Get a UX design job in Europe from India.
Wait, Why though?
As you might imagine, the engineering centric world will always ponder over all the Hows. How to land a job in Europe? How to create the best portfolio? How many projects to display in it? The internet is filled with it. But before we start pinning out the How-might-we post-its, lays the job of a designer. And this article aims to do that job — The Whys.
Clearly, my fascination with recursively asking Why, to every single thing is not going to stop anytime soon. This type of a write-up has been long pending anyway. After getting hundreds of phone calls from fellow designers who are trying to move from India to the Europe to pursue a career, I have been pondering about writing it all down. I also try to find out why is it that they are thinking of making this move.
Those of you who know me, know my perpetual inclination towards healthcare design, urban planning and education. This goes to say that I had the privilege of moving from one healthcare biggie from India, to another in Germany. Thus, the difficulties I faced while making this move, would have been certainly lower that what you might when you apply. Thus, my writing down of the Hows that I dealt with, might not do justice to the process in the first place. #disclaimer01
What I plan to do is to talk mostly about motivations, expectations, differences and the likes. (Personally, I dread that this might end up again as a rant, but given my perennial cynicism, that’s a given. But however ranting the article might sound, we need to realise, at each comparison, that the two societies are completely built for different things. And only with acknowledging the differences and comparing them with our needs, can we better our surroundings for us.)
What is your motivation to move?
Straight to the point, if you are one of those who is motivated by money, unfortunately Europe might not be the right place for you. In that case, you’d rather look for jobs in the US if you still want to move out, or else you’d easily save more moolah living in Bangalore or the likes. I could give you a justification excel sheet, but believe me, don’t move for this reason. You would earn more, but savings would definitely be far less. For budgeting purposes, check out Numbeo. You cannot expect to save 2 lakh Indian rupees a month, that is simply not gonna happen in Europe. The EU society does not need you to save money like we Asians do. Healthcare is taken care of, partially pension is taken care of, why would you need to save? You’d need to save for that’s what you’ve been trained with right from adolescence in Asian countries. Now that thats out of the window, lets look at others.
European cities are an amalgamation of the world. It is beautiful to experience. Different languages, different cuisines, completely different topography. People from all over the world are here. It is quite literally the melting pot of cultures. In spite of so much inflow, each city or region has its very quintessential character. If you are someone who loves exploring yourself while exploring people from all over our Earth, this is absolutely the place for you. Listening and creating your own stories on the way. So many types of meetups, to suit your needs. With the large expat population, you will meet, love, cherish the bonds, the similarities, and embrace the differences amongst fellow humans.
Though this article is not aimed at this scenario, it could just be the best path to take. Hands down the best motivation to move abroad. Not that education in itself is necessarily better, given that the fundamental basis of education that stems from the western philosophy is bound to be different. Constraints of society is different, therefore education focus is different as well. However, Education is highly subsidised, universities have real good facilities and expenditure for research, cultural amalgamation and social integration is kept at a priority. And come on, most universities are hundreds of years old, with amazing legacy, and the buildings! If I were you, I would gawk at the amazing architecture day in and day out.
Quality of Life
If you want to ensure work-life balance, overall Europe would easily rank better than almost any country in the world.
Depending on the city you live in, the commuting time would surely be halved. This would immensely add to your quality as well as quantity of life. The time you spend only waiting for your Uber in Bangalore, will be the time you take to reach office in a large part of Europe.
If simply breathing fresh air, travel, partake in art, museums, history, languages, cultures, architecture, interact with people of the world, etc. is something you fancy, then surely there can be nothing better than Europe. No arguments there.
Beware though that travel within EU is not all that inexpensive and feasible. Overnight and direct trains unfortunately haven’t yet been discovered here. If you fancy ZMND-style cross country Eurotrip drives, be ready to shell out big bucks. A German drivers license would set you back about 1500~2000 EUR and 6 months of training with at least 2 attempts.
The kind of travels that occur in India, like a weekend trip to Waynaad, Coorg, Goa or something (or the north Indian equivalent) in which you not once consider the costs associated with it; simply cannot happen in Europe. Though Paris would be only a few hours away, it is not a weekend trip. You simply will not be able to wisely afford an ad-hoc trip like this. So if going on weekend trips for a few hundred kilometer every week is your thing, that is almost certainly not possible economically and logistically in Europe.
The above part then brings us to personal growth. If you want to shed your workaholic tendencies born in India/Asia perhaps for psychological or physiological reasons, then this would be a good place to be. Learning to have a demarcation between work and personal life might be something that you’ve been trying to incorporate but has never been possible. You could do that here. Focusing on other aspects of life, to know that there are subtle nuances to living. Invest time in relationships, personal goals, sports, etc. would be the best to do while living here. If that is on your agenda, moving here might be a good step. Buy a paddle boat, and bike to your nearby lake. Look up the sky when it snows, start living again, it is magical.
A lot of companies have their headquarters in Europe. This would be the center for the decision making processes. If you feel that you are constantly hitting a ceiling in terms of ability to push your ideas into the roadmap in an European MNC, this would be one reason. This would be overridden by the nature of the company though. The flipside of this is that the fast paced perpetual learning environment that Indian/Asian cities facilitate, would be difficult to find here. High levels of complacency born out of the first world comforts and that the development will continue outside of the EU anyway, will be a common sight. People also tend to stick to one company for decades. If it were happening in India, the HR would’ve ruled us out by saying that since you didn’t switch jobs, you were seeking for comfort, we don’t want you!
Simply Get Away
You can tick this option if you are fed up of the Indian political scenario, want to get out of the rat race, the constant honking traffic, sweaty train rides or simply want to get out of the constant infringement of relatives asking you when you plan to proverbially — ‘beta shaadi kab karoge’.
Expectation, and differences.
What to expect or what to look for?
My opinions are based on a small city — big company coupling. They might be completely inverted in a big city — small company couple thus might not be applicable for that. I shall write more on that when I move to that framework. Although I would proof-read this writeup through other fellow designers in the same boat, I take the risk of penning down honest the thoughts. However politically incorrect they might end up being. #disclaimer02
To make a decision of ‘where to move’ hangs on multifold parameters. You would need to evaluate your motivations as above and then choose which one of them tops your priority chart.
You would then need to couple the motivations with what are your expectations. Rank them by priority. You are not going to get it all. #selfacceptance. Are you moving to focus on a specific domain/role/responsibility or other career related parameters, or are you looking at more of social, multicultural, demographic exposure. The answer would rarely lead you to both, however a balance can be thought of.
This also completely depends on which phase of life you are at. You might want to proliferate in your professional lives, or your personal. As previously mentioned, there is a thick line between work and life in Europe overall.
Below would be some of the micro and macro deciding factors and expectations that one needs to set in.
Personally, now that I know myself a bit better, I would take this as the prime deciding factor. Even though from a general Indian mindset, one would move for the opportunity, will soon realise that the self is more important. This might mean to prioritise a place to be in. A place changes everything. Kinds of people you would meet, and be with; places you can visit in terms of accessibility; money that you can spend/save, and so on.
This had been my deciding factor while moving. If you wish to stay within a domain, there are a plethora of great companies set up offices here. Domain knowledge is well respected here and would certainly be a big plus.
Roles are usually malleable. Also moving within should be fairly possible. Hence fixating on this as a reason to move, might be too constricting. Unless of course you are in a niche market and this is top priority.
Small / Large organisation
Naturally, size of organisation gives you different grades of freedom at your work. Freedom to experiment, freedom to learn, grow and so on. As a side note, for a designer, one should check the metrics of measurement of a company. How do they maintain a balance between the value to the user and the business / sales goals. Large and small organisations handle it fairly differently, both having different buffers to operate in.
Well, this might be a difficult section to pen down while staying as politically correct as possible. However, the central aspect of the difference in the expectation out of life from an Indian/Asian upbringing versus a west European upbringing is starkly evident with each passing minute. As a designer, you would/should be aware of the ethnographic viewpoint of lives of people and the circumstances that maketh them.
While every step you walk in Koramangala would be million dollar evaluation start-up and every stone you throw lands on a founder of some or the other company, the investment of self and efforts towards the said startups is easily way beyond what would be considered legal in western Europe. Indians might be attuned to being hypercompetitive straight from birth, since even that would determine the hospital our parents could afford. This competitiveness for existence is simply not there in the EU, why should it.
The word culture means totally different in the definition of the west and the east. Your quarterly company sponsored dinners, or team outings, or the pleathora of HR organized proverbial Rangoli competitions, sports events, family day out and the likes, simply cannot happen. You need to know that people would avoid mixing work and personal life as much as possible. CEOs of your company dancing with you on booked venue with celebrities performing on Bollywood numbers is simply unimaginable in western Europe. So if you count on blowing off steam as well as getting to know the real people behind your colleagues over the sports day, you’d feel left out. Team building activities are not on the priority, since colleagues are supposed to be only colleagues. Surely if you wish more out of them, it would be on your own accord, the company would never ever internalize it in the process.
Employees do not switch jobs that often. Their idea is to get comfortable at a place. You will also find people not wanting to climb the ‘ladder’. There will be plenty who are once a developer, always a developer. They would simply not want to take on the different path of becoming a people manager, or cross over to being a product manager, and so on. This also means that the incentives given by the company would simply not be. Don’t expect a few sweatshirts every winter, or company tee shirts, umbrellas, shoes, I don’t even remember what all I got. Awards and recognitions are also comparatively way lesser in my experience. While in India, every small project would get you a few thousand rupees in addition to a Bravo medal at a townhall.
Not sure if this next point comes under work culture, but food is usually not free in this part of the world at the workplaces (or anywhere :P)
While at this stage, another attempt if the earlier disclaimers have been forgotten, all of these are mere generalisations, naturally, there exists things outside of this middle of the bell curve in both the countries/societies. #disclaimer03
As mentioned, the objective of people, their purpose in life is literally to live it to the fullest. To enjoy each tiny aspect of it. Something that majority of Indians simply cannot fathom. We have been accustomed to, (and even want in my case) to blur the boundaries between work and life. This is all the more evident when you have a design lens that you look at the world with. Every object, process, system, app, streetlight, bench, bus route, pothole, etc. that you see, you would enter the problem solving mode.
The other aspect is that of proficiency. Go to a design studio in India, you will inevitable find a bunch of trained designers. European system doesn’t seem to work that way. People want to find their passion not just in their formative years, but throughout their lives. Which is a really good thing on a personal level. So it would not be alien to see someone who was a musician for 14 years, then did advertising for 5, and moved to UX research from there. I am certainly not a proponent of degree based designations. However, I am a proponent of a design sensitivity based designations, those who have a keen eye on the subtle nuances, right to the systemic framework of things.
The money aspect has already been discussed, however, reiterating, if you seek for annual bonuses, Above&Beyond or such awards, or simply annual appraisals, it might be better to forget it. Given that the inflation of prices in the country is so low, the dearness of living almost stays stagnant. It is only now that some of the fixed cost has been increasing. We will have to see how it goes going forth.
India / Asian countries are a service oriented economy. It is quite literally the service provider of the world. Thus one needs to understand the basic differences in the outlook of the two economies. The ample availability of workforce for every aspect of life has mostly been taken for granted. The said workforce would be meagrely paid and exploited. For European economies, workers rights are at the top.
Thus it would not be feasible to have an app to send a boy to fetch around and deliver a packet of your morning cigarettes, milk and eggs within 10 minutes after you order it as you wake up early in the morning.
The second thing would be data privacy. Indian society unfortunately hasn’t been much into privacy, while the GDPR is a complete contrary. You will not get a text message on each card swipe. To add to that, transactions would appear on the bank a few days after they have been processed. This means that you simply cannot budget your expenditure using real time apps.
Well, if you have thought of moving out of the country, you might already have forgone a house help. You would’ve decided to cook for yourself, but that is not all. In case you are a regular user of services in India that take care of your usual needs, you might want to think harder. You’d have to leave, Zomato/Swiggy, Dunzo, BigBasket, Amazon one day deliveries, or simple financial services such as UPI, investment apps, budgeting apps (Walnut/Splitwise), or commuting apps such as Uber/Ola, Yulu, Zoomcar, Bounce, apps for doctors (Practo), handymen, movers (Porter), UrbanClap and the list goes on and on. Some larger cities in Europe would have some apps that replicate these business models, but largely none. If they exist, it would be expensive that it doesn’t make sense to use it. Oh and yes, unavailability of unlimited mobile internet will pinch you every single day.
Weather is a thing here. If you fancy living inside a refrigerator for a large part of each year, then Europe would be the place for you! You would’ve never in your life used the weather app in India, but in Europe, you will have to check it each morning and a day prior. There will be weeks where you don’t see the sun, you will start taking VitD tablets. And other days when the sun is out and no one works for the entire month. Summer holidays are not just for kids anymore. Negative temperatures over the winters and especially the lack of sunlight, if paired with being alien to the surroundings will be downright depressing.
Okay, enough of negatives, but the amazingness of the actual changing weather will be observed here. All the seasons are extremely unique and lovely in all of its aspects. Summer is like a fiesta. Everyone is in their top spirit. Cities are packed with people, lakes and rivers are filled. Fall brings in the colourful beauty which is then followed by winter. However dreaded, there is still nothing more magical than snow. The spring then closes the loop by bringing us flowers. In India, we take weather completely for granted. This will change and we will appreciate the beauty of nature. I cannot be more grateful for gradually growing fond of these weather distinctions here and the beauty it provides. You can actually map your life on a weather timeline. Ah, the winter of 2020, the summer of 69.
Again, the disclaimer stands. Most large European cities would speak English, and smaller cities, younger generations would too speak English. However, for all practical purposes, you will need to learn the local language. Cannot stress this enough. This would mean that you pick a dedicated country, and invest a year or two to learn at least the basics of the language. This will be the foundation for you to integrate in the society, get help and service when needed.
Learning a language is one of the most wonderful experiences. I believe most Indians already have a knack for learning languages. Languages open a whole new world. You get to understand culture, traditions, history and the psyche of the people. The comparisons, the etymology, even if you are no language nerd, you will start loving these nuances.
Thus, to sum up, this has been largely a collation of the pros and cons of moving to European country, coming from an Indian (or Asian) city. One needs to evaluate which phase of life s/he is at, and what are the motivating factors that would contribute to the decision making. You will invest multiple years of your life in this process, decide wisely.
Wish you all the best :)
It would be really helpful if you comment below your reasons to want to leave a country for another. It could be your Childhood dream, the reelection of the far right party, the tiredness of constant city life, perpetual work day and night or simply to just explore and so on.
Thank you for reading and I wish you and your loved ones a good physical and mental well-being.
If you liked reading this, consider reading how city design affects our mental well-being.
All amazing illustrations are courtesy https://undraw.co/