If I were an Expat (8/10): During the assignment

In previous posts we have discussed the importance of obtaining the immigration visa, the relocation process, the expat letter, taxation and other preliminary topics.

Once we arrive in our country of destination, there are some questions that can help us in our landing to make it as smooth as posible.

It is important to ensure your family adapts to the new country and culture.

  • Family: Nothing helps you more than knowing that your family is adapting nicely to the new environment so you can focus on your job. In this context, companies do very well taking care of your family and investing in anything that can facilitate their landing. However, it is essential that, for at least the first few weeks you devote time to your family. Do activities with them over the weekend and spend the first moments together. Also, do not be shy and ask your manager or contacts in the destination country to introduce you to other expatriates. In many cases, your Expat collegues will become your best friends.

  • Language: Depending on the language of the country of destination, the resemblance with your native language, your ability to learn a foreign languages ​, etc. you will be more or less inclined to start learning the local language. Overall, my recommendation is to make the effort because it will improve your integration. For example, if you go to Sweden, in addition to speaking English, it is worth learning Swedish, even if it is at introductory level  If the language is very difficult, at least it is important to know the courtesy phrases.  Ask your company if there is support available for you and your family to take language lessons. In any case, open your mind and keep a positive attitude towards the new language, any investment in learning will be rewarded generously by a better communication with your new environment.
  • Culture: I would also recommend to learn about the history and culture of the country you travel to in order to facilitate adaptation. For example, spending time with your family visiting museums can be a good family activity during the first few weeks.
  • School: It is common practice to move your children once the school year has ended to avoid interrupting the academic year. Sometimes it is even possible to delay the transfer of the family for some months. In other cases, academic training is interrupted or differences in the school calendar make it impossible to match the end of the course in your home country and the start in the country of destination. In these cases, you can look for external support. There are organizations that can provide remote support and academic guidance to overcome this problem. For example, in the case of Spain we have Teachteam, an educational center specializing in students studying abroad.
  • Job: In most cases,  you will find cultural differences when arriving to the office. Some companies have training programs or assign mentors to help you during the first weeks. In any case, do not hesitate to ask for help when needed.

After the initial stage of adaptation, you will enter a cruise period until your  get closer to the end of your expatriation. During this period, companies usually pay for an annual return trip to your home country to ensure you maintain contact with your friends and family.  Remember, it is also important to keep in touch with your former colleagues. Some companies have formal mentoring programs to cover this need.

In the next post I will write about some topics to be considered as the end of the agreed period of expatriation approaches.