When an employee is sent abroad and accompanied by his or her family, this provides a number of exciting opportunities and challenges. In order for the partner and children – not to mention the expat – to be able to start this adventure well prepared, we would like to use today’s blog post to give you a few important tips.
The number of employees being sent abroad has been increasing continuously for years – and it’s not uncommon for them to be accompanied by their families. Destinations such as China, India and Saudi Arabia pose particular challenges, especially for families [regarding educational facilities, healthcare, etc.]. Numerous studies nevertheless attest that most assignments are cancelled early because the accompanying families don’t feel comfortable abroad. So what should you keep in mind if you’re sent abroad with your partner and children?
Factor everyone in
First and foremost, you should actively involve all family members in the planning process at an early stage. Take a family reconnaissance trip to your new country of residence [if possible], learn about your new home via the internet or books, prepare for the move together and plan your first outings. It’s also important for you, as the expat, to have a positive attitude toward the assignment and to share these positive feelings with the entire family.
What specific challenges could you and your family expect on site? All family members should naturally first familiarize themselves with their new home, as well as the country’s language, laws and cultural customs. Moreover, international assignments often entail additional difficulties, especially for accompanying partners and children, and these difficulties can be easily underestimated.
For instance, it’s not uncommon for partners to give up their jobs for the move and to confine themselves to taking care of the household and children. While the expat gets accustomed to new everyday work and makes new contacts with colleagues, partners often miss out on these important points. Thanks to this new role, partners consequently tend to feel less well integrated.
And the smallest family members?
International assignments also mean more to children than just relocation because they have to leave behind important caregivers [e.g., friends, grandparents and teachers], find new friends and get their bearings in a new school. It’s thus clear that – in addition to the expat – the accompanying partner and children will be faced with personal challenges over the course of the international assignment. Please take this seriously and try to counteract the effects as early as possible. Open discussions and joint activities are a good start, and they’ll help your family [and thus you as well] to settle into your new home.
Just one more tip to finish up: A lot of companies that send their employees abroad have specific departments or places to go that are always available for continuous family support. There are also numerous informal networks and online platforms where [former] expat families report on their experiences. Take advantage of these opportunities and sources of information!
For you and your family to be as well prepared as possible for your beginning abroad, we recommend taking our cross-cultural international assignment training for families and/or children. These events teach your smallest family members what changes are in store for them, how they can deal with them and how parents can sustainably support their children. You’ll find further information on our child-oriented seminar content at the following link.