Last update on December 17, 2018

If you’re moving abroad, take a short look at the many potential issues, scenarios and preparation involved when relocating abroad.

Most people assume that their lives can continue pretty much as normal when they move overseas. Sure there will be differences, but for the most part, they believe that the skills which make them successful at home will carry them in a new country.

But sometimes these skills don’t work for us in a new home. The value systems we hold so dear prove to be somewhat uncommon in the new country. Life as we know it changes; the rules of behaviour become vague and blurred, putting us on shaky ground.

Making the decision to move requires various considerations and it is possible to summarise some of the thought processes required to make decision-making and subsequent assimilation easier. Here are some pointers gathered from our experience in the past 15 years of working with the relocating population.

Things to consider when you relocate

–Consider if it will be possible to function without a support group of family and friends. You may leave property behind, but emotional baggage – an ageing parent, a broken relationship – travels with you.

–Can you work independently, away from the mainstream office environment? Keep in mind that during your absence from head-office, while you may learn a lot, you are out of the loop in terms of promotions. Have some grasp of your career path in order to eventually plan for repatriation.

–Will you become a permanent expat? Speak with fellow employees to see if they considered their time away worthwhile both professionally and privately. Check channels of communication for employees overseas with other company locations to see if you will be forgotten or supported by your company structure.

–It is useful to know how the overseas subsidiary fits into the overall corporate structure and if you would be working with expatriates or personnel.

–Check if the company will provide language lessons and if they apply to the whole family.

–Each family reacts differently to a relocation, but the effect on the non-working partner will be most significant. Restrictions regarding labour laws and career movement may hinder the adjustment process when a partner has to give up work. Despite the fact that many European countries have lively and well developed social groups, and access to study opportunities in English, the thought of a non-working environment can be devastating to an ordinarily active spouse.

–If teenage children are involved, watch out for some resistance. Teenagers find it difficult to leave their peer group and move on. Understanding from the international schools and support from parents are vital, although families will feel the brunt of some bad temper and mood swings.

–Are you flexible? You will face different work ethics and attitudes, for example, attitudes towards authority, deadlines and quality control.

–Check your ‘hidden costs’ and either develop a financial plan to meet obligations or appraise what assistance your company will provide. Some company inducements could cover relocation services including orientation and home-finding trips, moving household goods, temporary living expenses, cost-of-living equalisation, partner assistance, and reimbursement for international school and repatriation.

–There are many other expenses intrinsic to a good relocation policy and it would be wise to sit with your Human Resource Manager to discuss these and other points. Arriving at your destination with a clear and purposeful plan will definitely facilitate the emotional swings and roundabouts to be expected when relocating.