The Caribbean is the place to work, according to Hays Montrose’s guide to salaries worldwide. But if it’s not your idea of paradise, the guide also lists pay and perks in nine other locations.

If you have a hankering for drinking milk straight from a freshly fallen coconut and sipping rum as the cornflower blue sea laps gently at your feet, now might be the time to indulge your tropical fantasy. The demand for project managers, engineers and quantity surveyors to work in the Caribbean islands has never been greater, according to this year’s Hays Montrose international salary guide. Not only is there a large number of jobs, but the salaries are good. A project manager can command up to £50 000 a year.

The islands, which stretch from Spanish-speaking Cuba to English-speaking Trinidad, are major upmarket tourist attractions and as such need infrastructure to support the hordes of visitors. “The demand for people to go and work in the Caribbean has gone up 100% since last year,” declares Hays International director Raj Sharma. “The salaries are quite decent because the developments in leisure and hotels are of a high quality and often specialised, so the pay needs to reflect that.”

The latest opening for UK firms is the Spanish-speaking republics of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Like the rest of the region, they attract infrastructure funding from the World Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank, especially for water and sewage schemes to support the burgeoning leisure industry.

The government of Puerto Rico, a free territory of the USA, is particularly eager to attract British consultants to carry out a raft of planned infrastructure work. Thames Water is already building a pipeline for a sewage scheme in the capital, San Juan. Major cruise operators such as P&O tend to start and finish their Caribbean tours in Puerto Rico, and, to support the increasing demand for cruises, the Puerto Rican government is developing a cruise terminal, called the Golden Triangle, in San Juan. The project includes space for new hotels that will house passengers.

Last February, British Consultants Bureau deputy director Nigel Peters went on a research visit to Puerto Rico. “The Puerto Ricans are keen to encourage European consultants because they have a love-hate relationship with the Americans,” he says. “They want to show them that they are an independent country but there is also the view that, for large design-and-build projects, the Americans are not as up to speed as the Europeans.” In the neighbouring Dominican Republic, too, tourism is sparking the development of hotels and resort complexes as well as water and sewage treatment centres to ensure the supply of clean water for visitors. There are some more unusual projects. Mouchel is rehabilitating a bridge in Santo Domingo that has corroded because locals have been using the steel structure as a latrine – the big giveaway is the fact that the bridge is rusty only up to waist level.

Tourism and infrastructure are also sustaining work in English-speaking islands such as Jamaica and Trinidad. Again, the demand for cruises run by the likes of P&O is funding portside developments in Jamaica. The Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago governments are using World Bank and Caribbean Development Bank funds to finance roads and water schemes.

Multidisciplinary consultant WSP has an office in Kingston, which carries out a wide variety of work, from transport to marine infrastructure studies. The road sector is becoming more sophisticated. Trinidad is setting up UK-style road agencies for maintenance work. But the big opening for UK consultants is in highly specialised roles on complicated projects such as fancy hotels. “The Caribbean is reasonably well served by its own architects but they miss out on the high-tech expertise, such as specialised lighting services or mechanical and electrical works, that UK firms can provide,” explains WSP’s Alan Machray.

If the bright blue waters of the Caribbean pall, perhaps the splendour of the Nile might be an antidote. “Egypt is the only place in the Middle East where there is any demand for recruitment at the moment,” says Hays International’s Sharma. Mace is working on a cement factory in Alexandria for Blue Circle.

Further south, the doom-and-gloom merchants who predicted the fall-out of work in Hong Kong have been proved wrong. Construction work peaked with the completion of Chek Lap Kok airport, but the complicated infrastructure projects are continuing apace. “The work hasn’t dropped off dramatically and international business has not been frightened away. The future of Hong Kong is in its infrastructure so there will be work for some time,” says the British Consultants Bureau’s Peters.

In Europe, the former communist state of Poland is proving to be the land of opportunity for UK consultants. The country has a population of about 50 million and is attracting European firms desperate to get a foothold in the large market as well as European Commission grants for infrastructure schemes to be completed before Poland joins the European Union.

Mace, Davis Langdon & Everest, Bovis Lend Lease and Gleeds all have offices in Poland. Mace is reporting a particularly busy period working for clients such as Tesco, German retailer Metro and KFC. “There is almost more work than we can imagine but it is a case of developing progressively and not overnight. We want to cultivate long-term relationships and keep a sustainable business,” says Michael Davies, international director for Mace.

But competition for Polish projects has become much more aggressive. Ten years after opening up to the West, local consultants and contractors have developed the sort of expertise demanded by international clients. “It is becoming more aggressive now because the Polish firms are offering what we are offering and they are very good,” admits Stuart Walker, managing director of Mace.

Whether your dream is to provide the services engineering for a tropical island hotel or to project-manage a KFC in a Krakow, it is not simply a case of marching in and snapping up work. The best way is to develop links with local firms. The British Consultants Bureau runs trade missions to hot-spots to get to know local firms so that they can team up with British counterparts. “The days are gone when you could just go in, do the job and get out,” says Peters. Because of this trend for local partnerships, learning the language of the area, if it is not English-speaking, becomes a paramount issue (I never want to leave Spain, left).

A stint abroad will not make a project manager or engineer rich, but the experience does have other rewards. It might be a chance to work in a developing business, such as Mace’s Spanish operation, to get to know a different political culture in Cuba, or to try 50 different types of vodka in Poland. As Darren Moore, a Laing contracts manager working on the newly opened Oresund bridge-tunnel in Denmark, says: “It is a chance to get an idea of another culture which, when you get back to Britain, means you have a more global view of business and a better understanding of people.”

How Jamaica gets under your skin

Alan Machray, regional director for the Caribbean and Central America, WSP Jamaica is a great place to work. It sort of gets under your skin. I came here in 1992 and am what you would call a perpetual expat. I’ve been overseas since 1978. My family love it here. My daughter goes to school in Kingston and my son is at boarding school in Britain. The working hours are 8.30am to 5pm, but you have to appreciate the laid-back culture. The Caribbean has its own pace and people don’t expect things to be done quite as quickly. Don’t be deceived by that, though, because the people are bright, hard-working and very friendly. I have been particularly impressed by the standard of computer literacy. Everybody is very proficient in Microsoft Word and Excel. The cost of living is not dissimilar to the UK. If you want European goods, such as cornflakes, you pay more because they are imported. A good bottle of wine will cost about £10. Local food is much cheaper. You can have a meal such as chicken, rice and peas for £3, with a bottle of local beer for £1. There is much more to Jamaica than palm trees. Inside the island, you have the Blue Mountains, and wonderful areas of rainforest. It can get very hot and humid in summer, but the offices are all air-conditioned so it’s not a great problem. There have been horror programmes about “yardies”, but in eight years of living here I have not experienced any violence or crime. And I have noticed no anti-white feeling.

I never want to leave Spain

Chris Weston, project manager, Mace Spain Spain is a wonderful place to work. My wife is Spanish and we have no intention of going back to the UK. The climate is much better, although in Madrid, where I live, it gets very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. I particularly like being able to relax after work. There is a tremendous amount of social activity in the street and in bars and it’s very family-orientated. The working culture is very different. The Spanish work very hard. We start at 8am or 8.30am and work until 7pm or 7.30pm. About once a week, I go out for lunch at about three o’clock. When you are working these long hours, sometimes you need a break in the day. I do speak Spanish but it took me a long time to learn. To work in Spain, you need to understand more than just the language. You need to understand the process of getting a project built because it’s very different from the UK. Another good reason for staying here is that it’s a developing business. Demand for project management is growing.

Working and playing hard in Poland

Stuart Walker, managing director, Mace Polska In Poland, the UK property sector is a little community by itself. Firms such as EC Harris, Davis Langdon & Everest and Gleeds are here and there are haunts, restaurants and bars where most of us seem to congregate to talk about who has got what job. I have been here for eight-and-a-half years. I enjoy Poland, even though initially it was like the Wild West. You couldn’t get everything you wanted in one supermarket and would have to go to three or four. Now, the supplies are much better. I enjoy the buzz of being here, and especially meeting new prospective clients and selling them services. The people here are very friendly but they are also very determined about what they want. I spent some time in the Czech Republic, where they would talk about projects but couldn’t bring them off. Here in Poland, if they want to put together a project, they are aggressive about making sure it does happen. The social life is good. I tend to work long hours but there are plenty of bars and clubs. I like to play golf but the prices have shot up, so I don’t play as much as I used to. My wife and four children are in the UK so I fly home every other weekend. I understand Polish but I’m embarrassed to say I only have basic speaking skills. It isn’t really a problem because most of our clients are international and the staff in our office are Polish or Anglo-Polish.

Brush up your languages

If you keep meaning to turn your schoolbook French or holiday Spanglish into something comprehensible to the locals, now might be the time to book some lessons. The ability to communicate in a language other than English is more and more likely to impress employers – and British firms are just learning that they need Spanish-speakers if they want to crack the South and Central American markets. “English may be the language of business in most of the world but in South and Central America they have little need for it,” says Nigel Peters, deputy director of the British Consultants Bureau. “My advice would be to learn Spanish, which is far more useful than the French or German people learn in school. I get quite upset with the British education system about this.” Peters’ advice is echoed by Mace’s international director, Michael Davies. He spends a lot of time jet-setting between Mace’s offices in Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands and the Middle East. “If I was in my 20s or 30s, I would be keen to learn a second language, and for me Spanish is the most useful,” he says. Davies is following his own advice and has begun a course of Spanish lessons with his family. If you want to do the same, these organisations can help: Linguarama (020-7236 1992) The firm has schools in London and Birmingham that run one-to-one courses in almost any language under the sun, especially for business people. Classes can take place either in the school or at the client’s office. Cost £1755 plus VAT for 45 hours’ training in London Cardiff University Centre for Lifelong Learning (029-2087 4832) The university offers group and individual courses in many languages. Students can either go to the university or the teacher will come to them. Cost £25-45 an hour, depending on the type of course and the number of people in a group International House (020-7518 6999) The London office of the training company offers courses in French, German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese for groups and individuals. These can cover either general language training or language for business. On one-to-one courses, the teacher will travel to the student’s home or business. Cost £140 for a 10-week evening course of two hours a week; £40 an hour for individual lessons