excitement or fear of missing out on a great opportunity. But don't take any offer at face value until all negotiations have been completed satisfactorily. Even if you get offered everything you asked for, take at least 24 hours to review the offer, process everything, and confirm your decision to employers.
When considering offers from potential employers abroad, make sure they meet both your professional and personal expectations before committing. Once signed, contracts can often be difficult (or even impossible) to change later down the line, so this isn't something that you should rush into without due consideration.
Don't forget to get everything in writing.
Finally, make sure that all agreements are documented clearly in writing before signing on the dotted line—you want everything spelled out exactly how it was discussed, so there is no room for misinterpretation later on.
How to make a decision on the offer after salary negotiations?
You got an offer after negotiations? Congrats! You’ve made it through the toughest part. Now it’s time to make the final decision and determine if this job is right for you.
Take some time to review your offer and make sure that it meets your needs. Consider not only the salary, but also the benefits and other perks included in the package. Make sure to weigh all of these factors carefully before making a final decision.
Here are the most common green and red flags to keep in mind when deciding whether to accept a job offer.
5 signs you should accept a job abroad
To help you make the best decision for your future, here are five signs that you should consider accepting that offer.
1. The position fits your career goals: When considering any job offer, think about how this position fits into your long-term career goals. Consider accepting the offer if the job helps you develop skills and gain experience that will further your career. In addition, if the company has an international presence and offers growth opportunities, saying "yes" to this offer could be amazing for your further development.
2. You like the company and team: It’s important to have a positive feeling about the company and the people you'll be working with. Does the company have a good reputation? Did you like the managers and colleagues you met during the hiring process? Do you think you would enjoy their work environment? If yes, these are all signs that this might be the right fit for you.
3. The benefits are great: If the offer comes with additional benefits such as free housing, travel allowance, health insurance coverage, and more, the chances are your move will be worth it.
4. You feel comfortable with the offer: Even if the offer is not exactly what you asked for, it’s essential that you feel comfortable with the terms and confident in your decision. If the salary seems fair and competitive, the job satisfies all of your “must-haves”, and you feel like you can learn a lot from this position, then the offer might be worthwhile.
5. You are genuinely excited about it: Taking on new roles or living in unfamiliar places can be quite intimidating at first, but if you feel genuinely excited about taking on this opportunity, then it's worth exploring it further. After all, life is too short not to take risks every once in a while!
5 signs you shouldn't accept a job abroad
Although you may be tempted to accept the first job offer that comes your way just to make your dream of moving, living, and working abroad come true, you shouldn’t rush into it. It’s a huge life decision, and if you’re not careful, you could end up in a situation that's far from ideal.
Here are five warning signs that show you should think twice before accepting a job offer.
1. The communication was poor: If you weren't able to get important questions answered, or communication throughout the hiring process seemed poor, this might be a signal that you won’t get the support or resources you need throughout your move and once you join the team. Poor communication throughout a hiring process can be a sign of deeper problems within the organization, so be wary.
2. There are no meaningful benefits: The benefits associated with a job are becoming increasingly important. If there are no benefits included, such as healthcare, pension contributions, or paid time off, consider looking into some other options instead.
3. You don’t have a clear career path: If the job doesn’t indicate how you might progress within the company, it may be best to look for something else. Nobody wants to feel stuck in their current role without room for movement or personal growth, especially in a foreign country.
4. You're unsure what your responsibilities will be: Do you know what you will do and what the expectations are for the first three to six months? Make sure you understand exactly what is expected of you upon accepting the position, so there are no surprises later on down the line. If you can get a clear confirmation about the responsibilities in your new role, it's better to look for another opportunity with clearer expectations.
5. Your gut feeling is telling you "no": Even if all of the above points check out, if your gut is telling you something doesn’t feel right, it might be a good idea to take some time to evaluate the offer further and look into other options. The last thing you want is to force yourself into a situation that makes you uncomfortable. If something feels wrong about the job offer, don't be afraid to walk away and continue looking for something better suited for you.
Trust your gut feeling. If something feels wrong about the job offer, don't be afraid to walk away and continue looking for something better suited for you.
With a little research and preparation, negotiating a salary for a job abroad doesn't have to be dreadful. Knowing the reasonable and fair market value for the job you’re targeting, understanding what additional benefits you can expect, and getting clear on what matters most to you personally, are key components in successfully negotiating salary when relocating abroad. Take all these factors into account before signing on any dotted lines.
Use this guide as a reference to prepare for and navigate salary negotiations so that you can successfully secure the best possible expat package for yourself and move to another country comfortably.
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Matilda Patsou & Ana Colak-Fustin
Matilda and Ana, the founders of MoreThanCareers, are expats, international corporate recruiters and HR professionals with 18+ years of combined HR experience. Since 2018, our career-building techniques, tools and resources have helped over 500 coaching clients and 8,000 individuals worldwide land new, more fulfilling, higher-paying and career-changing jobs.