Last update on March 22, 2019

More opportunities for employment, growth and networking are just some of the advantages of working in the startup industry as an expat. 

Ask a soon-to-be expat what they’re going to do for work when they first arrive in their new country and at some point you’ll hear someone say the following: “I’ll just get a job in a bar or café” or “I’ll just teach English/Spanish/German.”

Both of these are noble professions but if you expect to rock up and start mixing cocktails or explain the present perfect continuous, you might be disappointed. To work in a bar or café, you’ll need local language skills. Language teaching jobs are hard to find, especially in Western Europe, and you’ll usually need a language teaching qualification. My advice? Work for a startup.

Here are my top 8 reasons why the startup industry is perfect for expats:

1. The startup industry is booming

There are 709 startups in Berlin alone and according to a Telegraph article, the UK government aimed to create 600,000 new businesses in 2015. New London startups increased by 21 percent in 2015, with technology services and wireless communications growing by 200 percent and 70 percent respectively. A search on AngelList reveals 858 startups listed in Amsterdam, nearly 6000 investors and 313 open job positions. You’ll find startup scenes in almost all large European cities and there’s a startup boom taking shape in Poland.Take a look at job vacancies across Europe. Here are two good recruitment websites for startup jobs in Berlin and London.

2. Startups value enthusiasm over experience

Although some roles, such as product development, require a specific skill set or qualification, most startups value drive and determination over experience. Your ability to adapt, embrace (constant) change, take risks and multi-task are essential startup employee qualities. This makes a startup company perfect for those who have little experience — fresh graduates or those looking for a career change. For example, I moved from the very analog world of book publishing to the very much online world of SEO and content marketing.

3. You’ll learn a lot

You’ll rarely be confined to one task or department and you’ll constantly be learning new skills. Some people can find this difficult so you need to have, or be able to cultivate, a positive attitude towards change. If you like the startup vibe and plan to spend a few years in the industry, try to get experience of as many aspects of the business you’re working for as you can. Startup employers love nothing more than a ‘full-stack’ employee, i.e. someone who can do a lot of different jobs.

4. English is often the lingua franca 

If you don’t speak the local language, finding a job in a traditional company can be difficult. Most medium- to large startups have English as their primary business language. Even if a company only targets its domestic market, many will ask for native proficiency in the local language as well as English fluency.

5. Multi-linguists are highly valued

Although the language of the office might be English, most startups work in multiple languages and are always looking for native speakers for all departments. Multi-linguists are especially sought after in sales and customer service roles, but also in marketing and PR departments. Larger startups may have dedicated translation teams who value language skills.

6. You’ll make an impact

Unlike in established companies, where promotion can take years, startups have a far more fluid, horizontal hierarchical structure. Startups expect you to get stuck in from day one, meaning you can have far more impact, responsibility and project ownership than you would in traditional businesses. Promotions are common and are dependent on commitment and performance.

7. Startups are fast-paced and creative

Startups are often stressful places to work. Expect long hours, including occasionally working evenings and weekends, strategy changes and extremely tight deadlines. If you don’t have the ability to prioritize your workloads, you’ll need to learn how, fast. That said, there’s definitely a buzz from working under pressure and it can spark creativity and an almost superhuman ability to solve problems.

8. You’ll meet fascinating people

Working in a startup is kind of like being back in university. You’ll meet people from all over the world, of different ages and life experiences. Because a lot of people will be expats too, it means they are often open to new friendships. Coupled with the startup emphasis on ‘company culture’ — social events, language classes etc. —  you’ll find it easy to make friends and widen your social circle. Cities with a good startup scene often have regular industry meet ups (with copious amounts of drinking), meaning you can meet new people, talk shop and network like crazy.