Expatriate Relocation, Culture Shock and How to Deal With or Avoid It part 2: You and Your Family


Expatriate failures are still a factor of considerable importance, with reported failure rates between 16 an 40%.  If not the sole variable, technical competence is usually the prevalent determinant used to decide whom to send overseas. It is noted however that this is not necessarily the most determining factor to expatriate assignment successes. The other way around it shows in the most important factors for expatriate failures which are:

  • Inability of spouse to adjust to the new environment;
  • Inability of the expatriate employee to adjust to the new environment;
  • Other family problems;
  • The personal or emotional maturity of an expatriate employee;
  • Inability to cope with the overseas responsibilities (which are usually larger).

Personal factors to consider whether or not you may be suited are:

  • Do you have sufficient stress reduction skills: an ability to recognize potential conflicts and circumvent the negative reactions that could come with them?
  • Do you have the ability to replace the home activities you find pleasurable with similar or otherwise suitable activities overseas?
  • Are you technically competent enough do accomplish (if necessary) tasks with little or no help and remain confident?
  • Are you willing and able to develop longer lasting personal relationships with others hist country nationals?
  • Are you willing and able to speak the language of the host country fluently and as often as possible without fear of being incorrect, sounding silly or stupid as part of your genuine wish to understand and relate to your overseas environment?
  • Do you understand the importance of non-verbal communication (body language and facial expressions) in the host country?
  • Do you respect and have empathy for others?
  • Are you a non-judgmental type of person that rather waits to gather all relevant facts before bargig in with an opinion, stereotype and/or incorrect decision?
  • Are you open minded and able to make correct assumptions about the reasons or causes of certain behavior of your overseas colleagues, are you able to anticipate how your overseas colleagues will likely react to certain situations?

If your company is not assessing these matters you certainly should have a good look at them yourself. While a lot has been published on the financial costs, the personal, relational and family costs may be way more important. And when it comes to families, here are some factors to consider:

  • The level of of marital stability;
  • Responsibilities (real or perceived) for aging parents;
  • Chemical dependencies of anyone within the household;
  • The emotional stability of your family members;
  • The learning abilities and more important disabilities of your children;
  • Teenage children and potential behavioral issues;
  • Family ties with the community and other family members that are not going overseas;
  • How strongly are your family members and especially the children attached to certain extracurricular activities;
  • The cohesiveness of you and your family.

If not offered through your employer already, cross cultural training and  perhaps one or more exploratory trips to the destination country.

Below an interview that is probably very telling on a basic level of what may be coming to you.

This is not to say that expatriation is not something to do but most of all a call to you to prepare well before you go.

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