When you think about moving abroad, you have to decide on a destination first. Most of us Europeans choose a country not far from their home country. For Americans or Canadians it's different. Many of them want to move to Europe! Many... but not all.
Today's expat story is about Victoria from Toronto, Canada. After spending a semester in the Czech Republic she decided to move to Hong Kong for work. Amazing destination to follow her passion for exploring local cultures and foods!
Today, she's living in Paris and working for AssoConnect, an internationally growing SaaS start-up whose mission it is to support non profit organizations! I'm more than happy that she took the time to do this interview for Next Station and I hope you enjoy it! :)
Victoria's Expat Story
It’s been a while that you decided to leave Canada and start a new life abroad. Tell us your story... What made you take this decision?
After I graduated from the University of Toronto I spent the summer travelling around Europe with my best friend and really started to feel like Toronto may not be the city for me after all. The job market was slow at the time and I was super lucky to get a good opportunity as soon as I got back and stayed in it for a year, but I knew I wanted to go live somewhere new. I had some friends who had come back from living abroad and they loved their experiences, so I decided to take a leap of faith and go myself.
Was it hard for you to find a job? How long did it take?
It was actually incredibly easy to find my first international role, but I was also not being incredibly picky. I had no idea what to look for, I was mostly interested in getting set up as quickly as possible. I was referred to a company by a friend and the process went smoothly. I started interviewing in the beginning of July and was on a plane with my visa in hand by mid-August.
I can imagine that finding a job in Hong Kong is not the same as in Paris ;). Which differences did you experience?
In Hong Kong there was definitely a lot more opportunity for English speakers. They work primarily in English in most industries which always comes as somewhat as a surprise when I tell people! There are also massive industries, like finance, who are always hiring and recruiting Westerners. It was also a lot easier to get working visas, so the incentive was there for companies to sponsor their employees.
In France however, I found it's mostly a requirement to speak some level of French to get a great job, and this was a huge hurdle for me because although I am Canadian, my French is beginner at best!
As you’ve been living in different countries – and on different continents – for a while now, do you plan on going back to Canada one day?
Canada is beautiful and it will always be my first home, so never say never, but I cannot imagine myself going back right now. I love living internationally for so many different reasons: the people, the new cultures, the opportunities for travel, and so much more. Now that I am only a 6 hour flight away from home, rather than the 15 I was from Hong Kong, it is even easier to say I will be staying long-term.
From my experience, leaving your family behind for such a long time can be really hard, especially when you move to a different time zone. How did this feel for you in the beginning? Did anything change later on?
It was definitely hard to begin with. It is so important to put yourself out there and meet expats who understand how you’re feeling, have gone through it, and can give you the best advice on how to deal with it. You realize very quickly all the things you’re feeling have been shared and felt by every other person who has ever left home!
As soon as I figured out all the little things like where to buy my groceries or where my favourite coffee shop was, everything normalized quickly. I would say it took me a solid 6 months to get my footing and learn my new home, but after that it was smooth sailing!
As for the timezones, it was actually not bad at all, and I loved waking up everyday to messages from my friends and family back home. Everyone really is only a phone call away if you need them.
Is there anything extraordinary that you experienced during your time in China or France that could have never happened if you didn’t move abroad?
While in Hong Kong, I truly met the most amazing group of friends that I will know forever. When you’re abroad, you tend to connect so much faster with people because there is a shared mentality or understanding as to why you left home! You form super fast and intimate relationships as people are constantly coming and going, which can be a challenge sometimes, but it also means you have a constant flow of new people to get to know.
"I now know so many different people from around the world, how cool is that!"
Does that mean most of the friends you made are also expats? What about the locals?
Ya honestly, almost all of my friends have been fellow expats. Getting to know the locals in Hong Kong was hard, apart from colleagues I did not really know any local people, unless they were like Canadians who were also Hong Kong citizens and just living and working there. In France it is a lot easier because you have more in common, more shared culture, etc.
Victoria & Next Station
You joined the Next Station platform at a very early stage. How was your experience? What did you like? Or not, as we’re always improving ;).
I feel like I was one of the first! I had a great experience with Next Station, I mean you guys helped me to get the amazing job I have now! I appreciated that I knew who I was working with, and you all always made sure to check in with me about my interviews and results. I have recommended Next Station to so many friends and expats I have met in France.
I’m sure you’ve been looking for jobs on various job boards/websites before finding the Next Station platform. Where exactly did you look? What makes us different in your eyes?
What was great about Next Station was that you submitted my profile to the company on my behalf and set up the introductions for me, which meant I went into the interview knowing a bit about what the company was looking for specifically in a candidate.
Would you recommend us to your friends? Why?
Absolutely! I think there is such a market for Next Station and I am sure you are going to help so many people (and many that I know!) find their new international roles.
Can you think of 3 characteristics that describe Next Station?
Honest, Proactive, and Personable.
And to finish this off, if a friend told you that they think about moving abroad, what’s your first advice?
Don’t settle! Take the time to look for the right role for you, because it is out there!
Anything more you want to share with us or our readers?
Create a profile and see if Next Station can help you! You won’t regret it.