When the economy tanked in Spain and half of our company was laid off in one week back in 2010, the first thing I did was to declare to my friends and family that I wanted to take on a new adventure. Barcelona is fabulous but after living there for eight years – longer than any other place since my childhood – I longed for something exotic and different. New weekend trip possibilities, new sights, new smells. The top spots on my list were Bangalore, Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo. So when I finally landed a job in Bangalore back in April, you can imagine how thrilled I was. But relocating isn’t always sunshine and rainbows… and it can actually turn out to be quite costly for the person who is being relocated as you will see.
This was my first experience relocating to a new country for work. It was also the company’s first time relocating someone, so we were both 100% inexperienced when it came to the details and the realities of executive relocation. I mean, I was sooooo green that I basically negotiated the cost of things for my “package” using a technique like early pilots did when they were trying to determine the direction of the wind, licking a finger and holding it up in the air. Honestly, it’s a bit embarrassing.
Anyway, some of the mistakes I made are coming back to haunt me now and I can tell you that I definitely didn’t do enough research when I was first here for my interviews.
For starters, we quickly estimated the “logistical relocation” costs to move my furniture, to fly me and my daughter over, etc. in 30 seconds by tossing numbers around. And since I had no idea and didn’t research it enough, I allowed the company to add “Relocation, up to $5,000” into my contact. Unfortunately, that only covered my flight and moving the furniture. I was obligated to pay the $1,800 it cost to move our two cats, which was a major pain in the rear to secure their kitty passports, import certificates, visas, microchip them, two set of vet visits, overnight “pet hotel” accommodations in Germany with Lufthansa, etc… My tourist visa (150 Euros) and my employment visa (230 Euros) were not reimbursed because I hit that $5,000 maximum already. On top of that I personally paid a few hundred Euros for the extra baggage fees when I first flew over, and – what seems completely wrong to me – I am now having to pay for my daughter’s air travel for her move over.
Back when I interviewed, we had really fun chats about life here. The general consensus was that my monthly expenses should come to no more than $1,500, including a driver, my daughter’s school, housing, maid, food, etc. Wow!! That sounded pretty darn good to me after living in Europe and California throughout my whole life!!
Some things are MUCH less expensive like food and clothes…it’s fantastic. I learned recently about the quality and workmanship of Indian garments on an emergency shopping trip in Goa when I bought two stunning dresses that cost about $12 each. That sure beats spending hundreds of dollars on a dress at a designer store 🙂
The international schools are slightly cheaper here, but not “India” cheap. My daughter and I selected the Canadian International School for her IB program and both the campus and school curriculum are amazing. If the pool there had waiters and Thai beds around it I swear it could pass for a Nikki Club with a stunning view of the lake in the valley below. The school even boasts that 50% of graduates receive scholarships to universities like UCLA…so I am certainly not complaining about the fees. But the reality of the fees wasn’t much of a change from Barcelona, (just for clarity, tuition was not part of my relocation package).
Rental properties in Bangalore are insanely diverse. There are flats there that are so opulent there was no way I could afford them on my single salary. I saw other flats that one of the real estate agents showed me that I basically took one look at and turned around to leave for one reason or another. I think part of my problem is that I spent so many years in California before my move to Europe living in a big house with a nice big pool in the back yard and tons of space. Then my daughter and I moved to Sitges, Spain, which is an amazing seaside village just south of Barcelona, where we lived in a smaller flat but we were located just one block from the Mediterranean Sea and could see the sea from our building. So perhaps in part it was leaving that relaxed and quiet seaside village and moving to a busy, loud and densely packed city that made selecting a new home so tough. I wanted some air and to not be surrounded by neighbors 100%. What gave me a heart attack though was the price of the rentals. I mean, the places I was looking at were just “nice” flats…nothing out of this world, nothing over-the-top extravagant or bling blingy. Permanent housing was never part of my relocation agreement so when I went out flat hunting I knew good and well that I was going to be paying the rent each month myself. In the end my rent was almost triple what I had been told to expect by the company during my interview, and strangely enough it is almost twice what I paid in Spain.
Then comes the INSANE security deposit rule for rental properties. In Bangalore they require a 10 month deposit in order to finalize a lease. So you do the math but in a “nice” flat the amount could be tens of thousands of dollars deposit. I knew about this already when I went for my interview so “Support with deposit financing” was added to my contract…and thank goodness given that my rental was three times more costly than what I had expected.
Food is one thing that is tremendously cheaper here than in Europe or the U.S. Not only are restaurants cheaper (quite a nice meal out might cost $20 with a glass of wine) but food shopping is really fun here in Bangalore. As an example, today I bought a huge aubergine (eggplant) for $0.20, a six-pack of ramen noodles for just over $1, two chicken breasts for $1.50 and 200 grams of raw ginger for $0.08. Unfortunately wine is subject to 400% tax here in Bangalore so no more vino for me. I miss it…in Spain we often drink wine with lunch and dinner so to be cut off cold turkey is rough, believe me! But even a bottle of a low-end Torres like Sangre de Toro costs about $25. So, adios vino!
I do not regret moving to India – not even for one moment. This country is amazing and I can’t wait to see how my life unfolds here. But next time I will definitely do my homework before signing the dotted line on a relocation agreement. To be honest, it was just inexperience on my part and on the part of the company. I am sure that they did not intentionally low-ball the agreement. And I didn’t intentionally let things slip in order to land the job. But between my extra baggage, the tourist and employment visas, the cats and my daughter’s air tickets I was forced to contribute close to $4,000 to the relocation package — which was almost HALF! Then, when I was laid off a week ago by the company due to a change in strategy and in an effort to cut costs, they felt that it was most appropriate that I repay the flat deposit loan that same day. Well, that was equal to my entire 3-month severance pay. So I left the company with nothing. At the time, I had enough cash to last me two weeks but I have no way to pay my upcoming bills, rent, shop for food, fly my daughter over here before school starts, etc. So on top of all the normal expenses I expected to pay when I arrived in India like setting up home and paying school deposit fees, etc… my move to India has cost me an additional $22,000+ that I didn’t expect.
Luckily I have landed a fun, new job but I won’t receive a first check until late August or early September based on the nature of the position.
I fully believe that everything has been handled “legally” with my layoff but I promise you… it is an odd feeling to be in this situation. If I was married, or even just single, I probably wouldn’t be as concerned but as a single mom who hasn’t received a cent of child support in years, it definitely sucks 🙁
My advice: if you are considering a move for a new job take your time with the details. You’ll be happy that you did!
XOXO from Bangalore
© Angela Carson and Angela’s Adventures in Bangalore blog and photos, 2011