If I were an Expat (3/10): The family

One of the main decisions an Expat has to face is if the family will move to the new country or not. Some important factors to consider are:

  • Does your husband/wife work?
  • Age of children
  • Conditions in the country of destination
  • Dependents (usually parents of the Expat)

The ideal conditions for a family to move would include an attractive city (schools , healthcare, etc. ) , a partner that does not work and children that
easily adapt to the new country and can learn the language quickly (experience with small children is often specially good for their immediate adaptation)

In the opposite conditions, the decision may be that the family stays in the home country and the expat regularly returns.
For example, projects in remote work locations (forest, desert  etc.) or where there are difficult conditions for families to adapt for reasons of safety, health or others.

Both approaches can be successful but usually one of the two fits best in each case, as they have 
advantages and disadvantages that must be weighted.

Let us have a look at the first alternative, travelling with the whole family. From the Expat point of view, the family adaptation will be challenge that requires full attention. The Expat will need to prepare the family members for the move. Talking things through is important so the kids can express their feelings.

It is well known that the Expat will work better if the family adapts fast to the new circumstances. Therefore, the company is very much interested in a quick adaptation of the family members. Therefore , many companies provide some support which include:

  • Language Classes
  • House and school Search
  • Career counseling for partner
  • Training in cultural matters , security , etc.
There are even programs that include a host counselor in the country of destination to help the Expat in the landing process. The advantages of having the family together are obvious, but it is not always the best solution. Leaving the family in the home country is sometimes the best solution. In this case, it is generally recommended to:

  • Set clear expectations about the period the family will remain separate
  • Talk openly about the challenge to your husband/wife and children
  • Periodically review if the "family plan" is on track and keep communication open
And of course, take advantage of new technologies to talk and maintain family video-calls.

In a nutshell, each family must assess their own circumstances and decide the best option.

I talk to many Expats, and in most cases the experience of living abroad exceeds the initial expectations. It is true that often the expectations are low. The move represents a change and it is normal that a natural resistance to change follows the initial shock. As you begin to accept change, the advantages and opportunities of the new life arise.

I want to take the opportunity to send my best wishes to all my Expat friends and their families.