Moving is one of the biggest causes of stress in one’s life, following the death of a loved one and divorce. That is why it is of the utmost importance that there are as few surprises and as many familiar and safe things as possible during a move. In international moves this is somewhat more difficult, but expats still have many ways of lowering their stress.
Some expats close themselves off in an “expat bubble”. It is normal to seek the company of people with whom you have a lot in common with, and thus find support and understanding. Some people take this even further and expend a lot of effort to find brands and goods that they are familiar with. In the short run this can create a sense of security, but in the long run such activities may prove harmful. Expat circles are more prone to change than many others and therefore it often happens, that the one expat family that you have a great relationship with ends up moving abroad again. If you have not made connections with the locals, the connection to the organization and host country may prove flimsy at best. It is therefore in the best interests of the employer to strengthen the ties the expat has to the host country. There are many ways to do this, but often it is not given sufficient attention.
Attitude is perhaps the most important factor when it comes to the success of the expat’s assignment. Attitude and the expat’s reaction to changes as well as his or her acceptance of differences form the core of any successful assignment. It is often in fact a prerequisite for an expat to accept an assignment in the first place. Successful expats understand that differences and local peculiarities are not always bad. This view can be cultivated with good orientation.
Expat’s staying at home or living in the “expat bubble” can ruin their assignment by feeding their loneliness and isolation. On the other hand without assistance it is often difficult to find for example hobbies, where one can meet and form relationships with the locals outside of work. This challenge is particularly significant for an accompanying partner, for whom the feeling of isolation may be very strong. Taking the family’s needs into consideration is one of the most important aspects of a successful expat assignment.
It pays dividends to begin the ensuring of the assignment’s success well before the person actually moves. The needs of the expat and his or her family should be considered well before the airplane lands, and especially for children it is good to tell of for example the exciting new hobby possibilities in the new country. The most active expats even read blogs about the destination and people’s experiences there. Writing an own blog could also be very therapeutic and help the expat in remembering the good experiences. As always, attitude here plays a key role.
An expatriate assignment doesn’t have to be just another chapter in a person’s career. For many it has been the beginning of a new life. A good attitude, well managed relocation, seamless settling in process and a good sense of humor ensure a successful assignment and a positive repatriation.