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Moving to London: Package Negotiation

By Joshua Wood

Summary: Advice for expats in London about expat package negotiation and cost of living in London.

Moving To London - Package Negotiation

One of the most important issues for any person or family that is sent abroad by their company is the expat relocation package that is provided to the employee. As this is the case, we see a steady stream of requests on our forums to offer some insight on individual packages. These potential expats want to know if the package is fair, and if not, what is missing or inadequate.

To that end, some of our more experienced expats have frequently referred back to the forum thread you will find below over the course of the last year. As it seems to be well reviewed, we decided to turn into an article. It has been edited slightly for clarity, but we have tried, as much as possible, to leave it as it appeared on the forum.

If you have any questions, please post them into the United Kingdom Forum, where the thread originated.

And here it is...

The London Expat's Guide to Relocation Packages... And More!


Hello, we've been reading the threads on this site (UK in particular) for over a month now. We have been offered a job and the company believes they want to place us in London. We have a small dog (Jack Russell terrier - 17 pounds) and no children. The company is working with their legal department putting together a package for us. This will be their first jaunt into the international realm, and they are adamant that it will be successful.

We have very few contacts in London, so we've turned to you for help. We believe we have caught most of the expenses we should be requesting to be included in the package, but would like to see if we have missed something.

1) Salary - no worries here.
2) COLA - looking for %100
3) 10% exchange rate parity insurance
4) Housing package - requesting 100%
5) Utilities
5a) Gas (35/month)
5b) Electric (60/month)
5c) Water / sewer ($)
5d) Garbage ($)
6) Expenses general:
6a) Dry Cleaning (135 / month)
6b) Tesco grocery delivery (235/month?)
6c) British telecom broadband cable (135/month)
6d) T.V. License (11 / month?)
6e) Satellite (not sure if this is TV or something else)
7) Taxes
7a) Council tax
8) Transportation allowance
9) Visas / Work Permits
10) Vacation days
10a) 2 paid home leave visits (for 2) per year, including Air fare and 1 week per visit.
10b) Paid Time Off (30 days)
11) Experience bonus 10% per assignment year completed
12) Relocation package
12a) Temporary housing (1 month)
12b) Relocation agent expenses
12c) Relocation Consultant
12d) Relocation bonus
12e) Shipment costs (personal artifacts)
13) Repatriation expense package
13a) Shipment costs (personal artifacts)
13b) Repatriation bonus

The company is initially interested in the UK. They foresee my responsibilities growing to include mainland E.U. as well in the near future. I have looked at a little town called Pas de Calais (1st stop on mainland side of Chunnel train). The housing seems to be much more reasonable and the one hour commute would be covered by the company... any input would be great. If anyone would like to offer a personal e-mail for us to continue to communicate as we move forward that would be wonderful.

Thank you all so much for your advice!

B & A



You have prepared a very comprehensive list & you will get a pretty good ex-pat deal if your employer agrees to all this.

Apart from one thing that you haven't mentioned, i.e. tax equalization, this is a key component of any Ex-pat relocation.

I won't attempt to answer all your other questions here, as you requested private email adresses it may be easier to do this offline.

Please feel free to contact me seperately, at () I work for USA2Europe - we work only for US companies who are setting up in Europe. As well as Ex-Pat issues, we deal with every business issue you will come across setting up in the UK & the rest of the EU. I will be happy to answer any questions you have (no charge).

Finally you have listed work permit, if you haven't started that yet I suggest you make this a priority, we can help you with this if you wish.

Best of Luck

Andy Hooper
USA2Europe Ltd



It is, indeed, one of the best lists I've seen. One thing that's missing is the issue of the pet. If you're moving to the UK, you have to follow all the quarantine laws (you can begin the effort before the move, but it takes 6 months). Moving the continent and commuting will not require any wrangling with the UK DEFRA authorities since your dog will be living in France and NOT the UK.

If you're living in France, you may want to post your question there as someone in that forum probably knows the French answers.

Our gas is 45 per month and electricity has just been moved downwards from 115 to 85 per month. Remember that when you move you have NO CREDIT here and you may find yourself charged accordingly. Water runs us about 370 per year. Garbage is included in your council tax.

We spend around 500/month on groceries for 2 adults and a baby. We buy our meats from Donald Russel and our wines from Berry Brothers and Rudd, so our bill has gone up a bit since we don't buy everything from Tesco anymore.

You don't actually NEED cable, but if you do, that's fine. Satellite is instead of cable. TV licence is 131.60 for the year. To make life easier, put broadband on your phone bill.

Speaking of phone, you missed that one. House phone and mobile phone will be important. Get your company to pick up the mobile phone. We work out of the house, so the home phone is also picked up by our company.

After council taxes there aren't any other hidden taxes we've run across (well, other than the VAT that's included in everything - after awhile, you wonder why this isn't done everywhere).

We agree with Andy, get started on the work permit as soon as you pick the country you'll live in!

Ah, another fine point you may have missed: Banking. In the UK, you'll need a current account to pay most everything via direct debit. It's not the same as the US. It took us 6 weeks to get our account opened. Bank offshore with a reputable bank like HSBC or Barclays or Citi. We'd recommend a Bank that's in the country you'll live in.

If you truly get everything in your list - you'll have the PERFECT package - well, almost, as we've never seen anybody get all of this stuff. If you do get it, don't tell anybody at work that you're the top negotiator in the company.

For others looking to duplicate this list, consider children as well. School costs in the UK (can't speak to elsewhere) for those requiring an American school experience run around 9000 pounds per year just for tuition (this amount varies and doesn't cover all your actual costs).


Ahooper thanks for the information and offer to help! This forum has been great. Pallega, your consistant willingness to help and frequent posts sharing your valuable experience has been a HUGE resource for us as we move forward... I appreciate your views regarding France (just an idea) and wonder if you've had any experience to compare pros & cons of living in coastal France vs. countryside London?

Thanks again for all the help!


About the pet: I moved from the UK in 2003 with a dog and cat. The UK has changed the requirements so you no longer must have a 6 month quarentine. The rules now are that the animal must be vaccinated against rabies and have a serum test that shows that the animal is resistant to rabies. In addition, the animal must have a micro chip that is readable by UK scanners. (There may be some chips now that are recognized internationally, but this was not the case when I moved.) You can meet the requirements after you move your pet. The DEFRA site has the information you will need to move your dog: http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/quarantine/index.htm [Editor's Note: see Pallega's comment about the 6-month quarantine below... it is still required.]

Good luck. I lived in London for 7 years and loved it.



Other than a few folks we've met and some interesting stories on the BBC about families that live in the Calais or Lille area and commute, we can't speak of it from personal experience. We've heard from folks we've met that the schools are better and the food quality is better. We've seen Les Geants in the area (look it up - it's an interesting quirk to that area of France).

If you enjoy country living and are looking for a French village joie de vivre - bien sur, mais oui et tres bien. Otherwise, you could consider English country living near a mainline rail and that would give you an amazing radius around London to consider. We know folks who live in Bath and commute to London. The other day we met a lady who lives in Grenoble and commutes to Paris and with the TGV (train de grand vitesse) many are keeping their apartment in Paris for M-Th and living in Provence or the Cote D'Azure at the weekend. Of course, you'll be doing the London thing; but it's an interesting notion that you could consider a TGV route further out and be connected to the Eurostar for your commute (depending upon how long you want to commute each day).

For us, 30 minutes seems a long time. On the Eurostar in business class it goes VERY fast. One of us is a frequent traveller on the Eurostar and can verify that if your company is paying business class it's more than comfortable and you can get a lot of work done!

It's a tough decision. Please post when you've decided.


The 6 months quarantine rule STILL EXISTS. The difference is that one can decide to begin the quarantine period without having to be in the UK. For example, you can (and should) begin the process in the US in advance of the move. The 6 month clock starts ticking as soon as the first result of the test returns negative (or, from the date the blood was drawn - can't recall, double check the DEFRA site for specifics).

If you move before the 6 months are completed, you will have to put the animal in a quarantine kennel in the UK until the 6 months are up. If you complete the 6 months in the US, that's fine and the animal can go home with you shortly after arrival in the UK.

As we're certain hedy can attest, this is not a process you want to do time and time again. This is DIFFICULT, TIME CONSUMING AND MUST BE DONE EXACTLY TO THE LETTER OF THE LAW. Do NOT make any mistakes or your pooch gets locked out or, worse, destroyed. The UK is VERY serious about this issue. The continued absence of rabies on this island is taken very seriously.

Get your vet involved quickly and begin the tests. There are only 1 or 2 places in the continental US that DEFRA "blesses." You have to tick and tie every bow with this effort if you want to have a successful pet move.

DEFRA has a nice checklist. Follow it and you'll be successful. Be nice to the USDA vet on your way out of the country - he/she is usually overworked and has probably just inspected an elephant, tiger and herd of horses jut before your jack russel terrier.


Regarding the pet issue, I'm going through this right now and just found out yesterday that they no longer have a USDA vet inspect the pets or seal the kennel at the airport. Instead, you just have to have a USDA-approved/accredited vet fill out your third country veterinary certificate, including the certification of the final tick/tapeworm treatment. You need to check that your vet is accredited by the USDA by actually checking with your local USDA office (I just found out that my vet isn't accredited but that her clinic does have an approved vet I can use, which makes things easier). Also, while some people/paperwork says you have to have a USDA vet take all the blood work, rabies vaccs, etc., I called the DEFRA helpline yesterday, and they said any licensed vet can do it AS LONG AS the final paperwork is done by the USDA vet. Hope this makes sense. So far, it really hasn't been as difficult as I thought -- and not nearly as expensive. All told, it will end up being about $200 for the vaccinations/microchips and blood tests, then another $500 to fly them over, and another 220 pounds when I get to London. This is for two cats. Of course, I'm not there yet, so I'm hoping that I haven't missed anything, but so far DEFRA and the vets have been very helpful.


Concerning your option of living in France & commuting to London. This sounds like a great idea, but it depends on the frequency of the commute. If it's daily I would think seriously about it. I would certainly do a couple of dry runs to figure the "door to door" time - I guarantee this won't be anywhere near one hour. (Taking into account the travel at each end to/from the station, waiting time before you board etc.) The travel infrastructure in the UK isn't as good as the rest of Europe, you will get delays frequently.

The door to door time for me (I live 30 miles West of London) is 2 hours!

USA2Europe Ltd


Excellent points, Andy. The 7.42 from Lille arrives in London at 8.26. The 8.06 at 8.55 and the 9.36 at 10.26. Today, you end the ride at Waterloo and this November it will end at St. Pancras when they move the Eurostar to the new station (it will be a BEAUTIFUL refit back to the original colours of the station). St. Pancras, of course, is much further North than Waterloo. So, that has to be factored in as well.

A lot would be dependent upon the Chunnel and Eurostar operating well (most times, this is fine), but much will be challenging once you're ready to make your London connections. Locals whinge about the transportation system, but it is awesome. But, it's not always operating on the same schedule you are on AND it's NOT operating with German efficiency. We always try to take the train/tube/tram/bus that is leaving just before the one we NEED to take and it seems to work out rather well. We were just discussing this last night with some folks, and over the past 5 years everyone could recount 1 great story of not being able to rely upon the transportation system: 7/7 and walking home 13 miles, the day that Clapham stopped operating for 12 hours, the Circle line not operating, etc.

Since our commute is most often down the stairs and into the office, we'd take Andy's advice and run the route yourself a few days in a row.

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood joined Expat Exchange in 2000. His areas of responsibility include creative aspects of the community, research, sales and business development. Joshua received his Master's Degree in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University and graduated from Syracuse University with a BA in English Textual Studies.

Cigna International Health Insurance

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First Published: Jan 21, 2008

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