West Europe & CEE: The perfect fit

to Europe can be likened to doing a jigsaw, says Liz Simpson. The challenge is
to fit all the pieces together to see the whole picture and take into account
the regional variations

relocation experience has been likened to a jigsaw where all the pieces are
jumbled up and, while you know what the final picture should look like, it’s
difficult to know where to begin. In an effort to try to simplify the
situation, HR professionals often use the umbrella term "Europe"
which masks the fact that many different employment rules and regulations apply
in the countries that make up west, central and eastern Europe, and also fails
to communicate to employees that Europeans are not a homogenous group but
comprise many distinct cultures.

professionals don’t necessarily need to know all the country-specific
details," points out John Arcario, senior vice-president and general
manager of Cendant International Assignment Services. "They need good
resources such as local in-country destination providers whose specific
knowledge regarding day-to-day living, government requirements and housing
selection will ensure a smooth transition and successful assignment."

the first place to start – before tackling the logistics – is to consider the
factors that determine the suitability of a particular assignee for that
posting. Relocation is known to be psychologically challenging for employees
and their families and some moves may be potentially more problematic than

destination country is the key determinant here," says Arcario.
"Since there is a strong degree of disparity and diversity within Europe
it’s essential to consider the degree of variance between the new country and
the national culture of origin. Issues to bear in mind include how similar the
school systems are to those in the home country, whether the spouse can easily
get a work permit and the infrastructure for transportation and

Mirrer, an American interim global HR executive with many years of experience
of living and working throughout Europe, reinforces the importance of that last
issue, saying, "Someone from the American mid-west can be sent to Paris
and hate it just because they’re not used to city life. Few HR professionals
address this issue of the disparity between urban and non-urban living.

way around this is to send a US suburbanite to New York, for example, before
relocating them to a big European city so that they can experience everyday
city stresses. That way they are prepared for the fact that travelling by car
isn’t feasible in some European cities."

you’re sure the new location is a suitable fit for the employee (including the
spouse at briefings and arranging a prior "look-see" trip is a
worthwhile investment) how do you begin to cover all the issues that overseas
relocations entail?

such as family needs and support, credit status, suitable housing, taxation
(credits as well as deductions), social welfare contributions and employment
rights need to be addressed. Have you factored in specific needs such as a
chauffeur-driven car for high crime areas like Warsaw?

are three things that must be accomplished when posting employees abroad,"
says Gordon J Kerr, managing director of Morton Fraser Relocation.
"Minimum disruption and no financial cost to the transferee and their
family; minimum financial cost to the company and minimum admin burdens for HR

burden of managing international relocation can be reduced or eliminated by
various degrees of outsourcing. Indeed, one of the essential factors of
efficient relocation management in Europe, as elsewhere, is a high-quality
partner/supplier network."

addition to outsourcing the provision of such matters as work permits,
removals, tax services, home search and the legal aspects of house purchase or
rental, choosing a partner with a relocation management company ensures you’re
tapped into a rich vein of up-to-date, factual information and first-hand

Kerr points out, "Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles to this issue in
Europe is that given the variety of relevant issues, multiplied by the variety
of countries, is it really possible for one person – or indeed any one
organisation – to be truly expert in all aspects of European mobility?" 

course, potential problems don’t cease once the employee has moved to the new
country. Not only does relocation rob them of the inherent cultural
understanding they took for granted on their home turf, but also the
long-standing personal and professional networks that are so essential to
everyday living.

experience has shown that organisations and relocation companies provide
limited support after the move," says Colin Fish, managing director of
Inbound UK which provides its members with a tailor-made concierge service in
addition to many other solutions that individuals require when relocating to
the United Kingdom.

personal coordinator is allocated to each member for the duration of their
assignment with extra specialist advice on insurance, transportation,
communications and so on, given as and when needed," adds Fish.

gone to all the time, effort and expense of smoothing your employee’s path to
their new European home, don’t forget that the little details of life – such as
knowing where to find reliable child care, purchase theatre tickets, find a recommended
Chinese restaurant or good-value language tuition – can mean the difference
between a positive relocation experience and an increasingly challenging one.

and budgets of expatriates living in various locations:

Single                           Couple                         Couple
with two Children

(BEF)             90,450                         126,000                       161,500
(US$)                           2,000                           2,800                           3,500

Frankfurt (DM)            3,600                           6,200                           8,000
(US$)                           1,600                           2,800                           3,600
Athens (GRD)              777,000                       980,000                       1,700,000
(US$)                           2,000                           2,500                           4,400
Amsterdam (NLG)       3,890                           5,660                           6,720
(US$)                           1,550                           2,300                           2,700
London (GBP)             1,600                           2,700                           3,100
(US$)                           2,300                           3,800                           4,400
Lisbon (PTE)                450,150                       610,920                       803,850
(US$)                           2,000                           2,700                           3,500
Madrid (ESP)               240,230                       400,390                       560,540
(US$)                           1,300                           2,100                           3,000
Warsaw (PLZ)             13,000                         18,500                         25,000
                      3,000                           4,300                           5,800

The data elements used in calculating the cost of living index are: housing 33
per cent; utility 8 per cent; consumables 16 per cent; transportation 10 per
cent; other services 33 per cent. Movement in exchange rates can skew these
comparisons over time, which is why up-to-date information is so important.
Bear in mind, when viewing the high cost of living in Warsaw, for example, that
Poland’s inflation is much higher than other parts of Europe, particularly the


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