What do you do when you are offered the most wonderful job but it means your partner and children will have to move overseas with you? Your partner’s first thoughts might be concerns about your children’s education, giving up his or her job and the prospect of not seeing close family members as often as usual.
With latest research revealing that 1.16 million Brits are living and working abroad, a figure that is expected to rise to 1.21 million within the next five years, issues such as these are fast becoming a reality for many families.
Time is usually of the essence, and many people relocating overseas can find themselves living in new surroundings, thousands of miles from home and experiencing a different way of life within weeks.
As the working partner you will usually have a supportive network in place, as your company helps you to deal with your new role, but for your non-working partner, life can become pretty isolating.
Studies consistently show that the biggest single cause of expatriation assignments ending in failure is the inability of the non-working partner to adjust to the physical and cultural environment of the host country. Yet it need not be so.
A little time, effort and money spent on pre-departure preparation can significantly increase the chances of a successful expatriation and speed up the settling in process for both the employee and their families.
Caroline Gregory, of Farnham Castle Intercultural Training has been an intercultural trainer for the past 20 years, helping families relocating overseas to prepare for their impending move.
Here are her top tips:
Don’t move overseas to escape from something in your life you are not happy with.
People can sometimes relocate to pastures new because they don’t like their job, but this really isn’t the right motive.
Moving abroad should be for the right reasons and not for the money or lifestyle. Many people are dazzled by the prospect of a large house and private education for their children, but these should not be the driving factors.
There is no reason why the accompanying partner should not consider working as well. However, it is crucial they research what opportunities are available and how to obtain a work permit. If paid work is not possible, then voluntary work or long distance study can be good substitutes.
Learning the language is very important for both practical and safety reasons, but also because life in a different country can be very lonely if you don’t understand anything at all. Learning a smattering of words before relocating will help you to pick it up more easily once you are there. It will also give you a deeper insight into the culture you will be living in.
Involve the children as much as you can in the move. Show younger children pictures of where they will be living, try tasting the food and tell them about the climate and currency, so their interest is captured. Teenagers will often worry about the impact on their education and the loss of friends, so it is important to include them in all discussions and allow their opinion to be counted. More will be expected of teenagers in terms of behaviour and manners, so learning the culture is key.
Be aware and respectful of both the culture and religion of the country you are moving to. It is also a good idea to be aware of your own culture and think about the image and message you want to project.
Talk about your own culture, nationality and home, as these will be topics of interest for members of the local community you will be living amongst. However it goes without saying, that negative comparisons shouldn’t be made.
While the expat community is a source of support, don’t exclude the local community and immerse yourself in what they are doing as well.
Maintain your hobbies and interests and if possible, or find alternatives. It is also a good idea to take up a hobby that encourages you to mix with people.
Ask questions about anything you are unsure of, as this will help you to familiarise yourself with the community in which you are living, and its customs. Ultimately for those moving abroad, the key is to expect nothing but hope for the best, whilst making time to settle in properly will give you and your family the greatest chance of enjoying your new environment.