Expat, a family project

Family and expatriation, a global project

Expatriation is a very peculiar time in the life of the expat, a time that also involves the most immediate family: partner, spouse, children... It is an event that cannot be reduced to a simple move or change of country, since that would mean overlooking all the other changes involved in said venture.

Moving away, in fact, means launching oneself into an adventure that is both professional and personal, concerning each individual of the family, since each one of them will inevitably go through a process of intimate and deep-lying change. For this reason, it is important to consider this experience in its totality and view it as a plainly family project.

Any who move away with a work contract in the pocket are partially in luck, since companies often provide a “support” service, a coaching session that encourages the expat’s swift adaptation to the new cultural and work context. But sad to say, not all companies are so forward-looking as to think about this same service for the members of the family, particularly for the spouse, whose lack of adaptation is one of the main causes for an early about turn to the country of origin.

Any who leave with no job waiting, and go in search of better opportunities, will certainly have to deal with a harder life. In this case, apart from not having free psychological support, nor will they have any help from a logistics point of view.

In both cases, it is important to bear in mind that an essential factor for the success of the expatriation experience is to define a family project. It is important to consider both the practice aspects (living accommodation, schools …), as well as the psychological and emotional aspects, building a plan of action in common that covers the needs and expectations of all the family members.

Expatriation apart from being a professional change, can be a time for creating a new life project, to experience a new life style, to find a new balance between private and working life, to reinvent one’s own role in the couple or to redefine the parent’s role.

In this context, coaching is useful for speeding up the adaptation process. The person who is rebuilding a new life can save valuable time, acting more quickly and becoming aware of the meaning of this new stage in her life. Because of her competencies, the coach plays a supporting role in change, encouraging transitions. If we add to this the intercultural competencies, the road ahead can be extremely valuable for the expat and family.

In short, for the success of this experience abroad, it is important:

  • To consider the adventure as a whole: logistic, psychological and emotional aspects
  • To define a family project in common that takes each one’s needs into account
  • If possible, to be supported by a coach who is expert in this exciting road ahead, one that is also emotionally complicated. It is not essential, this is a road that can be taken alone, depending on the host country, on the resources and on the strength of will of the individual. Nevertheless, by personal experience, I can say that in that faraway year of 2001, the year of my first expatriation to Germany, if I had had a coach by my side, I would have attained my professional and personal goals in a period of six months, something that I eventually did in 3 years.

Read the articles on Expats and the world of Intercultural Mind

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