Financial Tales … (Not the news paper)

Monday, 11 June 2012

I have been toying, for some time, about when, if and how, to write a post about finances without either whining, or being overly optimistic.   Perhaps now that I am (finally!) in a financially stable position I can do so with a little more perspective.
If you choose to leave your country and live elsewhere it is inevitable that you must have some capital set aside before you go.  Last winter I slogged my guts out working in a restaurant 60-odd hours a week for three months.  I was lucky to do this with my young man working in the same place and some other great colleagues who made it all bearable.  Although there were times when I was so tired I’d get in and lie on the kitchen floor unable to move, between us we saved enough money to give us a few months grace here without panic when we arrived and it was worth it.  A minimum would perhaps be in the region of 2,000 EUR (this is what Aussies are advised to have when they apply for their visa), but in reality it is much, much more than this that is necessary if you are singing as well.
Suzy’s Singing-Abroad List
  •  Have at least enough aside for three month’s rent (so look into how much monthly rent is on average in the city you want to live on forums etc).
  • Organise language courses and pay for them before you go.  No excuses for trying out English on the local French/German/Swiss/Italian people…
  • Check out the job scene online.  What sorts of jobs are going, what is available to non-fluent speakers of the language in the country where you will be?
  • How much is health insurance?  I’ve met people lumbered with huge bills for not having the right insurance and working in a different country.
  • How many auditions do you want to do?  Bear in mind that you need to set aside costs of the audition, travel, subsistence and accommodation for EACH ONE.
  • Research teachers in the city, and then in the surrounding cities as well.  And in the cities where you will do auditions.  Who do you really want to study with?  How much do they charge?  How many lessons do you plan on having – can you afford to find a couple of good coaches as well?
  • What’s going to make you stand out when you’re there?  Can you budget for extra master classes/courses/coachings with amazing conductors or singers?
  •  Can anyone help you; recommend accommodation/work/contacts before you go?



I had some pretty sleepless nights after about three months here.  I had spent a vast amount of money travelling to different cities for singing lessons, auditions and coaching and it was dawning on me that my money was running out.  I had to ask the nice young man to feed me on occasion…  If I am honest, I think I’ve spent about 5-7,000 EUR this year…  Scary.  BUT I think every penny was worth it.
How to get myself out of the dire penniless-abroad situation?
I applied to what felt like thousands of jobs.  I had sworn to myself I would be a waitress no more.  But then, coming into the beginning of May I was sadly thinking of re-writing my CV so that I could get waitressing jobs as I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere applying to be a PA, office assistant, receptionist, general dogsbody etc etc etc.  Luckily this turned out to be unnecessary as I was offered two different jobs.  The first would have been teaching music in a kindergarten and the other working as a researcher for a financial market research company.  Both wanted me to speak English and I eventually chose to take the financial research job, as it is 20 hours per week but flexible.  I can inform the office each week of when I will work.  Sounds like my dream job?!   Now I can sing, afford lessons and pay my rent and bills with no troubles.  This also fits alongside the paid singing work I am doing, which is just as good, and more fun!!
It took three months and I am aware that that was lucky (fortunate perhaps a better turn of phrase?).  I have colleagues who had been looking for a year or more before they got their job.  I got all the job offers (musical and non-musical) over about 3 days at the beginning of May, so it was in time to stop myself from running away and booking flights home.  It is a scary time financially for everyone (I can say that with authority now that I work in financial research…) but risks do still pay dividends.

I would never want to put anyone off moving abroad, but I think it also pays to be frank about actual costs and what is sensible.  I hope this post is vaguely helpful to anyone considering doing an audition tour or moving abroad permanently.  Allow time (ie budget properly) to let yourself get to grips with the language and the culture of the destination, before you put pressure on yourself to succeed in anything else…


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