Finding Support for Expats When Pregnant Abroad

Finding Support for Expats When Pregnant Abroad

Expat life impacts on every aspect of our lives and no experience can be more personal and pertinent in this respect than pregnancy and child-birth. Arriving in a new location while pregnant can be challenging as I know. We moved to live on the island of Madeira when I was three months pregnant with my second child eleven years ago.

Knowing no-one and not having the normal support systems of parents, relatives and best friends back home, not speaking the local language or understanding the medical systems can add to the stress of the adjustment process. But if you know what questions to ask, and are able to calmly identify what kind of support you want and keep an open mind then there is every chance you will find the care you need. In this interview I talk to Karen Wilmot – The Virtual Midwife. The conversation provides invaluable tips and advice.

Karen has been involved in the arena of women’s health for many years. Working in the Middle East, Karen came to feel that pregnancy and childbirth were not being treated with the respect and honour they deserved – becoming too procedural and technocratic.

Karen wanted to support women at a deeper level and so eight years ago she started to support women her way and a year ago opened a centre for pregnant women in Oman. This is a delightful conversation about the experience of pregnancy and childbirth.

We talk about:

  • The challenges women and their partners face when managing their pregnancy and child birth as an expat.
  • What Karen means by supporting pregnancy and childbirth from a holistic perspective.
  • Karen’s take on FEAR and her suggestions on how to manage those fearful thoughts and feelings.
  • What questions to ask and when.
  • We finish with Karen’s five tips for creating a calming birth environment.

We hope you enjoy this interview and please do share with your friends.

To learn more about Karen and her online programme you can go to where you can also connect with Karen.

At the end of the podcast I talk about two books Knocked Up Abroad: Stories of pregnancy, birth and raising a family in a foreign country and Knocked Up Abroad Again: Baby bumps, twists and turns around the globe by Lisa Ferland. You can find them on Amazon and listen to my interview with Lisa HERE

For clarity, these are not affiliate links. These are resources that I believe may be helpful to you. Please conduct your own research to ensure you are making an informed decision before buying. 

Keeping Calm and Serene Amongst the Chaos of International Relocation

Keeping Calm and Serene Amongst the Chaos of International Relocation

It is ‘that’ time of year again. Assignees and their families are embarking on new international moves, others returning after long summer breaks. Settling and adjusting to new routines, schools and jobs can be exciting and exhilarating on the one hand, and if we’re honest, pretty exhausting on the other.

This week on the Thriving Abroad Podcast I talk to Dr Tami Nelson and Dr Kelli Jones Sanness from Therapy Solutions Abroad, our subject is mental well-being and it is a conversation that is definitely worth your time.

The truth is everyone reacts differently to change and transition. Good days filled with excitement and awe at our new experience can be replaced by ones where it can all feel too much. Such is the roller coaster ride of international relocation – it is important to remember it is all a part of the adjustment process:

‘It is natural to feel distress and under some pressure from this huge move.’

As you settle into new routines now is a good time to reflect on your schedule and consider your personal sense of well-being.

A research report by Talking Talent highlighted that in the UK 71% of workers have experienced burnout at least once in their working lives, an alarming statistic and one that underlined for me the importance of being proactive and taking care of oneself as an expat.

Organisations can also help by thinking about the relocation pressure points for assignee’s and their families and providing appropriate and timely support.

So, in the spirit of well-being I encourage you to put your feet up and listen to the advice of Tami and Kelli as we talk about the issue of expat stress and mental well-being.

We encourage you to recognise it is a natural experience to feel distress and under some pressure – for a huge move this is a normal experience’.

During the conversation we talk about:

  • How stress varies from person to person, we are all different after all!
  • What can contribute to a sense of overwhelm and distress.
  • The importance of setting realistic expectations both before and during an international relocation.
  • The symptoms to look out for that may indicate unhealthy levels of stress.
  • Help – and where to find it.
  • How to help yourself including a tip – independence is not always a good thing.

‘If you take care of yourself you have the ability to take care of others. If you’re lacking in that then you’re not going to be able to give anything to anyone else’

To learn more about Tami and Kelli visit their website HERE

Tami and Kelly have also shared links to a number of articles they have published recently:



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!