Tag Archives: career

9 Questions every expat partner should ask - Defining Moves | The Art of Successful Relocation

9 Questions Every Expat Partner Should Ask (Part 2)

9 Questions every expat partner should ask - Defining Moves | The Art of Successful Relocation

In the first of the three part series, we set the scene for some of the tougher questions – the ones that we are looking at today. No-one likes to think about what happens if things go wrong, but as the expat partner, you will have interrupted your independent income stream, be dependent on your partner for right of residency and be judged according to a set of laws that may be at odds with what you believe. In essence, you are putting yourself in a far more vulnerable position, so you need to take steps to protect yourself and your rights should something happen to your partner or your partnership. And then, hopefully, never have to think about it again..

4. What financial provisions will need to be made?

Choosing to go on international assignment in a supporting role means that you interrupt your career, even in the short term. This has potential impact on your pension (both state and company),  home country benefits entitlement (depending on the length of time you are out of your host country), earning potential, credit rating and your professional credentials and resume, so you need to be clear about your financial plans for the future, and how you will safeguard yourself.

As a dependent partner, it may be more difficult to open an individual bank account in your host country, but it is an essential part of your financial security. If something happens to your partner or your relationship, depending on the laws of the country you may lose access to any assets held jointly, and thus the ability to not only pay any bills and live in the family home but also to hire legal services. While we hate to think about a loved one being either missing, incapacitated or dead, the reality in these situations is that your legal rights are determined by the law of the land you live in. The same applies in the case of marital breakdown, and the last thing you need in a time of personal or family crisis is a financial one.

5. What if something happens to the primary visa holder in terms of country law?

Bear in mind that the transferring partner is the primary visa applicant, and in most cases, their residence in the country is dependent on their continued employment with the sponsoring company. So if your partner loses his/her job, breaks the terms of the contract, commits a crime or dies, you no longer have the right of residence, regardless of how long you have lived in the country.

For most expats on short term assignments the immediate response is to return to their home nation. However, the longer the assignment, the greater the family investment in the host location, both in terms of financial assets, education and employment history. So if you are considering seeking employment, re-entering education, have college age children or are going to invest larger sums of money, consult a legal or visa specialist to fully understand your rights.

6. Have we made legal arrangements for all dependents in the event of our death, injury or incarceration?

I am continually astonished at how few people have a Will, let alone an Advance Directive of Health Care (Living Will), a Trust or chosen guardians for their children in the event of their death. As Benjamin Franklin said, “The only two certainties in life are death and taxes”, and we should be giving both the same annual attention. You should have valid copies of all of the above held by a lawyer in your home location, and additional host location ones completed as soon as you arrive. If you haven’t already heard it enough, I’ll say it again.. Laws vary, and your Embassy/Consulate can only do a certain amount to help. Most Embassies retain a list of local lawyers who speak your language, and other expats will often have recommendations or referrals. As with finding a good doctor, it’s always worth finding a good one before an emergency arises.

Photo courtesy of Musée McCord Museum. Interesting what comes up when you Google ‘Supporting Partner’..

Redefining Relocation 1: Getting it right from the start – what’s motivating your move?

When we consider relocating, the common theme is the idea of an easier life. But expat life is not easy; it can be incredibly rewarding, but it is also frustrating, challenging and can be very isolating if you are not both motivated and committed to making it a success.

I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that to your potential overseas employer or relocating corporation, ‘you’ are the sum total of your resume. Actually, ‘you’ are your resume, your (carefully selected) references and your interview technique. You are not the person your therapist sees every Thursday, your overdraft, nor the parent whom your children alternately love and loathe.

This is also the bad news, because these are the characteristics that might give more insight for the HR department, your future boss and your relocation / destination service providers. They are the traits that affect not how you will behave in a new role, but in your new life.

People choose to relocate for a vast array of reasons, and many of them are not great. In fact most of the time, we don’t even stop to consider what’s driving us, and by the time we realize that it might not be such a good idea, the contract is signed, the flights are booked, and the household contents are halfway across the Indian Ocean.

No-one might ever ask you what it motivating you to move, but someone should.

That’s exactly what the first stage of any relocation process should be; asking yourself why you are considering such a major life change, and what do you really hope to get out of it? It’s the time to be honest, put pen to paper, and see if the things we want in our future life require a geographical move, or simply a little attention closer to home.

To get you started, here’s a snapshot of what prompted our first relocation, and the disadvantages we tried to predict. The categories are intended as a guide – feel free to add your own. Take as long as you need to brainstorm all the beliefs, expectations and plans for the assignment, and put it somewhere where you can add to it as moments of inspiration / enlightenment / terror appear. And don’t get caught up in specifics – this is to provide you with an overview, rather than a detailed list of pro and cons.

Once you have clarified your motivations for moving, list them in order of importance, including the positive and negative points. If your top three positives all involve a change of location, it’s time to move on to the next step – defining your expectations.

For those of you who are experienced veterans of the relocation world, we’d love to know what motivated you to start relocating, and what’s changed. Is there something that we’ve missed?

Photo courtesy of the Geoff Charles Collection at the National Library of Wales

I’ve been published!

 

It is a triumph of determination over adversity, of defiance over embarrassment, and of small steps over giant leaps. It’s a David and Goliath story, for here I am, in the middle of a billion dollar industry, and I have been published.

You can read it HERE. (and please do, because it makes the people in the HR world think that I’m really, really influential. We can keep the truth just between us..)

Those of you who have been following this blog (mostly due to emotional blackmail and a warped enjoyment of the blog version of Funniest Home Videos) will be astonished. It’s a victory for the Sausage Splat over the Sausage Plait. It’s public acknowledgement that life is messy, no-one’s perfect, but we can still have a brief moment of looking competent.

Over the past six months, I’ve shared stories of my expat disasters, family dysfunctions, parenting blunders and general ineptitude, safe in the knowledge that I’m not alone. You only realize that we’re all doing it badly until you’re in the middle of nowhere, wondering why your single day cultural diversity boot camp didn’t cover the word for toilet tissue and how all your personal / social / parenting failings miraculously made the journey with you.

All those of us doubting our own ability should take heart from this –  if you need more evidence, here’s my first and second posts that inadvertently launched the site. Those of us trotting around the world in a haphazard fashion do have a voice, and according to the site stats over at internationalhrforum.com, people might even be listening.

Sadly for you, that voice is currently me, and I’m no paragon of Trailing Spouse, expat or parenting virtue.

Sorry about that..

Photo courtesy of  State Library of New South Wales

Relocating family at airport

Relocating? 9 Essential questions every expat should ask. (Part 3)

Relocating family at airport
photo courtesy of the Nationaal Archief

Part Three of our guide to what you all really need to know about relocating before you accept your international expat assignment: How will it affect the whole family?

(If you missed the previous postings, here’s part one and part two)

 

 7. What provision is there for my partner?

Relocation policies are increasingly aware of the need to keep all members of the family happy, especially when the majority of early repatriations are due to family concerns. This is reflected in many assignment packages, which include career assistance for the spouse (resume preparation, employment authorization documentation, visa assistance etc.), cultural orientation training, language training, or a lump sum to be used in any way you prefer.

If you have taken the time to create your family 5 year timeline, your expectations and goals should be clear, and you can identify whether the package (and the length of the assignment) meets the needs of the accompanying partner.

Some questions to consider include:

  • Is there recognition for same-sex partnerships, and does the host location have a similar policy?
  • Is there orientation and location support for the partner, or are they just expected to ‘get on with it’?
  • Is there an established expat group in place to provide host country support?
  • Who is expected to establish the essentials – housing, utilities etc? How much time and management does this typically take?
  • Will you be legally able to work in your host country, what national and local documentation is required, and how long will the application process take?
  • Will you be required to undertake local re-certification, and how long will the process take?
  • How much travel will the assignment require, and will that affect the accompanying partner’s ability to work?
  • Is the accompanying partner’s career appropriate for short term employment, and what would happen if the assignment duration changed?
  • Is remote working a possibility, or should you consider career counseling to explore other options?
  • Are there any local cultural or legal barriers to your employment?

The ability of the partner to work will depend on many things, not all of which you might expect. Visas, work permits and employment authorization will vary hugely between locations and professions, and it may be wise to get career counseling explore the option of working remotely or creating a more flexible career structure. Even those with widely transferable professions such as nursing and teaching are restricted by the need for local re-certification within the limited time span of the assignment.

Other physical factors such as local vacancies / needs, restrictions (e.g. curfews, dress codes, security issues, laws etc.) the practicalities of sustaining a family life, or even availability of childcare will affect the accompanying partners ability not just to find work, but to maintain an career long term.

 

8. What provision is there for my children?

The questions that apply to the accompanying partner also have relevance for any children in the family. All the standard questions for any school about curriculum, student-teacher ratios, test scores and demographics apply, but there are additional factors to consider to ensure a consistent and coherent academic pathway. For short term assignments and younger children there is more flexibility in terms of practical schooling options, but the older the children, there is a greater need for advance planning for college applications, residency requirements, academic language and funding.

Consider:

  • How long is the assignment, and what if it gets extended or you move to local payroll? While private schooling is the most flexible in terms of admission and curriculum, the long term expense can be prohibitive.
  • Does the host location have appropriate available schooling, or will boarding school need to be considered now or in the future? Is this something you and your children are happy to consider?
  • Does your child have any social, emotional or learning issues that will need special consideration? Are these needs able and likely to be met in the new location, or will you need additional resources?
  • Does the new location allow for transfers between schools, or is there a limited choice? Is homeschooling supported where there are gaps in curriculum provision?
  • What are the demographics of the school? Will the range of languages spoken be an advantage or a barrier to effective teaching and learning?
  • Does the policy absorb the impact of international college fees, and what if we transfer during the college years?
  • If your children are college age and would normally have spent summers living at home, does the package include a flight to your new location for them once per year?
  • What happens when my child reaches legal adulthood? Will they be allowed to remain in the country as dependents, or will they have to apply for an independent visa?

As a rule of thumb, most expats I know have planned current schooling well, but the issues of college education have been forgotten. We are unfamiliar with the admissions process and requirements, fail to understand the importance of standardized tests, and underestimate the complexity of the fee structure.

While colleges are increasingly accepting a wide range of academic evidence for entry, there is less flexibility when it comes to funding. Short term assignments often mean that you no longer qualify for resident rates, whether national or state, regardless of your citizenship. If you have high school age children, consider the long term impact of your school and assignment choices – if you though private school was expensive, just wait until you see the college ‘international student’ rates…

 

Resources:

Career Counseling – Jennifer Bradley

A Career in Your Suitcase: third edition. Jo Parfitt

International Baccalaureate Organization 

School Choice International

Camel train circa 1900's

Relocating? 9 Essential questions every expat should ask. (Part 1)

Camel Train circa 1900

 

When we think of living abroad, we instantly conjure up images of white sandy beaches, turquoise seas, friendly locals and a leisurely quality of life. That is, until we’re two days into our first relocation, surrounded by boxes, with no power, not internet, and no help in sight. By day four, the bloom has gone off this particular rose, and by day seven, we realize that we were possibly just a little naive in thinking that four bedrooms, a balcony and guaranteed sunshine were really all we needed to find our bliss. So for the anyone considering relocating, here’s part one of the ‘9 Essential Questions Every Potential Expat Should Ask’ series. And yes, the same rules apply for domestic relocations too..

1. Where am I going?

The standard ways of finding out destination information – travel guides, websites and maps – tell you very little of what you need to know when relocating. Visiting a country for a short period is very, very different to living and working  there, and it’s the challenge of day-today living that causes many assignments to end early.

To understand whether your new location is a good fit for you and your family, you need to do two things. Firstly, assess how your time is spent currently, including work, school, commuting travel, after school activities, sports, socializing etc. Using resources specific to long term living rather than short term visits, assess how much change you would experience, what benefits and disadvantages your new location has, and decide whether or not this is really the move for you.

This might be anything from a lack of sunshine /open space/daylight hours/ professional theatre to different education systems, religious practice or high crime rates. There is a whole world out there, and it’s better to keep your options open for a more appropriate assignment than be forced to terminate one early.

Ask your HR department about global information that the company purchases –  resources like Living Abroad, Expat Arrivals, the Not for Tourists guides and the Lonely Planet guides will give you much of the information you need, and online blog registries and expatriate forums have the real life experience. Consider joining a network like Internations to meet locals and expats from your potential host location.

2. How long will I be going for?

Notice that didn’t I ask how long was your contract was for?  Ten years and 5 relocations ago, we were offered a 1 year temporary assignment to Kenya. I have yet to return home, and all of our wedding photographs, birth certificates, photographs of our children as babies and furniture are still in a house in Wales. Contracts get extended, new transfers are offered, and if you are taking short term assignments, often all your belongings are not included in the relocation policy.

More importantly, you need to have a clear understanding of how long all members of the family are willing and able to participate a globally mobile life.

The long term issues surrounding schooling mean that your children may not have the required qualifications to attend the school of their choice (although colleges and universities are becoming much more flexible in terms of acceptable international admission criteria) or they may now be liable for higher ‘international’ tuition fees as you have lived outside your home country for too long to qualify for local fees.

The accompanying partner may have negotiated a year’s leave of absence, or may be required to maintain professional registration status, both of which become vulnerable if an assignment is extended.

3. What does the package include?

There are various types of relocation policies, including local, local plus and international, all of which give different levels of pay and benefits dependent on location. And while some will seem very generous in terms of base salary and hardship allowances, once on assignment you can quickly discover that the money is eaten up in unexpected ways.

If you have the information from the previous questions, you will have a better idea of what your new lifestyle will cost, and whether or not components that you consider essential are reflected in the assignment offer.

Key areas to look for are not just base salary, but frequently reviewed goods and services supplements (useful in less stable countries where the price of goods and exchange rates can fluctuate wildly) , health insurance coverage, childcare and school funding, whether you will be paid in your home or host currency, travel allowances, emergency evacuation policies, and repatriation assistance.

Talking to other expats will give you the best understanding of the real cost of living, which brings us neatly to the first question in Part 2 – “Do I get a preview visit?”

Sometimes, It’s better not look.. FIGT 2012

It’s been a very tricky day, which has taken me further and further from the cosy little comfort zone that I have created for myself. Up until now, I had considered myself successful at this relocation stuff, mainly because we managed not to lose anyone en route, the family are happily installed in work / school /dog training classes, and I had finally got around to finding a personal sense of purpose – this website. It’s not intended to set the world on fire, counteract global warming or generate world peace, but hopefully, someone somewhere will find at least one thing useful.

Not really an ambitious goal, but it works for me. So when someone suggested that I submit an application to present at the 2012 Families in Global Transition (FIGT) in March, it seemed like a good way of meeting like minded people. Which brings us back to today.

I spent the morning with a Social Media consultant to sort out my inept and haphazard Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter accounts. She wanted to know why I needed help, so I told her about FIGT and not wanting to be caught showing my knickers, metaphorically speaking. After a lengthy and very informative discussion, she gave me homework, which involved researching the other speakers at the conference so that I would have a list of people that I want to meet.

It has backfired badly. I am now in a state of abject terror. They are all far more qualified, experienced and connected, with excellent relocation pedigree, and I don’t know a single soul in the entire conference. I feel like the pound mutt at the Kennel Club show, and not only am I too frightened to want to meet any of them, I would rather eat my own tongue than admit my own existence. I have paid the registration fee and booked a vendor’s table and have no idea what to put on it apart from an all-you-can-eat pastry selection and a ‘Sorry I Missed You’ sign.

The Feisty One was with me when I began to hyperventilate, and was quick to offer a bracing pep talk. “Mummy”, she said “You have to stop being silly. You have a website, you’re building an app, you were a lecturer and a nurse” (here she starts to look a little panicky as she began to run out of material) “and you have a husband and two children and three dogs.” A glowing recommendation indeed – especially when two of the dogs run away on an almost daily basis -, but not necessarily the most professionally reassuring.

Thing are not going exactly to plan and I can see only one way forward – fake popularity and alcohol consumption. If you promise to Share, Like, Tweet and otherwise make me look popular, I promise to share all the gory details of what may well be a three day marathon of rabbit-in-the-headlight moments and any leftover pastries. And for those of you familiar with Washington D.C.; know any good cocktail bars?

 

Vintage photo of five girls on a horse

Essential Expat – Negotiating your International Assignment Contract

Vintage photo of five girls on a horse
Photo courtesy of the State Library of Queensland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When it comes to international assignments, relocation policy is not just a ‘one-size-fits-all’ affair. Not only is there flexibility to cater for specific individual needs within the various policies in use, there are also plenty of potential pitfalls to consider too. So what are the main areas that you need to understand when negotiating your expat assignment contract?

Home or Away. There are now a number of different types of contracts being used by the HR and relocation companies to manage your assignment. The two most common are local (including local plus)  and international. Local means that you will be temporarily governed by the employment pay and conditions of the host country, and aims to ensure parity among employees within a specific location for the duration of your contract. It can mean a increase in salary for more expensive regions, but a decrease for less expensive, and can significantly affect annual vacation entitlement. Local plus provides for additional needs or expenses incurred because of your temporary expat status, such as international school fees and trips home.

An international contract means you continue to work under the terms and conditions of your home location, regardless of the salary and benefit entitlements in your host location. As a comparison, European employees on an international assignment in the US would probably be entitled  to more annual leave days than their American counterparts, whereas US employees heading to Europe would find the opposite was true.

Matching Up. Once you have established what type of contract you will be working under, you need to look carefully at the terms and conditions of that contract, most specifically with regard to equalization. You need to be sure that the package provided gives you the same (or better) standard of living as you would have in your home location. It is more than just the immediate basic requirements – housing, healthcare, schooling, transportation, financial and legal status – you also need to consider the longer term: school planning, college eligibility and fees, provision for dependents becoming legally adult, access to legal services should you need them, long term medical and social care, financial planning, tax implications and superannuation (company pension plan). You will need to do detailed research in advance with reference to your specific individual and family needs, and if you have a preliminary visit, try and talk to resident expats to get a realistic picture of what the cost of living in your host location might be, and what challenges to expect. Don’t assume that the information given by the relocation management company is accurate – they use a generic formula that may have little relevance to your situation and needs. There are plenty of resources available to help you – Living Abroad, the ExpatInfoDesk , Journeywoman and Expatwomen all have country specific information and contacts that can help you understand what you are getting into.

Homeward Bound

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” – Nelson Mandela

What happens when your contracted assignment is over? In an ideal world, there is a clear progression that goes beyond your repatriation, and provides for a smooth transition back to your home location.  Even with successful international assignments, many people have discovered that repatriation is as hard as expatriation, and there is an increasing awareness that companies need to provide similar support services to move employees back to their former home successfully. And finally, ensure that you are supported should the assignment not go to plan, and either the whole family or the dependents need to repatriate early. If the situation is serious enough to make you leave, the last thing you need is to have to manage and fund your own return journey..

Additional resources:

Expat Info Desk – Negotiating your contract

ExpatArrivals – Expat contract negotiation

BritishExpat – Negotiating the expat contract

 

The Feisty One and Kitty the Dog

Tried and Trusted Ways to Lose Your Security Deposit – Kids & Puppies

The Feisty One and Kitty the Dog
Don’t let the innocent expressions fool you..

Yesterday I had a dream. The kids were off school, which meant not starting the day fighting through nose-to-tail teenage drivers, soccer moms and testosterone fueled businessmen (yes, I am aware that I have used sexist stereotypes, but if you bear with me, you may feel more sympathetic by the end). The new puppy would have three of us to share the 3 times per hour potty breaks, and I would be able to get endless amounts of inspired writing and expat site planning done. The more observant among you will already have realised that something went awry with this dream from the conspicuous absence of a new post.

The day started well enough, and until 3pm all was going swimmingly. The puppy had remained continent, the carpets unwatered, the Wiggy One had fought hundreds of cyber demons and the Feisty One was working her way through Friends reruns and trying out a nice line in smoky eye make-up. And then the s**t hit the fan. Quite literally.

To be fair, it didn’t start off on the fan. It started off on the bathroom floor, neatly deposited by our new canine arrival. However, in an attempt to cover up the fact that both of them had taken their eye off the (furry) ball, the Feisty One had donned rubber gloves and was using half a rainforest worth of toilet tissue to clear up the mess. Predictably, the plumbing revolted at the cubic volume it was expected to deal with, and promptly backed up. Enter the Wiggy One, whose familiarity with the Xbox controller obviously convinced him that he was SuperMario and possessed superhuman plumbing skills. By the time the stench reached the my office, the Wiggy One was hastily washing his face with the strongest soap he could find, and the bathroom floor, walls and fixtures were coated with coffee colored tissue shreds. The toilet was brimming with good cheer and excitement, a sink plunger was swirling abandoned in the bowl and half an inch of poop soup was sloshing across the floor.

It wasn’t my finest parenting hour. By the time we had the mess cleaned up and the temporary toilet blockage unplugged, I had threatened to take the dog back to the pound, the Wiggy One had learned some new words and the Feisty One was sobbing with misplaced remorse, sure that she and she alone was responsible, despite the fact that she had neither delivered the present nor turned it into a 3D explosion. The only saving grace is that is has inspired learning in my children  – the Wiggy One now has a clear understanding of the physics of water displacement, and the Feisty One has decided that she is safer at school.

One of the first questions people ask is whether I worry about running out of material to write about. Yesterday was proof that nothing beats a day at home with your kids for productivity.

 

The Top 10 Concerns of Expats #3 – Defining Moves Version

6) Health Concerns

“According to HSBC 29% of all those surveyed had real worries about healthcare – i.e., the quality of it and accessing it once they had moved abroad. … Those who retire abroad also worry about the long-term affordability of healthcare, and then there are those who move to countries with an unsophisticated medical system who worry that they may not get the care or support they need, should the requirement arise.” (Shelter Offshore)

Ironically, the greatest issue that we have faced is not sub-standard care, but that of poor advance planning and fragmented healthcare documentation.  There are plenty of companies and organizations who provide high quality local and global healthcare, and reference resources online and in travel guides will give you an excellent basic picture. Once you have arrived in your new location, your embassy /consulate, international school and local network are all great sources of more specific recommendations, many of which may provide a better level of care than you already have. What you will need, however, is full copies of your medical records in advance, and a clear understanding of what healthcare needs can be met locally, and what will require either travel to another location or repatriation. You may also want to explore local health insurance coverage, as many excellent healthcare service providers are more comfortable dealing with a known insurer, and use global coverage for any issues that cannot be dealt with locally.

7) Cultural Adaptation

A quarter of all expats surveyed were worried about adapting to their new nation because of potential cultural differences – with expats in the likes of the UAE and Asia particularly worried about this issue.  Where religions differ greatly there can be huge cultural differences for example, and where traditions are so alien to your own it can be really hard to see how you can ever fit in.

I have always felt that there were four stages to my own cultural adaptation.  Stage one is full of uncertainty about the new location, the transition and how we will adapt. My personal coping strategy is to do as much online and book research as I can, so that it feels more familiar, I get a heads up of any issues that may be a problem and I know what questions to answer on a preview visit or during cultural orientation. I also start trawling the expat blogs to find local advice and information on where to locate anything from medical care to Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut chocolate..

The second stage is the actual transition, and is a strange mix of sadness, packing boxes, hilarious parties and the realization of the number of people who really would notice if you dropped off the face of the earth. You are kept from going crazy by the excitement of the new adventure, a few nights in a hotel where someone else cooks ALL the meals, and the sense of being on holiday. And as you only left your loved ones a few days ago, the reality of the move hasn’t really hit.

Sadly, in stage three, it does. The bloom has well and truly gone off the rose at this point, as you struggle with the complexities of getting electricity connected, children admitted to schools, your pets cleared through customs and your toilet unblocked, all in foreign language and without the benefit of hot water or a hair dryer. It’s the stage when you sit in a darkened room wondering what in God’s name possessed you to move, when you take a whole day to track down and purchase a loaf of bread, and when the Other Half arrives home and asks if you’ve had a nice day, it’s as much as you can do not to stab him/her through the heart with the single knife that made it though customs. The only thing that ever gets me through this stage is Skype, endless hours of rediscovering the funny side with the help of family and friends on the other side of the world, and a network of global expats who not only have been there, but have made an even worse mess of it. By stage four, you’ve finally worked up the courage and the composure to make it out into the world without breaking down into hysterics, and your life has assumed some amount of normalcy. The good news is that by this stage, you will be able to meet people and leave a more favorable impression, so your changes of a pleasant conversation (with someone who isn’t paid to listen to you) improve exponentially. Your group of friends will undoubtedly include a number of expats, simply because they realize that some level of insanity is entirely normal, but you will also discover like minded locals who are happy to view you as ‘eccentric’ or ‘exotic’ and bring you along as entertainment. Hopefully, they will either like you or be forgiving enough to ignore your gaffes and still provide you with  insights into local life, good food and general good behavior..

 

 

 

The Top 10 Concerns of Expats #1 – The Defining Moves Version

 

The HSBC’s Expat Explorer survey describing the top 10 barriers to relocating was recently discussed over at ShelterOffshore.com, who very kindly put together professional, well thought out advice for the 4100 respondents to the survey. Here’s the first part of my quick and dirty version, for the lost souls who stumble upon this site..

Another happy day out in Wales.. Seriously.

1) Re-establishing a Social Life

41% of all those surveyed advised that this was a key concern for them prior to and initially following their relocation abroad…highlighting just how important it is for us all to have friends and social contact.

Get out there. Bottom line, the only things you will make friends with in your own home are the TV and the refrigerator. The best piece of advice that I received on my somewhat less than comprehensive pre-assignment briefing was that “It’s a numbers game”. You have to filter through the masses to find the ones you want to spend time with. Put another way, if you want to find the diamonds, you have to go down the mine and get dirty. So, trite cliches aside, join the PTA /PTO, call the international school and embassy to see if they have lists of expat groups, take a class, join a sports club or gym (last resort for me due to ingrained laziness) and if all else fails, go and hang around the international food market and start up conversation with anyone who buys the Branston Pickle / Vegemite / Reeses Peanut Butter Cups / whatever your preferred food item might be. Many a lasting friendship begins over a a bar of Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut, as Suzanne (Kenya), Liz & Kate (Los Angeles)and Emma & Staci (San Francisco) will attest.

2) Feeling Lonely / Missing Family & Friends

This of course ties in with the above point, and 34% of expats surveyed by HSBC highlighted this as a genuine worry.  Recent statistical evidence from the Centre of Future Studies also reveals that the expats who adjust most successfully and quickly are those who relocate with families..

One word. Skype. Your job before you leave town (or on your first trip home) is to insist firmly that all family members and close friends download Skype. (Boy, do I wish I was on commission right now..). This magical form of communication means that with the simple addition of a webcam, you can not only talk to loved ones, you can see what their hair is doing today. And nothing says togetherness more than commiserating over your “I’m new in town and can’t find a hairdresser” motif. Should you have a social group that is stuck in the pre-technology age, Skype does offer a monthly subscription that allows unlimited calls to landlines in 34 countries for ‘free’ (obviously you’ve paid a subscription, so it’s not really free, for the accountants amongst you) and cheap calls to cellphones. The bad news is that you will require internet access, so if that’s not possible, use Rebtel, which only requires a cellphone, and handles the internet bit for you.

3) Career Concerns

Oh blimey. Where to start. Probably with Jennifer Bradley’s Free Career Mentorship Classes.. Just to make it even easier, they’re online.

 4) Language Barriers

30% of those surveyed stated that they were worried about language being a barrier to their successful integration abroad – with many Brits relocating to Europe particularly concerned.

Learn the language as you will use it, and get used to feeling ridiculous. There are some excellent resources out there, the more formal being Berlitz and Rosetta Stone, but there are also endless apps, podcasts and online resources, so you have absolutely no excuses. One of my favorites is Fluent in 3 Months, which requires you to spend a lot of time feeling foolish and inept, but long as you have a sense of humor and a willingness to make mistakes, you will develop reasonable fluency in a very short amount of time.

Part 2  of the Top 10 Concerns of Expats (Defining Moves version) continues on Thursday. Don’t want to miss it? Subscribe on the right!