Kevin Panter

Kevin has relocated to Brussels, Belgium, to work as Product Manager for C&A. He has been in the role for eight months now.

What were your main motivations and reasons behind your international relocation?

I had two main motivations; the first was that I’d never worked for a company with true international growth potential, and even working in a multinational organisation I’d never had any involvement with the international business. C&A are in 20 countries across Europe alone, as well as having worldwide presence so I’m much more involved here.
My second motivation was the challenge relocating offered. I’d worked in the UK for 12 years and wanted to experience new markets in an exciting setting.

How has relocating helped your career?

My relocation is a long-term move, I wanted to gain international experience and I’ve had the chance to do that here. It’s not just learning about the Belgium market, every country in Europe is different and I could even use my expertise in the UK with a company that wants to expand internationally. C&A are very well respected across Europe so I can develop my career with them, but there are also lots of opportunities outside of C&A.

What’s it like living in Brussels? How does it compare to the UK?

I wanted to live somewhere that was different to London and Belgium’s a great country to live in; I can still come home once a month. I can’t compare the two; I thought there might be some language issues but Brussels is the capital of Europe so it’s full of English speakers. Language is sometimes difficult when you’re buying something, say in the supermarket, and you can’t read the cooking instructions!

What do you do outside the office?

Travel is one of the reasons I wanted to relocate to the continent; I’ve spent time in Australia, the Far East, and the States but had only really been to Europe for work travel. Now I can spend my weekends travelling, I’ve had weekends in Cologne, spent a few days in Lille and I want to go to the Belgium Grand Prix next year. The biggest advantage of living here is you can drive anywhere, Brussels to Antwerp is only 45 minutes and I can get to Germany or Paris in a couple of hours.

What’s the hardest thing about relocating?

If you get everything in order before you move, it shouldn’t be that hard. I was very lucky in that C&A were incredibly supportive and Nicola from Michael Page helped me through the process. Practical things, like setting up a bank account, are very different here, but not difficult.

What advice would you give to someone looking to make an international relocation? What will they need to consider?

Make sure you’re organised. I’ve rented out my flat back home and that all needed to be sorted before I moved. I’d also say don’t take too much with you, be minimal, relocating is a good opportunity to get rid of things you don’t need. For me, relocating somewhere that was convenient for getting back to London was important, so I could visit friends and family. So that’s another consideration.
When viewing areas to live I’d recommend you spend time there during the day and evening. Somewhere that’s very quiet in the day might be very lively at night so you need to decide if that’s what you want. Don’t be tempted to drive everywhere either, Brussels is quite small so walking around makes it easier to get to know the area.

What advice would you give someone for trying to juggle settling into a new country and new job?

The biggest thing is that you shouldn’t expect things to place into place straight away. There will always be minor differences and it’s easier if you just embrace them. Go out to local bars and restaurants, even if you’re on your own; it’s far more common in Europe for people to dine and go for coffee alone. C&A have given me a lot of time to get to know the business, going to the office hasn’t changed that much.
I’m very happy I relocated, it was the right time for me and it’s good to have a change, it invigorates you and your career. The support I’ve received from C&A has been amazing and everything Michael Page has done throughout the process and the follow up has made it an even better experience, I really can’t say a bad word about relocating.