Going on an Internal Transfer to Hamburg, Germany with Andrew Klint
In this episode of the Expat Empire Podcast, we will be hearing from Andrew Klint about internal transfer to Hamburg, Germany. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Andrew started traveling at 18 years old and never stopped. He pursued an opportunity to work in Hamburg, Germany through his employer and had an unforgettable two years in Europe.
Andrew shares all the ins and outs of finding, applying for, and making the most of international transfers in the corporate world, so take notes if you want to leverage your job in another country!
LEARN in this episode:
✔ The pros and cons of doing an internal transfer to work in another country
✔ How to set yourself up to leverage your career to go abroad
✔ Tips for negotiating your salary and relocation package to the new country and for renegotiating your salary upon returning to your home office again
✔ How to make a long-distance relationship work even when international work opportunities get in the way
FIND Andrew at:
► LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrewklint/
► Email: andrew.klint [at] gmail.com
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Video Episode Transcript
Welcome to the Expat Empire Podcast, the podcast where you can hear from expats around the world and learn how you can join them.
Hey guys, before we get to the interview, I want to remind you that we’re offering free 30-min consulting calls to anyone interested in moving abroad.
Whether you’re thinking about retiring somewhere warm, starting an international career, or becoming a digital nomad, we’re ready to help you think through the next steps in your journey.
Send us a message at https://expatempire.com to schedule your call today!
With that said, let’s start the conversation.
Going on an Internal Transfer to Hamburg, Germany with Andrew Klint – Conversation:
David McNeill: [00:00:46] Hey Andrew, thanks so much for joining us today on the Expat Empire Podcast.
Andrew Klint: [00:00:50] Thanks, David; I’m happy to be here.
David McNeill: [00:00:51] Yeah, it’s awesome to have you on the show, I know you’ve been on the list to be a guest for quite some time, and we know each other from way back in the day. We’ve basically grown up together, so it’s awesome to be able to hear your story. Of course, I know good bits and pieces of it, but to be able to hear it from the beginning and just share it with our listeners as well.
Andrew Klint: [00:01:06] Well, thank you, happy to share.
David McNeill: [00:01:10] Well, if you could tell us a bit about where you’re originally from, where around the world you’ve lived so far, and where you’re living right now, that’d be great.
Andrew Klint: [00:01:15] Sure, so, I live currently in Los Angeles, California, born and raised in Los Angeles, and have actually spent most of my life here. I’ve probably lived in 5 or 6 different parts of the city that I’m happy to talk about. Or anyone who’s interested in LA, I know most of the corners of LA but was born and raised here. Went to university here at the University of Southern California and started my career here as well, working in downtown Los Angeles. In fact, the only place that I’ve lived outside of Los Angeles really is Germany in Hamburg, Germany, where I’ve done some work. And I think is really what we’re going to be talking about in this episode. I did spend some time in San Francisco. I think I had 4, 3 months rotations up there. So I don’t know if you’d throw that together and say 1 year in San Francisco. Maybe that counts for something but outside of Hamburg, Germany, I’m primarily Los Angeles.
David McNeill: [00:02:15] Great, yeah, we’ll definitely get into your German experiences, that’ll be the main thrust of today’s conversation. But I know that you’re also an avid traveler, so could you talk a little bit about your travel experiences and maybe how many countries you’ve been to? What have been some standout experiences for you if you have any in mind?
Andrew Klint: [00:02:30] Absolutely, absolutely. So I took my first international trip when I was probably 18 years old to Germany, sort of symbolically which has become a theme throughout the rest of my life and my career. And that was a trip I took with my brother. I was a kind of clueless recent high school graduate and really didn’t have much of an interest in traveling or living abroad. I remember when my brother was trying to convince me to come on the German trip with him and I was looking at the German; like the hotel room when we were looking to book hotels and hostels and stuff. You know how they have weird bed-like mattresses and what is the word? It’s like the comforter, that’s like an individual comforter and they roll it up a certain way.
And I was like, that looks weird, that doesn’t look comfortable, why do I want to go there? Like I was kind of trying to make every excuse as to why I shouldn’t go on; what turned out to be a 3-day trip to Germany. And the reason why we went was; because it was a fluke airfare, I think we flew roundtrip from LAX to Frankfort for like $280. My standpoint was like, why am I doing this? I don’t even know if I’m going to like it, I’m going to be miserable. My brother was like, oh my gosh, $280 and you can see a new country and you’ve never been out of the country before, except for like Canada, maybe. So that was our first trip. And I was, you know, colloquially or, or symbolically, I was bit by the travel bug at that point. And from then on my brother and I took a trip at least 2 to 3 times a year, probably together went to 25 countries. And then at that point sort of invigorated on my own, I started doing some solo travel myself. I went to South America by myself; I went to the Middle East by myself in the end, ultimately focused on wanting to live abroad. And when I did live abroad, obviously did quite a bit of travel while I was there.
I think in total, I’ve been to 45 countries all over the world, Asia, Africa, obviously Europe, Central America, South America probably stand out travel experiences for me would be, I truly love Germany. And again, that’s ultimately where I ended up living for 2 years and a lot of people say, well, why not Italy? Why not, you know, some of these other places that are more typical for Americans to target? And for me, Germany was just the perfect combination of everything to like about Europe and its cleanliness and efficiency and quality. I’ll say as well as sort of the American spirit of work hard and pay off. And I just genuinely liked it there, I liked all the quirks and that’s the country that I had visited most often before moving there. And it’s still the place today where I’d love to go and, you know if I was going to pick any country to live in that would probably be it.
That said there are a lot of great places to visit, probably my favorite place to visit and I’ve been there twice now is Israel the holy lands. I just think that there’s amazing history there and amazing cultures and clashing of sort of civilizations and ideals. And it’s amazing to just be a part of that and witness said, and it was just a lot of fun to be had there too so went there two years ago for the second time. But I also like Asia; I think that Asia is; if you’re looking for just a complete culture change from the United States or a complete culture change for Southern California. Hitting up an Asian city, whether it’s Shanghai, Beijing, or even parts of Thailand or Vietnam is just so different, the streets and the sounds and the smells and the food is just such a change from the culture here in the United States. And I really find that you know, it brings value, it makes me appreciate being at home more, not that I like home better necessarily, but you really come to appreciate that there are places in this world that are truly unique. And that your life experience can be different based on where you live and determines how you spend your time, what you eat, and things like that, experience to travel the world and to experience other cultures.
David McNeill: [00:06:32] Yeah, definitely, I know that’s something that has brought us together over the years, in fact, that we spent some good months together while you were in Germany. So as we kind of move into that topic, because that’ll definitely be the focus for this discussion, I’d love to know how you originally got interested in Germany. Of course, you had that first trip when you were 18, but if I remember correctly, you were also learning German back in high school. So how did that start for you?
Andrew Klint: [00:06:55] That’s right; that’s right, so my grandmother was born in the US but to German immigrant parents. And this was before world war one, which was the first war where Germany was the enemy of the United States. So she actually grew up in Indiana speaking German at home, all the newspapers were in German, it was like very much Germany in the United States at that time. Now, once world war one happened, it was kind of like, uh oh, we’re Americans now, so, you know, they started speaking English more and the German publications waned and whatnot. But really my grandmother started teaching me German at a young age, not so much to speak it fluently, but to just learn how to say good morning and good night, things like that.
And it was always kind of part of our culture, part of our identity. I feel like as Americans, you know, we often use our cultural heritage as sort of an identifying factor in who we are. And so for me, even though I’m only, I think 25% German, which was always the one that I kind of graft on to and said, oh yeah. And so that kind of led me to study German in high school and I ended up taking a semester in community college as well before I transferred to the university.And that’s kind of where, and at least in my mind I lost interest in German because I had taken these classes, I didn’t have much of a desire to go visit these places. It was just like, okay, this is cool and now let’s move on and do something else with my life. But when I transferred to USC, there’s a foreign language requirement as part of my degree program. And I actually tried to get out of that requirement because I had taken three years in high school and a semester in community college.
And so I go to take the placement exam and I was very confident and finished the exam very quickly and got placed right back into level one. So I was like, darn it, I have to retake two semesters of college German at USC paying exorbitant tuition because I obviously didn’t pay attention in high school. And so it was at USC that I actually started learning it. I don’t know if it’s like a third time’s the charm kind of thing, or if I just had really good professors which I would say that I did. But I pretty soon got to the point where I was actually picking it up pretty well.
And people, you know, people would say like, oh, wow, like, have you ever lived in Germany because you know, your conversation skills are good. And I took a few trips to Germany during that time as well, sort of got to practice over there. And at that point really got the feel for life there and realized that it might be something that. The other piece I would focus on that I think will come up later, but because this was sort of later in my college career that I started having an interest in German I really didn’t have an opportunity to study abroad. It was something that I probably in hindsight would have loved to do, but you know when you’re a transfer student; you’re trying to get in and out as fast as possible. And, you know, delaying one semester or one semester of tuition to go live abroad for a semester, just didn’t seem like a practical thing for me.
David McNeill: [00:09:56] Right, so then coming out of university, you started your career; I guess the plan was never initially for you to try to work in Germany. Obviously, that opportunity came down the road, but what were you thinking coming out of your degree program, and in fact, what type of career did you ultimately get into?
Andrew Klint: [00:10:13] Great question; so if you asked me what I studied in school, I’ll tell you I studied accounting. If you asked me what I was interested in as a 22-year-old, I would tell you Germany, which was like my interesting thing; I was one class short of a minor in German in college. And so when you’re at a party and people are like, well, what do you study, it’s like, well, my major is accounting, but I am actually interested in Germany. That was a more interesting thing for me to talk about or be passionate about. But I was going down the CPA path, which is getting a job in public accounting, which is working for a large accounting firm and basically doing auditing and other types of accounting-related work for large clients.
But I would say when I was going through my recruiting season; my interest was to work internationally at some point, I didn’t know what that would look like, where that would look like, but actually chose the firm that I worked for; I currently work for. In part because they had those types of opportunities, it’s a global firm, we’re located in 110 countries around the world. And when I was going through recruiting, I actually interacted with a lot of people who had either come to work in the US from abroad, from Ireland, from the Philippines, from South Africa, the UK, so on and so forth. As well as; has gotten to know people that were US-based that did get to do work abroad, whether it was a rotation or a longer-term relocation. So I went in knowing that that was always going to be a possibility for me, didn’t know what it would look like at the time, but it was definitely something that was a priority and choosing one accounting firm over another.
David McNeill: [00:11:46] So, to the end, though, of course, when they’re wining and dining, you, and you’re in the middle of the recruiting process, they’re going to say, oh yeah, of course, you could go to X country. In your case, Germany, you know, they’re going to say all of that stuff, but did you have a strong sense that it was really possible? Or was it kind of like, hey, it’s nice if that opportunity might be there, but I recognize that the chances might be low or maybe things don’t work out? What was kind of your thought process going into it?
Andrew Klint: [00:12:13] So it’s funny about the wining and dining, I know that you worked in corporate America for a while, so you’re no stranger to the way that works sometimes. But you know, what it came down to again, was being able to just meet people who had actually done it themselves. It wasn’t just a program that HR talks about that, like you said, oh, apply and we’ll get back to you kind of thing. I actually sat across the table with individuals who had made it happen and had their input as to how the process would actually work and how hard or easy it would be.
David McNeill: [00:12:49] So, when you started that career obviously, probably day one I would assume you weren’t saying, hey, Mr. Manager, Mr. Boss, I’m ready to go to Germany now. So how did you navigate this first couple of years and how did you set yourself up to be in a position to make it happen?
Andrew Klint: [00:13:04] Sure, sure. So I would say a lot of it was luck, but I can say with hindsight, a few things that were really helpful. And again, this is probably specific to my career or professional services in general, but you know you come to learn that one of the easiest ways to get a job abroad is to have a skill that is not you know, that is in demand somewhere else. Because that just streamlines the visa process and you know, similar to the H-1 visa in the United States, you can sort of cut inline in other countries, and the approval it’s easy. And one of those skills that are sort of inherently exclusive to the United States is the accounting standards that are in the United States. Being a CPA in the US, knowing the US generally accepted accounting principles which is sort of the language of an accountant here is considered to be a very highly technical skill abroad.
The reason for that part is just, for better or for worse, it’s the US dominance in securities markets and the fact that we listed companies, which have to report under the US GAAP by law. You don’t have subsidiaries all around the world and all those subsidiaries need to be audited to the US standards. So by being a US CPA, you are sort of automatically qualified to have those special skills that other people don’t have around the world. And for someone else to become a US CPA is like this, someone living outside of the United States is extremely challenging. And so that was kind of the ticket for differencing yourself or setting yourself up from the standpoint of the receiving firm, wanting you and being able to use you.
As it relates to the US firm that I was working for and kind of setting myself up for success there it just had to do with taking on responsibility and showing that I could handle the tasks that they gave to me. Because ultimately the way that the arrangement works is that the US firms send you to a hosting firm abroad basically on their recommendation. You know, I can touch on this briefly, but my interview to go work in Germany was a joke for all intents and purposes. They basically wanted me to clarify the experience that I had, but there were no technical questions to stump me. There was no, really, I would say objective analysis of whether or not I would be a good fit over there. They were really taking my qualifications and my good standing in the US firm as sufficient to bring me.
David McNeill: [00:15:46] So how many years did you work at that firm before this opportunity presented itself? And I guess I should probably say, did it present itself sort of naturally, or how did you go about really making your intention known?
Andrew Klint: [00:15:57] Sure, sure; great question. Four and a half years was the time I worked in the US before I moved abroad. I did play a part in making it happen to myself, which is not always the way it works, but probably one key takeaway for the listeners who might be in a similar situation is I sort of made this happen in reverse. So the official policy, if you look on my company’s intranet page, is to talk to your local leadership and then apply for a program and then look for open slots that may be advertised. And then at that point, you would get in contact with the member firm abroad and, you know, that’s the way the process would work. And there could be quite a bit of lead time and of course, nothing is guaranteed. I actually found someone who was already working in Germany for my firm as the US we call them second.
I don’t know if that’s a common term in the industries. But I went right to him and, you know, people are always willing to help other people. And so I called him, you know, American to American more or less and said, hey, I want to do what you’re doing. How can I do this? And he immediately put me in touch with the lead partners of the firm in Germany and basically started the process backward. And so I got a little bit of flack from HR in the United States because they’re like, oh, well, you’re supposed to apply through us. But now they’re calling me saying, they want you over there, how can, you know, the next time to do it the right way.
But in the end, it doesn’t really matter because that was, you know, them wanting me was the requirement, to begin with, a formality. But then the other; I think the other important piece is the firm that I worked for was large enough that I was a little bit more expendable. It’s kind of, you don’t want to either work in a smaller firm or be in such a place where the US can’t let you go or doesn’t have an incentive to let you pursue your own dreams basically. And so I think that was another advantage of being at a firm that was large enough to be able to fill the gaps that I left while at the same time, equipping me to be in a position to be advantageous to the firm.
David McNeill: [00:18:07] It sounds like not only did you have the specialized skills, indeed, that would be useful in an international context. But on top of that, you were in a large enough company to where that, of course, they had the offices there in the first place. But then on top of that, they had the flexibility and really the slack to be able to allow you these opportunities; is that right?
Andrew Klint: [00:18:27] Absolutely; and you know, the other thing I’ll say which sort of gets back to your question of how did I arrive at this, did it just come out of nowhere? I was taking a solo trip, I was in Dubai and I realized that one of my former colleagues had; who was incidentally, one of the individuals who, when I was going through recruiting, I had known that had worked abroad. I worked for her in the US and then she moved to Ireland and then she actually left my firm and joined another firm in Dubai. And her career, you know, she ended up working in Dubai then working in Prague and has since repatriated back to the United States. But she had a great, like 8-year run of living abroad in several different places, all through a professional services firm. But I was in Dubai just by myself; traveling and I met up with her for lunch and she basically said, come over here.
There’s a lot of work here, I’ll give you a job here. And that would involve switching firms, which was not something I necessarily wanted to do. But I was at the point in my career where I was like, if I’m going to make this happen, this is the time to do it. So when I got back from that trip, I resolved that I’m either going to make Germany; since Germany was my first love, so to speak. I was going to try to make Germany work in my current firm and if that didn’t work, then I was going to switch to another firm and moved to Dubai because I thought Dubai was a cool place. And in the end, glad that that didn’t work out, but that was kind of, I would say that that trip was the kick in the butt to get moving on this and what ultimately resulted in me securing a position.
David McNeill: [00:20:02] Did you find that it was competitive to get this role or one of these slots, and maybe you could even talk about it at a higher level across the company? Is it situations where they need perhaps even more people to go abroad that are willing to, or is it so competitive that if you take a slot, then somebody else has to stay back, that type of thing?
Andrew Klint: [00:20:22] It is not competitive at all and which is why this is like I said, this is such a great path for those who want to find a way to work abroad. It is surprising to me, now granted, when I was pursuing this, I was single. I was on my own, there was a time when I was living at my parent’s house, but, you know, as far as obligations go, I had no obligations. So for me, someone who wanted this, this was a very, you know, they didn’t really have to sell me on it. But I was very surprised to learn, you know, how big of a decision this is for people that are a little bit more established in their life with families and kids and things like that. That they really do have trouble filling these positions, there is; I mean I can open up our internet now and I can read off the different opportunities that are currently available. I know that they are very much undersubscribed.
David McNeill: [00:21:15] Okay, so you secured that position. So it’s great that you sort of had everything in hand, you went through the whole process. Did you have to do any sort of negotiations as far as what they would cover? Any salary changes, title changes, things like that, to be able to make it work for you?
Andrew Klint: [00:21:29] Yes, yes, as a matter of fact, and that’s maybe one of the first lessons, at least specific to my industry, but Dave, I think that’s probably part of your story as well. Moving from Silicon Valley to Japan is that dollar for dollar, without regard to exchange rates, the pay scale is just different. And I think that’s especially true when you move to Europe because of the strong social safety net, because, you know, rent is generally cheaper than it is in large US cities that it just costs less to live there, period. And you don’t really realize that when you’re looking around. And so I did take a little bit of a pay cut they had first offered; their initial offer was quite a bit of a pay cut. I’ll say it was probably 30% and, you know, in hindsight, I would say it would have been worth it, but, you know, at the time it seemed like it was a little bit of a step-down. Because in part you’re working on moving up, getting incremental salary increases every year that is based, you know, each one builds off of the other, so taking a sizable pay cut didn’t seem like a good idea. In the end, there was a negotiation and what’s funny is they actually, what I was getting paid as a; so I was a senior associate was my level in the US firm.
And what I was getting paid as a senior associate in the US dollar for dollar was so far outside of the salary ranges in Germany, that they actually would move me up to the next rank, which is a manager. And so they basically did that, they agreed to bring me in as a manager, instead of a senior associate. It brought my pay closer, although not equal to what I was making in the US and it was sort of a lucky break for me because it, you know, it obviously looks good to have that title and to be promoted early, more or less, even though it was purely a technicality based on trying to match my compensation. That said once they did offer that concession, they pretty much didn’t offer anything else. Part of it was my living situation that I didn’t own a home and didn’t have a family, but they basically offered me a week in a hotel when I arrived. And that’s about it, obviously my flights, but no moving allowance, no, nothing like that, really, it was just, we’ll give you a place to land for a week. We’ll give you time during the workday if you need to go find you a place to live, but one week and you’re on your own.
David McNeill: [00:24:04] Got it. So, one other thing that I wanted to touch on is how important was it in the process to get this role that you actually already spoke such good German? Of course, that would seem to give you a leg up, but were there other people that had, for example, the guy that you spoke to, the guy or girl that you spoke to before you were able to get this role that also… Did everyone there speak German, basically all the foreigners as well?
Andrew Klint: [00:24:28] Surprisingly no, when I was in Germany for the time there were three other seconds that were there rotating in and out during my time and two of them didn’t speak any German at all. Now, part of that has to do with specifically German business culture and German business culture at US companies. Obviously, the expectation is that a lot of the emails and business communications between a subsidiary and the parent company are going to be done in English anyways. A lot of the documentation ERP systems and whatnot are in English anyway, so it wasn’t that much of an issue. And as most people will know that almost everybody in Germany has a good working knowledge of English anyways, so it was not a requirement.
My interview to come over was conducted in English, my contract was written in English. They did like the fact that I spoke German, I think that they appreciated it more from the standpoint of being able to send me to clients and integrate me in the office more so than those who maybe don’t speak German. But it was never a requirement and in fact, it turned out to be a good balance for me, because I’ve probably oversold my German language abilities up to this point in recording the podcast. But I would say I’m good conversationally, once you get into extremely technical language, you know, I just haven’t picked that up yet. So I was able to do all of that technical stuff in English while still having the conversational business relationships in German, which I think…
David McNeill: [00:26:02] As you said, so it sounds like a big part of your experience, there was going to local client’s sites and being able to speak and work with these business owners and so forth. So could you talk a little bit about how the business life and the work-life and even your daily life for that matter was different between where, you know, the company and the office that you’ve worked for in Los Angeles versus there in Germany? And by the way, which city did you go to? I should probably clarify that too.
Andrew Klint: [00:26:28] Right, so I went to Hamburg, Germany. Hamburg is the second-largest city in Germany. It’s beautiful; I think it’s the most beautiful city in Europe. It’s filled with water and canals, it actually has more; Hamburg as a city has more bridges than Venice, London, and Amsterdam combined. And it’s right on the river that empties out into the North Sea, so it’s just a beautiful place, Dave. I know that you’ve visited and you can attest to it, but it’s also, you know, second on the; it sort of has a second city status in Germany. And when folks; when Americans or others, individuals visit Germany, it’s probably low on the list of places they go. People are more likely that they flew into Frankfurt, that they want to go down to Munich to see the Beer Gardens, the Black Forest.
And obviously, everyone loves Berlin. So Hamburg is typically not high on the list and that gives it a very unique feel in that it is very German. It is not, you go down to Frankfurt, and you hear almost more English than German walking amongst these skyscrapers. Hamburg doesn’t have any skyscrapers, it’s not that kind of a city so it was a cool place, I think, to experience German culture and maybe get a more genuine look at it, as opposed to some of the more business-oriented cities in that country. As far as differences between the working culture in the US and in Germany, I mean they’re vast. Public accounting in the United States is very labor-intensive, we work very long hours, traditional busy season. In Germany, they’re typically limited to 40 to 45 hours a week, and to them, that is really busy.
Whereas to me, I was coming from a culture where busy is 60 hours a week plus, I do think it’s funny incidentally. So, you know, we’ve talked about public accounting or professional services as a way to move across you know different geographies and work. And if you look at the flow of where people are more likely to transfer, we see a lot of people from our Asian member firms want to come to work in the US. Because if you look at the difference in working culture, the US is a net improvement to a lot of Asian working cultures and then you see the same thing in the US so, you know, going from the US to Europe is another improvement. So you don’t see a lot of Americans that want to go work in Tokyo, or the Philippines where they have beds under their desks. So, yeah, certainly appreciated the more relaxed working culture. One thing that I think is less relaxed, and this is probably just a German thing is that they were very formal on working hours when you show up when you leave, you know. And less autonomy in that respect, you know, in the US I don’t have anyone who’s checking when I show up and when I don’t.
And in Germany I had a secretary that would call me if I didn’t show up to work by 9 o’clock, to see if I was still coming in. And if I forgot; if I was visiting a client and I forgot to put that I actually had a schedule tracker that I would have to put in every day that I’m out visiting a client or on vacation or something like that. And, you know, she would check that. And if I said I was going to be in office and I wasn’t in the office, I got a call or an email and that is just not at all the way it works in the United States. The advantage is it’s easier to, I guess, stand out in Germany because I was used to working weekends during the busy season. And I would just work maybe one or two Saturdays during our traditional busy season in Germany, and, you know, get ahead on all my assignments. And, you know, my boss thought it was great because she had worked in the US and thought that that’s kind of the way things should be, whereas all the other, you know, lazy Germans are off at 5 o’clock. I don’t want to say lazy Germans because they are very hardworking, but I think that kind of puts a bow around the German working culture is they work very hard, but they work from 8 o’clock to 5 o’clock.
David McNeill: [00:30:29] And how did they manage the busy season then? At least I know as you’re talking about how difficult and time-consuming and intense it is in the United States, but were there any other adjustments that were made, or obviously they must still be tied to certain deadlines? So how did the business change to be able to enable that type of more relaxed working culture?
Andrew Klint: [00:30:50] You know, they just hire more people to do the amount of work, you know, if it’s the same amount of work, they’ll have a larger team, or else equal. And the benefit to that is that summers are nice and slow because they can’t just trim the workforce because there’s less work to do. So I know that personally like I had a broad one, I did not have a lot of work to do. But this being, this being Germany, I still had to come to the office every day and stay my eight hours, even though I was, you know, reading the news and whatnot. Whereas in the US not only is it rare to not have as much to do, but even if I do have an afternoon where I don’t have anything to do, I’ll just take the afternoon off kind of thing.
David McNeill: [00:31:34] So, did you get to enjoy that time then, as far as really digging into the fact that you were in Germany, that you were in Europe, did you get to travel as much as you wanted to see the country? How did you balance that with these work requirements? Clearly, a more relaxed work culture could probably make that easier, but how did you kind of think about navigating that alongside your professional responsibilities with your new title?
Andrew Klint: [00:31:58] Yeah, well, you know, it was a challenge because like I mentioned, I didn’t have the flexibility that I thought I would have, to like jet out early on a Friday to go catch a flight somewhere, for instance. So I would say that that adversely affected how often I’d traveled and what I could do. On the plus side, I had 6 weeks paid vacation, which seemed like, you know, so much back at the time. Coming from the US where I think I had 3 and a half and that was, you know, that was already with some seniority. So it was kind of a balance of taking advantage of this new quantity of time off, but also not being able to do some flexible kind of fitting trips in on the weekends that I anticipated I would do. In the end, I mean, I still, at least once a month, took a personal trip somewhere. And then maybe 6 months into my rotation, I started taking on some additional responsibilities, which included being able; having to travel all over Europe for work. This turned out to be great because I could turn a work trip into a long weekend. I could, you know, plan my trips in the middle of the week, say, and, and obviously buy myself some flexibility from the rigid German work culture. Buy me some independence that I wouldn’t have if I was just reporting to the office every day.
David McNeill: [00:33:24] Yeah, absolutely. So I know that you ended up staying in Germany for about 2 years, but was that the plan from the get-go? Or did you have to negotiate how long that would be, or was it more open-ended; how did you think about that?
Andrew Klint: [33:35] So, my contract that I signed was a close-ended for that period and that’s just the way those things worked. The nature of these types of arrangements that these types of firms is that if you go over there for a fixed amount of time, and then you come back. Ideally like you know, the US firm benefits from your experience abroad and the hosting firm benefit from having you there and all of that. But I still remained an employee of the US firm legally throughout my entire time. That said there were opportunities to extend and in fact, there was an opportunity to stay there permanently, if I wanted to, that the partners had offered me. I chose not to, for several reasons, and maybe we can get into that later, some of the personal other professionals.
But there was definitely the option to extend it if I needed to, or if I wanted to. The natural sort of buffer for that is 3 years, so after 3 years, IRS rules actually stipulate how your income is treated that you earn abroad. And so three years is kind of the maximum sort of temporary assignment that you can do anything longer than 3 years is considered like permanent or semi-permanent. And there’s a lot more red tape that you have to jump through on the US side with regard to taxation and things like that. So the longest that any single contract would be is 3 years and anything longer than that would be considered some kind of; even if there’s an intention to unwind it in the end, they just have to structure it that way for tax purposes.
David McNeill: [00:35:12] Got it. So considering that you knew that maybe your time was limited, of course, it could have been extended, but you had some sort of assumption that it would be around 2 years and you could probably safely assume that. How did you think about really diving into life in Germany and building a life for yourself there, making friends? You know, doing things outside of work and outside of your personal trips to enjoy the feeling of living in that country, as opposed to always knowing that, well, I’ll probably only be here for 2 years. So, you know, did you, did you invest in your life there?
Andrew Klint: [00:35:47] Great question and it’s, I mean, I’ll answer just by saying that it’s a challenge when you know that your time is limited somewhere, yeah, there’s just less than you do to invest in life locally. I would say that I tried to enjoy every day there, every weekend there exploring parts of the city and, and just doing things there that I know I would never do if I was visiting as a tourist. That said I had 2 primary social outlets. First was obviously my work colleagues, public accounting is, you know, attracts a lot of young college graduates. So most of the people I worked with were, you know, plus, or minus 3 to 4 years, the same age as me. And so those were the friends that I would primarily hang out with on the weekends. Obviously we, you know, work together all day and provide a social outlet.
And I would say that when you’re building a friendship on the basis of, you know, we work in the same place and we see each other every day. You know, we encounter the same problems, and that kind of thing, I found that that kind of friendship isn’t really affected adversely by the fact that I was leaving. Like, I was no less likely to have lunch with a coworker if I was staying a week versus if I was staying a decade. For me, it was the friendships outside of that that were a little bit, you know, probably neglected or less invested into because of the fact that I was leaving. But my other big sort of social outlet, there was an English-speaking church that I went to in Hamburg. And it was also similarly full of expats, you know, obviously being English speaking, but there were a lot of folks from; not so much from the United States, but from other parts of the world that had moved to Hamburg for work or for school. And in addition to it being, you know, a church and having that spiritual element to it, it was also sort of an expat hub or an expat, you know, social outlet.
David McNeill: [00:37:50] Yeah, absolutely. So I know this is a different part of your experience there, but I’d like to talk a little bit about your long-distance relationship if that’s all right. And I assume this also plays a role in why you decided to ultimately move back after your initial 2 years. But could you; if you’re comfortable talking about it, could you talk about what that experience was like? How did you decide that you would go into this long-distance relationship, how you’ve managed it during the time that you were there? And you know, basically made it work and have it, of course, continuing when you went back to the United States?
Andrew Klint: [00:38:25] Sure, sure. Well, I won’t get into too many; too much background with my current wife and our relationship before I moved to Germany. Other than to say, you know, we were obviously very close friends and we’re interested in each other, but both had the expectation that our relationship would be over when I moved away. And even though my contract was only for a 2-year period; 2 years is a long time for relationships, especially when you’re in your late 20’s. And I think the expectation from both of us was that you know, we would both move on. So we said goodbye to each other, she was actually the last person I said goodbye to before I left and moved over. And you know, neither of us, I don’t think we’re holding on to, well, first of all, we were not, you know, officially in a relationship. We had dated before and we were really good friends, but we’re not committed to each other in that sense of being a boyfriend and a girlfriend.
But I think we both usually thought like, okay, this is kind of where this ends, unfortunately. As soon as I landed in Germany we basically started texting and one thing that I soon realized is that iMessage works all around the world. And it doesn’t matter if you have a German number or a US number, it’s not an international SMS, it’s all settled on the apple proprietary network. And it’s just seamless, whether it’s an iMessage or a Facetime audio or a Facetime call, it’s just a seamless as being in the US. And so my wife and I basically started texting and sort of rekindled our friendship that way and it resulted in her coming out to visit me and us realizing that, wait a second, maybe we can make this work. Maybe a long-distance relationship isn’t as painful and isn’t as much work as we both thought that it would be. So we gave it a try basically in November, I think two months after I had moved there, and said, hey, I’m coming home for Christmas, let’s just give this a try. Christmas time, we’ll reevaluate and see if it’s what we want and it turns out that it was exactly what we wanted, and we kept that going for the entire time that I was away.
Obviously, it was not without its challenges; probably the biggest challenge is just making time for each other and speaking to each other and sort of being involved in each other’s lives while living literally on other sides of the world. Obviously, I’m an accountant, it’s not the most glorious life in the world, as far as day today, you know, what did you do today, how was your day kind of thing? So, you know, I would say that; that sometimes you know, you don’t necessarily have a lot of things to talk about with regards to your life, but we kept it going. And I think the big thing that kept us going is that we resolved to see each other about every 6 weeks to 8 weeks. Sometimes she would come to Germany, sometimes I would go home to the US and then other times we would meet in New York, meet in Costa Rica, and meet in all different places. And, you know, the one thing I’ll say I mentioned earlier, study abroad, and you know, how I didn’t have that experience. And you know, I’m glad that I was able to live abroad as a working professional because it just gives you a sort of income and flexibility to do fun things that you wouldn’t be able to do if you were on a shoestring budget.
David McNeill: [00:41:56] A hundred percent, I think it’s a big difference, I mean, for me, it was going to China as a student after my semester in Singapore and going around for 2 weeks on very little money, no friends with me didn’t speak any Chinese, trying to travel around and super hard trip. And then I came back as a working professional, and I can tell you, it was 180 degrees difference, you know, it was a whole different experience. So I can definitely appreciate that. So you came back; you decided then, of course, to come back to the United States to continue at the same company, did you have any issues with, okay, now you’re in that manager role, of course, it’s 2 years later. And you had to adjust your salary when you went there, so how did you get to come back, and did you have to readjust your salary and your title, or how did that work?
Andrew Klint: [00:42:42] Yeah, yeah, great question. So it was kind of a shoe-in to come back at my new title because I had basically been performing the role for 2 years already. So there was an approval process, but it was largely a formality salary negotiation. There was not much of a negotiation. They paid me what they paid me and it was not great initially considering I had already had 2 years in the role, they were basically paying me as a brand new manager. But those things tend to sort themselves out over time, so I have nothing really to complain about in that regard. But I would say the biggest adjustment coming back was going back to the US work environment, workload, and sort of style of working. Because I went from 2 years of not having to work a single weekend and typically working probably the most I ever worked with a 10 hour day, maybe to I think 3 weeks after I started back in the US I had to work all night to get a client… And that was my life, welcome back to the US. Are you sure you want to be here, kind of thing?
David McNeill: [00:43:55] Did you have any thoughts of; oh those days were so great back in Germany? Maybe I can hit them up again or was it just kind of the adjustment that you had to go through and after you adjusted and you had your own lighters, then you’re back into it back in the US.
Andrew Klint: [00:44:12] Well, I think it was the kick in the butt I needed because, to be honest, I don’t work all night very often. I think I’ve done it or 1 or 2 other times, you know, in the 3 years since I’ve been back it is very rare and it’s usually avoidable. So in that sense, I guess it was just a lesson of getting back into the pace of things. But, you know, I’ll say this working culture is just, it makes a difference like there’s just less to do, there’s less focus on deadlines and making a mountain out of a molehill. Germany; and I really appreciate that and I’ve done everything I can to try to bring that mindset over to the US but obviously, it’s; I’m one person and it’s hard to go against a working culture that has been built over decades.
David McNeill: [00:45:01] Of course, that makes sense. Do you keep in touch with your German colleagues still? Or is it really, obviously now your focus is back on your US clients, a bit curious how that is?
Andrew Klint: [00:45:11] Yeah, so I keep in touch with probably 3 or 4 individuals over there that I worked with. You know, there was one guy who took a couple of weekend trips with us, we went to Ukraine together. And then just a couple of others who have to remain with the company that I work for and have gone through similar life changes that I have with regard to marriage and having kids. And yeah, they will be my friends for life; I would say that you know, I don’t keep in too close of contact with them. But again, going back to iMessage, it’s just so easy to send them a text and see how things are going, and we do keep in touch and try to stay involved in each other’s lives.
David McNeill: [00:45:48] That’s a great man. And then just as we wrap up here, I’m curious if you have any general parting advice for any other folks that would like to try to use their job through internal transfers, through deployments, through assignments, whatever you want to call it, to be able to get around the world.
Andrew Klint: [00:46:03] Sure, sure. Well, I probably, I know I mentioned my former colleague who had met up in Dubai. But I’ll say this, there is a small group of individuals who are able to make this happen on a consistent basis and work in all different countries. I mean, there’s someone in my office right now who worked for my company in the Philippines, then Malta, then the UK, and now Los Angeles. And there are people who just make their career jumping from country to country, and if that’s what you want to do, this is a very good way to do it. When you have a company behind you, that’s helping you with all of the visas and moving expenses and things like that, definitely, an approach that many maybe don’t think about, it definitely takes some investment. Because you need to have that skill and be in that position where we’re, you know, other places can benefit from you, but I would encourage people that it’s not as hard as you think. I mean, it took me, I would say with the various programs that my firm offers, as an example, you can start in the US and you can be abroad within a year and a half, basically, for some of these different rotation programs. And that’s specific to my company, but, you know, applicable broadly within this profession and within this industry is that there are just a lot of opportunities if you’re willing to position yourself in a company to take advantage.
David McNeill: [00:47:33] So I just want to actually change tack just slightly and see what the downsides are, I mean, I know I’m getting into this late in the conversation. But what I’m curious about is this idea that for example, the colleague that you mentioned, that’s lived in all of these different countries, I think that’s amazing. What I’m curious about is I know that, for example, you’re trying to go indeed up the corporate ladder. Do you not necessarily specific to this individual in your office in general, is it going to be more difficult for people that try to make so many moves to continue to move up the ladder? Or do you not see that too much?
Andrew Klint: [00:48:08] Certainly, and I believe that this is specific to my profession or industry is that to keep moving up, you do need to put some roots down eventually. And so the question goes back to, are you happy with the position that you have? Because if I was happy with my manager level salary and responsibilities, which by the way I was I mean, it afforded me a comfortable life in Germany, the ability to travel, all of that. You know, if you’re willing to stop there, then the world is your oyster. If you do want to keep moving up, which, you know, I’ll tell you, it doesn’t make you any happier or anything like that. You know, contentment is contentment, whether you have a little or you have a lot but if you do want to move up at some point, you do need to settle down in one specific place.
David McNeill: [00:49:02] Great, thank you so much for your various feedback and advice, this has been an amazing conversation. Our listeners; is there anywhere in particular that they can look to find out more about you and what you’re doing?
Andrew Klint: [00:49:12] Absolutely well, I’m obviously on LinkedIn in a professional capacity and would be happy to connect with anyone to discuss my career path or similar career paths and global opportunities. My email address is first name dot last name @gmail.com. If there are any other questions that come up, but you know, I’d love to hear from listeners. And I’d also love to just connect with people that have similar interests that I do and you know, I’d love to hear about their experiences too.
David McNeill: [00:49:40] Awesome, well, thank you so much, Andrew, for appearing on the show, love, hearing your story so glad that our listeners can hear it as well. Look forward to keeping in touch, and talk to you soon.
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