Global Mobility: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Global Mobility: Two Sides of the Same Coin

We all know that international relocation can be a challenging and emotive experience. The highs and lows can be overwhelming and while the experience for the majority is generally very positive, there can be days when the going gets tough. It is on those days that the accessibility and quality of relocation support makes all the difference. 

In this weeks podcast Ines Nascimento shares her personal and professional experience as an international HR expert and expat.

When organizational support does not meet expectations the following comments can be heard….

But… they just don’t get it… don’t care…… are not interested…… keep making mistakes…….have left us in limbo.

They being representative of the people who are connected with relocation support either in-house or from any relocation support provider.

Of course, it is not all bad. I also hear stories of fantastic support and great service provision. What differentiates the good from the bad? I believe it has a lot to do with the way in the service provisions are delivered.

Timely provision that relates to the needs of the assignee and family obviously helps. Empathy and compassion provides the icing on the cake. But here’s the catch. Empathy and compassion comes from a place of interest and understanding – an understanding of the employee experience.

This can be a problem when support is provided by people who have not lived abroad themselves or are simply not interested or trained sufficiently to understand the practical and emotional challenges of relocation.

In this weeks, Thriving Abroad Podcast I talk to Ines Nascimento, a global HR mobility professional who truly understands both sides of the relocation coin because both have featured as part of her life.

As an HR specialist, Ines worked in global mobility roles in Portugal. Then she, together with her husband decided they wanted to experience life outside of Portugal. They set off with very clear intentions. To experience life in two widely contrasting cultures.

They moved first to the US, secondly China. Their mission: to get into the real soul of each country. No expat bubble for them. They spent four years in Tennessee USA, and then moved to a Tier 2 city in China.

Ines shares her experience on the podcast saying:

‘It’s a transformative experience in my opinion. A unique way of challenging yourself. Getting to know yourself better. Knowing you can thrive in almost any environment if you put your focus and your energy well into that. It changes you professionally and personally too.

But beyond this, the goal for Ines was to use this opportunity to keep up with her career and add competencies and skills to her CV.

As a result, this expat experience gave her a unique perspective and insight into the experience of international assignees.

Ines conclusion: often the issues of discussion in global mobility seem disconnected to the real issues and lived challenges of the assignee and their family. Ines believes there is work to be done on aligning these two perspectives.. which was music to my ears as co/author of the book THRIVING ABROAD: The definitive guide to professional and personal relocation success.

Ines highlights the three core challenges she believes HR/GM face. As she says, nothing new or revolutionary…. but areas that are crucially important in setting employees up for success during and after their assignment:

  • Identifying the right person to send abroad
  • Adjustment of the accompanying family
  • Repatriation planning

We talk about her perspective on these three challenges and Ines’ advice for both the organization and employee. Ines was keen to emphasise that getting this right depends on both the organization and employee accepting ‘it is a mutual responsibility.’

To learn more about Ines you can visit her website HERE.

To sign up to receive our regular Modern Mobility newsletter featuring the latest Thriving Abroad podcast and global mobility news go HERE.

Buy our book THRIVING ABROAD: The definitive guide to professional and personal relocation success

‘I love this book……. I cannot see how anyone can argue that it is anything other than impeccably useful. It is almost surprising this type of book has never been written before…..this ought to be an industry set text.

 Review in TheHRDirector by Michelle Parry Slater.



Global Mobility Viewed from Multiple Perspectives: An Interview with Jana Gál

Global Mobility Viewed from Multiple Perspectives: An Interview with Jana Gál

This month marks a slight change to the remit of the Thriving Abroad Podcast. I have decided to broaden the scope of the interviews to one that encompasses the subject of global mobility from both the perspective of the organisation AND the assignee, partner and family.

This week’s interview is with Jana Gál. Our conversation investigates these different perspectives on global mobility, I introduce our conversation later in this blog post.

Working in the field of global mobility it can at times feel there are two worlds co-existing, sometimes a little uncomfortably. On one side, there is the world of the global mobility practitioners, who make the relocations happen from a technical and functional perspective. They create and implement policy and support the whole relocation process practically. Essential support, without which international mobility could not happen. This support can be variable in its provision. Some organisations have highly sophisticated programmes, others not so much.

On the other side, is the lived experience of the international assignee and family. The practical and logistical aspects of the relocation experience are important to them, but there is also an emotional/psychological experience that relates to the transition and adjustment process. When assignees feel their needs are not being fully met, especially when practical aspects go wrong there can be a perception that support is not appropriate or sufficient. This can impact negatively on the adjustment process.

Over years of experience and observation I have concluded that where there is a breakdown in perception of support it often stems from mis-communication between the global mobility teams and the assignee and family. The perception of the experience can be so different from each side that mis-understanding can easily arise.

When I think back to our first international move I realise there was a lot that we did not understand, appreciate or even contemplate as a potential issue or challenge as we prepared to move. In some ways we muddled through, but in others we paid the price, it was not an easy transition. Assignees don’t always understand the world of the global mobility in terms of the complexity of compliance, legal and tax related issues. Indeed, how could they if they have never relocated abroad before?

As a result, global mobility teams can feel frustrated by what they see as the endless demands of the assignee and family and do not always appreciate the lived experience and challenges of the assignee. As expats, we know it is often the little things that break us in the end OR make the difference in terms of support. That unexpected phone call to check in with us, the quick card that says welcome, please get in touch if we can help.

Our forthcoming book: Thriving Abroad: The Definitive Guide to Professional and Personal Relocation Success, aims to bridge these two worlds. Written for the assignee and partner, the book guides them through the relocation process, emphasising the value of preparation and a proactive approach to their move abroad. The chapter on global mobility provides an overview of what an employee can expect from their global mobility teams, with suggestions about how to work together effectively. We hope that the process outlined in the book will provide the basis for conversation between both sides of the relocation equation, one that starts from a point of common understanding about the challenges and opportunities of international relocation.

This week I talk to Jana Gál about her expat experiences, which comes from multiple perspectives of overseas living. Jana worked in HR management as a global mobility advisor, supporting international assignees, was an international assignee herself, and most recently relocated to Brussels as an expat partner supporting her husband’s career move. These different perspectives made for a fascinating conversation, we talked about:

  • The challenges Jana faced when working as a HR professional responsible for international assignees.
  • The ways in which, given her different perspectives, she believes assignees and their families can be better supported. I wonder whether you agree?
  • How living abroad as an expat partner has led to a personal redefinition of the word ‘proactive’. Can you relate?

I hope you enjoy the podcast. You can listen to more if you wish on our iTunes channel HERE if you are subscribed. If you are already listening via iTunes please leave a review. It is my intention to build this podcast into a valued resource for expats and I would love your support in raising its profile. Thank you


Drawing Inspiration from Isolation

Drawing Inspiration from Isolation

So, here we go! Another festive holiday season is almost upon us and I sincerely hope you are better prepared than me!

I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. I hate the commercialism but love the celebration and sentiment. I believe that one full month per year is plenty enough time to devote to the festive period and therefore don’t start to contemplate its proximity until the 6th of December. Which means, TODAY! Then I descend into panic mode.

Olga Mecking prompted an interesting discussion on Facebook this week. She is Polish and in Poland the tree and decorations don’t make an appearance until Christmas Eve. This was always how it was in my home when I was a child. I can see arguments for and against particularly where my poor Mum was concerned. She was often a nervous wreck by the time she staggered into midnight mass, ready for her final task of the day, playing the organ for the carols.

Olga’s discussion brought all kinds of different traditions to the fore. Christmas trees making appearances for many in late November and many loving the light and fun of early decorations. What traditions do you have? When will you be putting up your tree? Do you even have a tree? I remember as a child, one year we had a branch, painted silver, apparently a Swedish tradition. My brother and I were horrified. Maybe you don’t celebrate Christmas at all, or only specific aspects of the holiday season.

We’d love to hear about this time of year in your life. Pop over the Facebook and share what the holiday season means to you.

Olga is our podcast guest this week as I interview her about her life in The Hague. We recorded the interview in the summer but it is timely to post the interview today because we talk about some fantastic book projects that Olga has been involved in. Perhaps they will solve a gift idea or two for you. Titles and links are shared below.

And the topic of our conversation is also relevant to this time of year. We talk, amongst other things about the loneliness and sense of isolation that can come with expat life. This is something I relate to from several moves and found that even when returning home, I was not immune.

During our conversation Olga shares:

  • The event that tipped her into action professionally, it is not what you might think.
  • What she did to build her network, her actions may spark ideas for you too.
  • The books and online communities that have grown from those ideas.

Olga advises those that are relocating to   

‘Reach out to expat groups even before you move, then you will have a support system when you arrive.’

I believe that one strength we develop as expats is independence. We learn to cope, alone and to become pretty self-sufficient. However, it can be lonely to be independent and truthfully we all need to receive support and give support to flourish. Renee Brown talks about this in this brief interview. She says when talking about her children:

‘I want them to be independent and know their own free will and free choice AND I want them to know that all of those things mean nothing if they don’t need and they are not needed. You know we don’t have to do it by ourselves, we weren’t meant to………… You can acquire, accumulate and accomplish with independence, but you love and live with need.’    Renee Brown

You can read Olga’s blog at European Mama and her contributions at the Multicultural Kids Blog. Look out for Olga’s future books, she is currently working on a novel and a memoir.

The books Olga talks about in the interview are as follows:

  • Dutched Up: Rocking the Clogs Expat Style. Lynn Morrison and Olga Mecking
  • Once Upon An Expat – An Anthology. Lisa Webb and Nicole Webb
  • Knocked Up Abroad – Lisa Ferland
  • Martinis and Motherhood. Tales of Wonder Woe and WTF. Shannon Day & Tara Wilson.

Enjoy the interview.

Happy holiday season preparation.

Best wishes,

Louise & Evelyn

Rolling the Dice on Life

Rolling the Dice on Life

Rolling the Dice on Life      dice

The headline statistic from our research in 2012 was that 78% of participants wanted to work while living abroad but at the time of the survey only 44% were working in some form, 16% in full time employment.

Other studies have found similar results, a survey of French expatriates in 2015 found that only 50% of partners who wished to work when expatriated did so and 62% believed that expatriation was negative or very negative for their careers (Expat Communication, Alix Carnot).

Of course, career is not everything and many of the participants to our study talked about the value of the international experience from family and cultural, experiential perspectives as well.

Life is a balancing act. Whether we relocate abroad or stay home the relevance and importance of career will change over time to match our changing personal, professional and family needs.

Partners who relocate with children often tell us that their support role comes first, career second. We can absolutely relate to that, having taken time out of our careers to devote to our families when our children were young. A decision we don’t regret for a moment. We were lucky to have the opportunity.

Then, the time came when we knew we wanted to start to pursue our professional interests again. It was then that we wished we had kept our professional interests and networks active. Getting back, at times felt like an uphill struggle.

Whether the desire to pursue professional interests hits at the beginning of an assignment or further down the line… and years, it is important to be prepared.

Today’s interview is with Jacquie Kane. Jacquie is Scottish currently living in Boston in the USA. Jacquie is a PR and Marketing Specialist and is currently Director of Strategic Marketing and Communications at School Year Abroad.

We got to know Jacquie when she worked with us on the launch of Thriving Abroad providing valuable PR advice. She is an eminent professional and someone who loves her work and values her career.

When her husband first popped the international question, having been offered a position in Shanghai, Jacquie felt that a curve ball had been thrown. She loved her life in Scotland, had a great work and social life and hadn’t anticipated moving abroad. After much discussion and a fact-finding trip to Shanghai, Jacquie decided to commit to what she hoped would be an ‘incredibly transformative experience’ and said ‘let’s do it!’.

Jacquie does not have children and knew that her career was going to be hugely important in helping her to adjust.

‘I’d anticipated that my husband would be out at work, working long hours, and I didn’t fancy the idea of sitting alone in my skyscraper wondering what to do with myself.’

So, she set to and found herself a role in a large American global PR firm.

In this interview Jacquie shares with us her strategy for securing not one but three international roles while living abroad.

This interview is longer than our usual ones but the advice contained within is extremely valuable for anyone wishing to pursue and/or develop their chosen profession while living abroad.

We recognise that not every expat partner can or wants to work while living abroad. However, we recommend that everyone is cognisant of their skill set and strengths so that different future choices can be made. This is part of Jacquie’s heartfelt message and advice.

There is something for everyone in this interview wherever you are currently at in terms of your professional interests and development.

Jacquie says:

‘The art of managing your career abroad is to be open minded, adaptable, resilient and tenacious. Having the focus and energy to want to do something different demonstrates to a prospective employer that you’ve got grit… which most expat partners have in bucket loads. Because, if you’ve had to leave a familiar culture and a familiar environment to go overseas, you’ve already demonstrated that you’re courageous and that you’re happy to walk into the unknown and just roll the dice on life. So, capitalise on that and keep moving forward’

We hope that you enjoy this interview.

Jacquie was also keen to share the following resources with you. We hope you enjoy them and have fun!



Turning Challenges into Opportunities

Turning Challenges into Opportunities

This week Thriving Abroad is delighted to introduce you to Amel Derragui. You may already know Amel from her own podcast series, Tandem Nomads, dedicated to partners who are interested in developing their own portable careers and businesses.

Amel describes herself as a serial migrant, global citizen and expat partner who just so happens to also be a marketing expert having built a career in branding, marketing and communications. Through Tandem Nomads Amel is committed to helping other expat partners build their own success.

This interview is perfect for any expat partners who are wondering how to make the experience work fully for them from both a personal and professional perspective.

During the conversation Amel and Louise talked about

  • How it is easy to become a chameleon in adapting to new cultures and how important it is to also know ‘what we stand for.’
  • The value of planning in terms of understanding your ‘reason why’ for embarking on an international relocation. Amel suggests when deciding to relocate we need to know,

‘Are we escaping something or are we doing it because we want to discover something?’

  • Why flipping the coin and seeing the opportunities that emerge from the challenges is such a valuable approach to developing a new life abroad. In talking about her podcast Amel explained,

‘I wanted to mix my personal and professional experience and bring them together to help expat partners take leadership of their lives, because it is all about turning challenges into opportunities.’

  • The value of authenticity in terms of personal and business branding.

And loads more!

Amel is excited to share with you her new free resource, 4 Steps to Turn Confusion to Confidence. An ebook for expat partners who want to build a portable career and thrive in their global nomadic life. You can also join her Facebook group Tandem Nomads HERE

As always we would love to hear your views and opinions. Come over the Thriving Abroad Facebook page and leave your comments there OR join our Thriving Abroad closed Facebook group.

How Stories of Birth Abroad Led to an Exciting New Career

How Stories of Birth Abroad Led to an Exciting New Career

For those of us who have relocated internationally, giving birth and raising young children abroad can be simultaneously one of the most challenging and most heart-warming and fulfilling aspects of our experience abroad.

We have both experienced this first-hand and so when the book, Knocked Up Abroad by Lisa Ferland was published in January 2016 we knew that the fantastic stories would resonate with many of you.

As Lisa explains:

‘the most interesting part is not the birth stories in themselves, but more the impact these experiences have had on the authors from a personal transformative perspective, and also the cultural insights the stories provide.’

Lisa knows all about international relocation. She and her husband relocated from the USA to Sweden in search of a better work life balance. Listen to the podcast to find out how that all worked out!

Also discover:

  • How relocating internationally lead Lisa to the creation of this new career in publishing. Lisa says ‘it is interesting how when you can’t do what you’ve been trained to do, how you can find a new path in an unexpected way and be just as fulfilled by it, or more so’.
  • How one book is leading to another and her plans for the second book in the series, which is due out later in 2016. You can find out more about this exciting project by viewing the book launch video HERE.

If you are pregnant or considering starting your family while living abroad then the stories in this book with comfort and inspire. You can buy the book HERE.

If you are an expat partner who is wanting to take their career in a new and exciting direction then this interview will inspire you to consider what is possible and how while pushing our own professional comfort levels can be tough, perhaps even risky, the rewards can be substantial.

We hope that you enjoy our conversation with Lisa.

Please share this interview and the Thriving Abroad podcast with your friends and social networks, and as always your comments are welcome.