Monthly Archives: June 2009

Do Expatriates have the Gimmies?

Recently I had a conversation with a member of an HR department of a multinational company. We were both attending a dinner given in honor of yet another departing expatriate (crisis is making itself known among the expat assignments as well!)  and the conversation centered around benefits that companies offer their expatriate employees and their families.

“I think most expatriates are way too spoiled and demanding,” said Maria*, “they are constantly complaining about the housing as if they can even get close to what they get here in their own homes. I mean, come on, would they get as large an apartment as we provide them with smack in the center of the city where they come from? I doubt it.”

Later that evening I got to ponder. How much truth is there in her statement? How much do we, as expatriates, expect our living conditions to be better than those we have had at home? And, if in fact, this is the case, then why do we expect that?

So I took a piece of paper and began to list everything people must adjust in their lives when they move abroad:

• They move far from their families

• They have to leave their friends behind and develop new friendships

• They have to support their children in this lifestyle that gets them changing schools more often that they may like

• They have to learn to communicate in a new language

• They have to learn to do things differently than they are used to

• They have to shift cultures and adjust to living in a culture they know nothing about

• The food is different

• They have to make a “new” home every few years

• Some spouses have to give up their career

If you look at this list, you will notice that there are a lot of losses in there. Loss of close connections with family and old friends, loss of career, loss of identity… to name just a few.

And of course, there are a lot of things one gains by moving abroad (learning and adventure being high on my list!) – and among those things we’ve come to expect the small luxuries of living a little better than we would in our home countries.

Is that “being spoiled”? What do you think?

*Not a real name

Copyright © 2009 by Global Coach Center. If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!

“What will I miss” list makes it easy to remember

The time has come for us to leave Russia and move on to our next post.  We are bringing with us boxes and boxes of Russian souvenirs (perhaps too many!), photos of places we visited, and memories of people we’ve met and of things we’ve done.  And even though all of those mementos will do their job of reminding us of our times in St Petersburg, Russia, I still feel I need a final touch to complete my Russian experience.  I need my “What will I miss” list.

I first wrote this list when we were leaving Argentina and I am glad I did.  Because every time I read it now memories of my life in Buenos Aires take on especially vivid colors.  As human beings we tend to replace old memories with the new ones and so recollections of a country, where you were awhile ago, will most certainly fade to make room for the new ones.  And that’s where the “What will I miss” list comes in handy.  It makes that long-gone experience alive for you all over again.  I suggest you do it for each place you leave behind too!

So here is my list about St Petersburg, in no particular order:

•    I will miss the beautiful white nights when memories of a harsh and grey winter disappear as fast as the speedboat to Peterhoff and when you suddenly feel you can live in this city forever.
•    I will miss our trips to the Mariinski and the Mikhailovski and the Philarmonics and the Capella and the … I can go on and on.  I will miss the fact that in this city you can go to a high quality performance every day.
•    I will miss the New Years celebrations – the time when the city is transformed into a magical fairytale where Ded Moroz (the Father Frost) and Snegurochka (the Snow Maiden) are the main characters.  I will miss the optimisim in people’s eyes during that time and the omni-present “S nastupajuschim” (“Wishing you an upcoming holiday”).
•    I will miss the beauty of the city where each building is not only an architectural wonder, but also a historical one.
•    I will miss people’s dedication to remember the World War II and especially the Siege of Leningrad.  I will miss the holiday of the 9th of May, when the whole city comes together to celebrate its survival after the war and to remember those people who perished.  I know there is a lot of political exploitation of these events, but I am not going to remember them.
•    I will miss some of the world’s greatest museums and I will miss seeing group after group of Russian children touring them with their schools.
•    I will miss seeing the opening of the bridges on summer nights and I will miss the moment when the sun doesn’t disappear behind the horizon, but instead comes up as soon as it sets.

There are probably a few more things that I will miss and I can add them later.  And, of course, there are things that I will not miss, but I am not going to try to remember them.

What about you?  What would you miss when you leave the place where you are living now?

Copyright © 2009 by Global Coach Center.
If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!

How to leave without regrets?

For many of us, expatriates, there comes a point when it’s time to leave our post.  Some know their departure day a year in advance, others have a few months to prepare, and yet there are some people who don’t get much notice.  So what’s the best way  to make sure that in every one of those situations you are ready to depart?  And not just in a sense of having your life organized and ready to move, but also in a sense of knowing that you are leaving without any regrets.

Every new place we get posted to has a few things to offer and of course different people are interested in different things.  So what I would encourage you to do on arrival is to make a clear list of things that you’d ever want to do, see, and experience in your new posting.  Keep adding to that list as you learn of new things that are available (and, of course, keep crossing things out as you do them).  When the time comes to say good-bye to the country, take a look at your list.  What do you have on there that still warrants your attention?  Is there anything that you have not done, seen, or experienced that you would regret not doing?  If there is, schedule it immediately in your calendar.  Because, as we all know, time has a way of speeding up the closer you get to your departure.

If you didn’t make a list when you arrived, make one now.  What is of particular interest or fascination to you in this country?  Have you seen it?  Do you want to?  If so, schedule it.

Many people leave their expatriate postings and later regret about not seeing or experiencing things they wanted to see and experience.  Why leave place for regrets in your luggage?  Better leave place for memories and experiences.

Copyright © 2009 by Global Coach Center.
If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!