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

December 12th, 2011 2 comments

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….

French Socialists Primaries: François Hollande comes out on top in first round

October 10th, 2011 1 comment

Bonjour!

A brief French news update….

The French Socialist Party held the country’s first general political primary in order to choose their party’s candidate for the Spring 2012 Presidential election. François Hollande came out on top, with Martine Aubry coming in at a close second. The second and final round will take place next Sunday Oct. 16. You can read more about the election here and here (in French). For coverage from a left-leaning paper, check out Libération

They had a very heavy turn-out and more politically liberal voters generally seem quite happy with the primary system. Now the question is who losing candidates will support in the run-off next week, and more importantly, who presents the best case and chance to beat President Nicolas Sarkozy in the elections. Sarkozy is very unpopular, and there is a wave of frustration with his administration and its policies and a sense that people are tired of having him in power. This could well be an omen for any chances he may have at a second term. Only time will tell.

Francois Hollande is thought to appeal to a wide cross-section of the electorate (BBC News)

French economic growth highest since 2006

Good news for the French economy, at least relatively speaking. It grew by 1% during the first quarter of 2011, compared to the last quarter of 2010, “its fastest rate since the second quarter of 2006.” This in part due to a stronger manufacturing sector.

More from BBC:
“.,.All of the eurozone countries are due to report GDP figures on Friday. France’s economy minister Christine Lagarde said she was now “very confident that the (government) forecast of 2% growth for 2011 can be met”.She added that the manufacturing sector had been a particularly strong driver of growth in France.”

Marks and Spencer to return to France this year

According to BBC News, famous British retailer Marks and Spencer is set to return to France this year, after a 10 year absence. They will open a 15,000 square foot store on the Champs-Elysées later this year. Article below.

1 April 2011 Last updated at 08:20 GMT
Marks and Spencer to return to French retail market

Marks and Spencer has announced it is to re-enter the French retail market, 10 years after shutting down all its European stores.

The company said it would open a 15,000 square foot store on the Champs-Elysées in Paris later this year.

M&S also said it was in talks with its partner SSP to launch a number of its Simply Food stores, under franchise, in Paris.

The retailer is also planning to launch an international online service.

M&S closed all its European stores in 2001 in order to focus on its core UK business.

“Marks and Spencer has great brand awareness here in France and a place in customers’ hearts,” said Marc Bolland, Marks and Spencer’s chief executive.

The new French store and website are expected to open ahead of the Christmas trading period.

M&S is the UK’s largest clothing retailer with a significant presence in the food market.

Libya and the return of French diplomatic leadership

March 22nd, 2011 1 comment

With the ongoing NATO intervention in Libya, both the New York Times and The Economist profile France as a leader on the international diplomatic stage. Excerpts are below. Now there is debate about who is leading the effort in Libya, but there is no doubt France is playing one of the leading roles.

What do you think of the Libyan intervention?

NYT excerpts:

Sarkozy Puts France at Vanguard of West’s War Effort
By STEVEN ERLANGER
Published: March 20, 2011

President Nicolas Sarkozy may be down in the opinion polls, but he has put France boldly in the forefront of an allied effort to prevent the decimation of the opposition to Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi…

…Mr. Sarkozy, motivated by French failures to respond quickly to the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and pressed by a new foreign minister and vocal public figures like the writer Bernard-Henri Lévy, came together with Britain to drag Europe and the United States toward a military engagement in the Arab world that key allies like Washington and Berlin never wanted…

…France had “decided to assume its role, its role before history” in stopping Colonel Qaddafi’s “murderous madness,” Mr. Sarkozy said solemnly on Saturday, standing alone before the television cameras and pleasing those here who still have a strong sense of French exceptionalism and moral leadership…

…As for France, with at least 40 aircraft and numerous ships committed, including its nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, the battle in Libya is one of the largest French military operations in years, even though it does not involve any troops, as in Afghanistan…

Economist excerpts:

France’s role in Libya
The welcome return of French diplomacy
Mar 20th 2011, 21:23 by S.P. | PARIS

THE success of yesterday’s Paris summit in securing international backing for the military strikes on Libya marks quite a comeback for French diplomacy. Just two months ago, France was offering another Arab autocrat, in Tunisia, help controlling rebellion. Last week’s farcical miscommunication over France’s recognition of the Libyan rebels pointed to ongoing confusion about who was really running its foreign policy. But President Nicolas Sarkozy’s “summit in support of the Libyan people”, which united European, American and some Arab leaders, was hard to fault. Less than two hours later, French fighter planes were in the sky heading for Libyan airspace, followed by the British and Americans. From left to right, the French political class has applauded…

…As always with diplomacy, and never more so than when it comes to the mercurial Mr Sarkozy, there was also an element of opportunism. The French president is deeply unpopular in the polls, and faces a presidential election next year. He had long been hoping to use foreign affairs to boost his standing, as he did when France held the rotating presidency of the European Union in the second half of 2008.

This time, he used his opportunities wisely. He sensed American hesitation about leading another operation in the Arab world, and turned this to his advantage by putting France in the driving seat alongside the British. Germany’s abstention over the Security Council resolution at first irritated the French, but also handed them an opportunity to take the lead. The strange role of Bernard-Henri Lévy, a left-wing philosopher and media celebrity, who telephoned Mr Sarkozy from Benghazi to urge him to back the rebels, seems to have played a part too. For once, Mr Sarkozy’s personal political interests coincided with national and international ones…

…The atmospherics in Paris have changed almost overnight. Politicians of all stripes, including on the left, have praised France’s action. Even Mr de Villepin, a rival to Mr Sarkozy on the Gaullist right, said that “France has lived up to its ideals.” The French are feeling good about themselves as a country that has done the right thing diplomatically for arguably the first time since ex-President Jacques Chirac and Mr de Villepin declared that they would veto a UN Security Council resolution authorising intervention in Iraq. Whether this lasts is another matter. Although Mr Juppé made it clear that this is not a ground operation, nobody knows how long or how tough it will turn out to be. French public opinion is enjoying a renewed sense of national respect, but has not—yet—been prepared for a long and messy war…

Bonjour Paris: my article on France, EU response to Middle East

February 7th, 2011 6 comments

I write in this week’s Bonjour Paris an article about Tunisia, Egypt, the situation in the Middle East and the response of the US and the EU (including France). You can read it here.

A cultural comparison: French strikes v. American perspective

October 23rd, 2010 9 comments

I found this BBC article by Matthew Price, former US correspondent and current Europe correspondent, to be especially insightful, from the perspective of a neutral Brit regarding Americans and France. Comments welcome. Excerpts below….

What would Americans think of the French strike?
Saturday, 23 October 2010
By Matthew Price
BBC News, France

‎”For the last three years I have been based in the US. And the only protests I have covered, the only ones vocal enough to have been worth reporting on, have been angry mobs demanding the government stop spending and get out of their lives.

Now, just one week into my new role as Europe correspondent, I am faced with angry mobs demanding the exact opposite – an end to government cut backs and a promise that the state will continue to provide for them. Talk about a change of scene…..

…Most French know the world has changed since the days of the all-embracing welfare state..They know the age of austerity inevitably implies an age of personal responsibility….And personal responsibility is something the Americans I have lived among for the last three years have adopted as a way of life…”

French strikes: Paris CDG airport might run out of fuel next week…

October 16th, 2010 2 comments

This is just to share with you the latest news, courtesy of BBC News. The unions are continuing their policy of political terrorism, taking the country hostage for their own interests and to the economic detriment of the country. Let’s hope this ends soon.

Excerpts below.

France’s main airport, Charles de Gaulle, has enough fuel to last only a few days, the transport ministry has warned amid strikes against government plans to raise the retirement age.

A ministry spokesman said officials were working to restore aviation fuel supplies. Economy Minister Christine Lagarde urged people “not to panic”.

Oil refineries and fuel depots have been hit by the latest strikes. Meanwhile unions are holding fresh mass protests over the pension plan.

On Saturday thousands of students are expected to join a fifth day of demonstrations in less than six weeks. Unions have called for more than 200 marches nationwide. Trapil, the company that operates the fuel pipeline to the Paris airports, told French media on Friday that supplies had stopped and that Roissy-Charles de Gaulle could run out of fuel as early as next week.

All 12 oil refineries in France have been hit by the strikes. Ten have shut down or are in the process of closing. A number of fuel depots have been blockaded….A sixth day of nationwide strikes and protests is planned for Tuesday 19 October….”

French strikes persist, government determined, gasoline shortages?

October 15th, 2010 1 comment

After Oct. 12’s strikes throughout the country, unions are congratulating themselves on a strong turnout of 1.2 million (police estimates) to 3.5 million (union estimates) people in the streets. This week public transport has been interrupted in several cities and on the national rail network run by SNCF (not to mention Air France flights and the main Paris airports), so travel has not been easy.

As it stands currently, SNCF still has delays and cancelations. You can see info on this in French on their website Infolignes under the menu “Prévisions”. This includes TGV high-speed trains and also TER regional express trains. But Eurostar trains connecting Paris to London have been mostly spared by the strike. You can see the status of departures and arrivals in main stations in France at this website.

Many high schools have closed around the country and students could be seen protesting and demonstrating, including ones near the high school on my street. Some say they are worried about reform; my personal opinion is that they want to miss class, as is usually the case. If they truly understood the implications of the reform, they would be supporting it as it’s in their interest to have a pension when they’re retired. Indeed, as The Economist stated, “A silent majority seems to know that demography and economics make pension reform inevitable.”

How does the situation look now? Transport has been improving, as the Paris RATP system will tell you (though RER B is still experiencing delays and some bus and metro lines are still crowded). Lyon’s TCL system is affected too, as are other cities. But workers from oil giant Total and others have been blocking oil refineries, leading to concerns about gasoline shortages and the French government to seek emergency supplies. But in a poll by conservative daily Le Figaro, about 65% of respondents said they were not worried by having gas shortages.

The government led by President Nicolas Sarkozy (trying to regain power and influence at home and abroad, according to The Economist) is pledging not to back down on the major parts of the reform, such as raising the retirement age from 60 to 62 by 2018 and the age for a full pension from 65 to 67. But these are the main hot points of the unions on strike. As BBC states, it’s a battle of wills. As life expectancy increases and public debt rises, reform of the French system is inevitable.

Be attentive to travel websites to make sure public transport is not disrupted and be patient. The Senate is highly expected to approve of the retirement reform by the end of the month. The best thing unions can hope for is the Socialists to win the 2012 presidency, but even then the Socialists would have a tough time coming back on this sorely needed reform. Don’t believe campaign promises or politicians. Believe economics.

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