Relocate This!

House on Wheels - Elise Sheppard

Admittedly the fat days of ex-pat life seem to be a thing of the past, but being sent abroad by your company beats going on your own any day.

The story of being an expat is a story full of myths and misconceptions. Maybe in the past if you happened to be CEO (or admittedly in the present, if you're relocated to India), you were entitled to the lot: nanny, driver, gardener, cook, housekeeper. But either I work for the wrong institution, am not senior enough, or these perks have in fact never really existed for mere mortals.

Then again, it's always a matter of what you compare it to. When I moved to London to start my first job in banking, my employer's line was: "You want to work in London, so you have to deal with your own little relocation yourself." No assistance, no perks, nothing. I lined up a short-term rental in Hammersmith for what I thought back then was an extortionate price - £300/week. Not only was it a trek to commute to Canary Wharf, but the flat also turned out to be occupied not only by me, but also by a number of mice.

I had to deal with the administrative issues of getting set up in the UK, and I had to find out where I wanted to live in London and how. My company's take made sense to me. I had chosen to work in the UK, hence, it was my responsibility to deal with the implications. Of course, this time, the idea wasn't mine at all.

Compared to my deportation to Hammersmith eight years ago, this current relocation began on a cushier note. For starters, I was issued a corporate credit card for all 'related expenses'. A card for which I would never receive a bill - and for which abuse is a sackable offense. But then on a house-hunting trip, who could call taking one's spouse out for a candlelight dinner abuse?

Instead of a rodent-infested studio in W6, I now stay in a serviced apartment in the Knightsbridge-equivalent of Toronto. Whilst once upon a time I had to find my way to sunny Poplar in order to get my National Insurance Number in the UK, I now have a Destination Consultant who picks me up from the office and drives me to appointments for administrative issues.

My wife gets flown in to go house-hunting with me, and we can bank on the services of our Settling-In Agent to pre-screen neighbourhoods for their suitability. No touring around town on rainy weekends on the Tube, trying to find out where I would like to live.

However, it seems to me that in all this convenience, one thing always stays the same: after the dust of all the perks has settled, it is me who has to go and do some work.