Is an Overseas Assignment Right for You?

The allure of an overseas assignment can be very appealing to some individuals, especially for certain destinations that are very sought after, such as London. However, it is wise to note, that some of the most unsuccessful relocations from the US, for example, are into the UK — this may seem strange, but many people feel that it will be extremely easy, given the language and cultural ties. If US to UK relocations can be challenging, think about when you throw into the mix a different language, remote locations, as well as cultural and religious differences. In these cases, it may be well worth your while to ask yourself if you have the right personality to handle an assignment in another country, given the potential challenges that could bring.

While it may seem obvious, but the first thing to look at is if you have already successfully completed an assignment abroad. What was your experience? Was it easy for you to adapt or did you really find it hard and a challenging experience? If you relocated with your partner and / or family — how did they deal with the experience? Again, was it a fun experience of was it a nightmare that they would not want to repeat?

In addition to these questions, here are some other practical issues that you may need to address:

#1 — Are you relocating to a remote or challenging area with security issues? If you are, how can you prepare for this? In these cases, if may be helpful to do a look-see trip first and to draw on the experience of the local Destination Service Provider (Relocation Company) to get the most information possible, so that you can make an educated decision.

#2 — Are you relocating to a destination that does not recognize unmarried opposite or unmarried and married same-sex couples? This can be a major issue when trying to get a visa for the partner to live in the country and should ideally be looked at beforehand to avoid delays in getting the worker up and running. In some cases, the relocation may not happen at all, as there is no way, other than the partner to file a separate immigration application, and even then, if could be extremely challenging, as well as labor and time intensive.

#3 — How much support will you be given with regards to your relocation program? Everyone is different, therefore if would be beneficial to ask yourself if you will be ok with a very slim relocation program, or if you will require much more assistance on the ground. Having an open discussion with the department that deals with Global Mobility in the company that you work for can be immensely helpful in understanding how much support you will require in the new destination. Don’t underestimate the challenges faced when it’s your first assignment abroad, you don’t speak the local language, your family are not over enthusiastic about moving, and the local culture if quite different from your own.

#4 — Will your children be able to attend a local school if there is no international school option available? Local schools are not always willing to enroll children, especially when they do not speak the local language. This is to avoid upsetting the learning process for the children that do speak the language. This is a particularly crucial point, and needs to be looked at before relocating, so that key issues with the schooling can be avoided. Countries that have recently absorbed a large quality of migrants with children, may particularly have issues with accepting further children, who do not speak the local language.

#5 — Does your partner want to work in the new destination? Certain locations do not offer a vibrant employment market for spouses and partners, especially without the local language. Therefore, this will need to be addressed and alternatives such as volunteer opportunities may need to be explored.

#6 — Are you relocating with special needs children or older parents? Some locations may not offer a lot of support in these cases, and if support is available, it may only be only provided in the local language and in major markets. Again, to avoid a stressful situation, this should be looked at before accepting an overseas assignment.

To be able to make the most of an assignment in another country, it is always wise to get as much information as possible before making the decision to move. Information is to Global Mobility what location is to the real estate market. It behooves everyone involved to make informed decisions when moving halfway around the world to avoid a lot of stressful situations. If one does choose to relocate with the best knowledge possible in advance, the move can very often end up being one of the most valuable and enriching life experiences imaginable.

If you require any case-specific assistance, please feel free to contact me

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Global Mobility Specialist and Expat Coach with thirty plus years’ experience in Global Mobility.

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Damien O'Farrell

Global Mobility Specialist and Expat Coach with thirty plus years’ experience in Global Mobility.