What should expat organisational support include and does it really matter?

What should expat organisational support include and does it really matter?

When managing home based employees the extent of the employee, employer relationship is usually clear. The organisation may run a few family days, invite partners to celebratory meals from time to time, but generally work and family life have clear(ish) boundaries.

Put an international relocation into the picture and suddenly the delineation between work and family begin to break down. The employees work and role takes the lead and in a way that impacts on every family members lives. The partner often takes on a supportive role, facilitating many aspects of the relocation. That is not to say their career necessarily dies, but for the majority it is put on hold. In this weeks podcast, Marta Guarneri shares her research into the impact of family dynamics on the expatriation cycle, and how organisations can better support the relocation process.

The future of the whole family, their expectations and lives become inextricably linked to the assigning organisation. The psychological contract; the unwritten set of expectations of the employment relationship, encompasses not only the now more complex expectations of the employee, but also those of the partner and family. Denise Rousseau talks about the psychological contract including informal arrangements, mutual beliefs, common ground and perceptions between two parties. It is something that is not fixed, but evolves constantly based on communication.

So, imagine the impact these two different perspectives on HR involvement and connection with partners might have on the psychological contract and the level of engagement and commitment to the assignment experience.

  • One HR manager was clear that they needed to know people so they could offer the best support. They wanted to know what they were dealing with, to offer support that was valued, develop family loyalty.
  • Another HR manager was loathed to create an open channel of communication with anyone other than the assignee. They feared that should they encourage a connection with the partner, the partner would exploit it and become a nuisance.

Which opinion was right?

Well, in my opinion the first, although I am pretty sure the second HR Manager would do a good job at justifying the need to keep the relationship at a distance. After all, the written contract is with the employee, lines should not be crossed and resources are not limitless.

And yet, over the years I have heard partners talk so many times about the role they play, the support they provide, and sadly in many cases the absence of any recognition. Often it is the small gestures that make the difference.

Marta’s research: The Impact of Family Dynamics on the Expatriation Cycle, aimed to understand the common factors that foster the success or failure of international assignments and to isolate some of the best HR practices that could impact performance, retention and organisational commitment. 

Her results were fascinating. Here are some soundbites to spark you interest:

  • It is the ineffectiveness of organisational support that is the issue.
  • The key is to know what makes an efficient package, to maximise it, not waste it.
  • Understanding the needs of the assignee and family is key.
  • Relocation support in situ so often is inadequate and represents wasted resources.
  • Flexibility is key when meeting the needs of a new generation who expect flexibility.

Want to listen to more PODCASTS? Head over to the Thriving Abroad Podcast channel – HERE.

Please feel free to share amongst your networks. My goal is to grow this podcast audience 10 fold by the end of 2017.

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.

The Thriving Abroad Podcast Roundup

The Thriving Abroad Podcast Roundup

We have loved creating the Thriving Abroad Podcast Library and are thrilled at the great insights, information and inspiration that can be drawn from the experts we have interviewed so far.

We want to ensure that you have not missed out on interviews that could be of value to you. So we have created a handy list with links to the 27 episodes, simply click on the header to be taken straight to the podcast.

Please, as you head over to iTunes take the time to rate the show. We will be continuing to build the podcast series and would love for it to reach a wider audience. Ratings will help us to achieve that.

Relocating with Children

Episode 21. Bringing Up Bilingual Children. This is an interview for all those parents who are struggling to inspire enthusiasm in their children for learning an additional language. In this interview Rita shares the seven cornerstones of multilingual parenting.

Episode 27. Kate Berger of the Expat Kids Club. Kate shares her professional insights and advice about how you can support your child through the challenges of international relocation.

General Expat Experience.

Episode 1. Tayo Rockson. Founder of UYD, Use Your Difference Media, has a simple but profound message, ‘Use your difference to make a difference’. Listen to hear more about his fascinating journey and his inspirational messages.

Episode 10. Sundae Schneider Bean. Listen to Sundae as she shares her strategies for overcoming the challenges of expat life, and how she helps people to make the most of their lives abroad.

Episode 6. Chantal Duke. A vibrant and fascinating account demonstrating how Chantal embraced the challenge of seven international moves in challenging environments and created wonderful experiences and careers.

Episode 5 Apple Gidley. Author of ‘Expat Life Slice by Slice’, Apple shares her refreshing outlook on expat life and some great stories, just as you would expect from such a talented author.

Episode 17. Sharon Swift. The Expat Concierge. Sharon shares her experience of moving half way across the world to a place that she had never visited before, and how she realised that this challenge was her opportunity to create a business that fulfilled a real need.

Episode 18. Renske Ten Bosch.  Describes how her expat experience inspired her to create her two businesses, ‘Makulay Colourful Memories’ and ‘Crates & Co’, where one of her core values is to give back to the local communities that she lives in.

Support for Expat Partners.

Episode 3. Kristin Duncombe. Author of ‘Trailing a Memoir’. Kristin tells us her story and shares her experience as an expat partner, her struggles and how she created her portable career.

Episode 9. Meghan Fenn, Designing a Career Abroad. Listen to Meghan talk about what it takes to be an expat entrepreneur and how she built her diverse career and business.

Episode 11. Janice Wiggins. Janice shares her tips on how to become unstuck, the value of mindset and how she transformed her life, and the part volunteering played in helping her to get out of her comfort zone.

Episode 14. Rachel Yates. Walking the Walk to Expat Entrepreneurship. How as the expat partner can you keep your needs at the forefront of the international experience? Rachel tells you how.

Episode 16. Diane Lemieux. Author of The Mobile Life. This interview will help expat partners to identify what their international experience has meant to them in terms of creating opportunities and notching up accomplishments.

Episode 19. Naomi Hattaway. Stand Proud – The Positive Impact of Volunteering. Naomi talks about her approach to life and the role that volunteering has played in life at home and abroad. Roles that have been invaluable in developing the skills that have helped her in the creation of her own business.

Episode 20. Every Expat Partner Needs a Back Up Plan. We talk with Rachel Yates about the tricky subject of financial dependency, and some of the issues every expat partner should consider to address those vulnerabilities.

Episode 25. Lisa Ferland, Knocked Up Abroad. Lisa shares tells the story of her relocation to Sweden from the USA and how it has inspired her to create her new career in publishing.

Starting or Running a Business Abroad.

Episode 24. Ali Meehan, Imagineer, Costa Women. Starting a business? Or thinking about how to build your current one? This interview is for you. Packed with tips and insights from Ali who has built a community with 5,000 members and a social media following of over 15,000. She invites you to ‘think big’.

Episode 15. Natasha Vorompiova,Systems Rock. Natasha shares her inspiring story of building a business as an expat. She also gives us her favourite tips and tools for using systems to make your personal admin easier.

Episode 12. Stephanie Ward. Shares her journey to owning her own business and her insights on the difference between successful marketing and marketing failure.

Episode 8. Liz Perelstein, founder of ‘School Choice International’, talks about how her international relocation to the UK was the catalyst for the birth of her hugely successful business.

Episode 7. Russell Ward. How writing a blog lead to a new writing career and a successful business, ‘The International Writer’. Russell also shares tips on writing a blog that engages.

Episode 4 Andrea Martins. Founder of ExpatWomen.com and co-author of Expat Women, ‘Confessions, 50 Answers to Your Real Life Questions about Living Abroad’. Andrea shares her story and great tips for anyone who is thinking about setting up their own business as an expat.

Episode 2. Alison Cornford Mattheson is an expat partner who accompanied her husband to Belgium. The career she subsequently created as a writer and photographer has changed their lives. At the time of our interview they were about to start their new adventure, travelling around Europe in an RV.

General Interest

Episode 13, The Power of Partnership. Authors of Power Through Partnership, Betsy Polk and Maggie Ellis talk about their partnership and the secrets of what makes women’s partnerships incredibly successful.

Country Specific.

Episode 21. Molly Sears Piccavey – The Allure of Spain. This interview will give you a sense of the wonder and challenges of life in Spain. Molly shares her journey from arriving in her early 20’s in Barcelona to her life now in Granada, Andalucia, and the inspiration behind her award winning travel blog.

Episode 22. Sibylle EschapasseFrench Polynesia to New York and Beyond. Sibylle shares her fascinating story, which started when conducting research in French Polynesia, moving to her arrival in New York on a Freighter, and continues as she talks about her work for the United Nations and life in New York.

Episode 23. Jo-Ann Howell. Thinking of Moving to France? Jo-Ann is creator of ‘French Admin Solutions’ and in this episode offers advice and insights into the practicalities of moving to and living in France.