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FM: Working abroad - Nigel Lucker

Nigel Lucker: overseas head of operations, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Singapore

I’ve been working in FM for almost 30 years. I applied and got this role in 2011, and am currently residing and working out of Singapore, looking after sites in Asia, Europe and Russia, covering 14 countries. Naturally, this can be geographically challenging, as well as the various time zones, but I have a good support team. You do have to get used to conference calls at all hours when liaising with other countries.

Any obstacles?

Singapore was probably one of the least challenging countries as it is very westernised, and people do speak English. But still, learn the basics of the local language. The comfort blanket for me was knowing that I would be working for a UK company. The FM operation wasn’t all that different either – the main challenge for me is understanding the different levels of maturity each country’s industry, as this is coupled with the FCO’s own insistence of UK standards.

I didn’t want to move the whole family immediately – I left that six months before my wife came out to join me. I went back after eight weeks or so to see my family – I would advise budgeting this.

Any advice for FMs looking to work abroad?

You need to do your homework before you leave the UK - ask as many questions as you can of the current employer. Check legislations such as permits, green cards, and visit their embassy in your country before you go out. Do a financial plan as well; understand what the utilities bills are going to be, even how much it’s going to cost to go to the cinema.

Make sure that you understand the housing market – do some online research, understand what they look like – comforts such as washing machines might be a luxury in some countries, room sizes might be dramatically smaller.

The world has changed economically and politically – do not expect expat “packages” just because you’re going to work abroad. Don’t expect the full range of benefits – prepare for a like for like package.

Emma Potter