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As expat numbers grow, what does it take to succeed abroad?

The BBC has two recent pieces on expatriate professionals, one here from Dec 5, the other here from Dec 11.

The latter article has a list of “Top three relocation tips“:

-Research language and red tape – especially visas
-Closely involve the family
-Keep a firm grip on the process – or have someone else do it

Some excerpts are below (my emphasis in bold).

What are your experiences as expats or potential expats? What are the most challenging issues for you? What are the greatest opportunities that expat life can offer?

5 December 2011 Last updated at 00:02 GMT
Exodus: Movement of rich people – a life at home abroad
By Rebecca Marston
Business reporter, BBC News

An Italian professor of maths moves from Rome to New York State, a lawyer moves from Sydney to Hong Kong after a spell in the Cayman Islands in between, a Portuguese executive moves from Mexico City to Bogota, a violinist leaves Serbia for the UK.

The movement of professional people on this scale was unimaginable 10 years ago.

The cross-border migration of highly-educated people from upper-middle income countries rose by 44% between 2000 and 2006, according to a recently published study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In low income countries the cross-border movements also jumped significantly, by 28%.

Intra-company transfers in developed countries rose 39% between 2005 and 2008, and this does not include intra-company transfers within the European Economic Area, says OECD policy analyst Jonathan Chaloff, even though the scale of those “can be considerable”.

“What is clear is a trend towards an increase, albeit interrupted by the economic crisis,” says Mr Chaloff.

Multi-national companies and government organisations confirm that view….

….Some get a strong taste for the life, but for others it is fraught with pitfalls both practical and emotional; there is homesickness, or relationship breakup….

….One of the key mistakes companies make, he says, is to assume that someone who has successfully completed a project in one country will be able to do the same elsewhere: “Most people say you have to be resilient – I think its more than resilience.

“We would argue very strongly that having intelligence on this person, knowing how they tick would help immensely. Some of it is about what you know but that’s only part of it, its about your approach to it as well.

“You may think ‘this guy has done a good job delivering in this country – lets get him to do the same in India – he’ll be good at that’ – well, will he?”

But as globalisation and economic growth – where ever it may be found – continues, the experience of moving countries and continents is becoming better understood….

Many move for a better life and more money, although firms – and relocatees – report relocation packages are less generous than they typically were five years ago. This partly reflects that these days it’s not just the most senior executives that are moving. Amongst the number of middle-ranking professionals seeking a new life abroad is rising, but they are cheaper and may not be expected to stay as long.

Brookfield’s Scott Sullivan says there is a move to more flexibility: “Companies are attempting to leverage flexibility by offering what is really needed for an individual assignee… as opposed to a blanket policy with full entitlement to all provisions.”

Relocation itself is big business. Brookfield says relocation expenses for its business total $3.6bn a year….

And parts of the second article below…

11 December 2011 Last updated at 17:37 GMT
The new job that means relocating your life
By Rebecca Marston
Business reporter, BBC News

The world awaits professional skills but it takes a huge range of abilities to make the move to another country

“I often wonder why people don’t take the opportunity to move abroad more often – if you don’t like it you can always go back,” says Colin Smith, general counsel in Hong Kong for hedge fund managers Orchard Capital Partners Limited.

He’s one of a growing number of professionals to whom the location of a job is as important as the length of commute for most of us.

His qualifications as a corporate lawyer make him very portable.

“Banking and corporate legal professionals move quite a lot, what we do can essentially be done in any global financial centre. I have requested every move I’ve made myself.”

One of these moves was to Sydney, which he decided to leave for what might seem a contrary reason: “It was primarily my work-life balance.”

For a corporate lawyer, a 12-hour day is a short one. Perhaps the workload was too light.

Colin explains: “In Sydney, life was good. Every weekend was like a holiday. But, after five years it switched from every weekend being a holiday to almost every weekend in the office. Plus in comparative terms, it is very expensive. I decided to relocate again to find a better balance.”

That sort of moving around takes some organisation – something that many people would find far too daunting.

Check list
On top of the challenge of preparing for a new job, with a new office, in an alien location, there are visas to arrange, flights, accommodation, and shipping your goods – after you have decided what to take.

Colin says the most important thing to tackle is the visa: “That is the first issue, but if you’re moving with a company the firm works that out for you so you don’t have to worry about that.”

For these intra-company moves, there is often plenty of help, with the firm paying towards housing, flights, one month’s accommodation and the shipping of goods.

Even with that help from the firm, there are still other vital practicalities to be tackled.

“You have to find out who provides telephones, the internet, the best way to get to work.”

Most multi-nationals provide a check-list for staff moving, as well as the practical help. And there are relocation firms themselves to whom you can turn for advice….

  1. December 14th, 2011 at 13:05 | #1

    The first article pointed out a very important detail: just because someone is good at something in a country does not necessarily mean s/he will be able to produce the same results in another country.

    A lot of factors account for this: the employee in question will have to adapt to a new culture, the previously successful approach may not be as effective in a different cultural and economic environment…

  2. December 15th, 2011 at 13:01 | #2

    Thanks for the comment, Anne-Sophie, and the like. These are definitely insightful articles.

  1. December 13th, 2011 at 13:24 | #1

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