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Keeping your Expat Marriage Safe

Pic Credit: images_of_money

Following yesterday's post about the tough choices expat spouses make, here's a practical follow-up. Remember what I said about open and honest communication? Always necessary, and in expat relationships even more so.

Sam Marguiles PhD, Esq., wrote in Psychology Today. He has been active in mediation for thirty years. He has written three books, numerous articles and has taught and consulted throughout the USA. Read through the list and add up the amount for you.


Divorce Piggy Bank

Having mediated thousands of divorces I have acquired some knowledge over the years of what acts and omissions reliably contribute to divorce.

I have also learned that marriages generally don't break over a specific event but rather erode over time as spouses fail to feed the marriage what it needs to thrive. I also know that most divorces are expensive and that is common for each lawyer to ask for a retainer of $3,000 to $5,000. So this post is designed to help you finance your divorce gradually as you engage in those behaviors that slowly damage and eventually destroy your marriage.

Here is what you should do. First, buy a good size piggy bank. Every time you commit one of the acts listed below, or anytime your spouse commits one, you deposit the required amount in your piggy bank.

This way, by the time you need a retainer you will have saved it. You will want to count the money in your piggy bank once a year because it may serve as a guide to how close you are to divorce.

Be sure to share this data with your spouse.

  • Go to bed angry with your spouse. $3.
  • Spend an entire day without expressing affection or praising your spouse. $3.
  • Make a sarcastic comment to your spouse. $5.
  • Raise your voice in anger to your spouse. $3.
  • Do the above and fail to apologize. $5.
  • Dismiss as unimportant an issue raised by your spouse. $7.
  • Install a TV in the kitchen. $20.
  • Watch TV while eating together. $10.
  • Spend a night in bed with your spouse and make no gesture of affection such as a kiss or caress. $5.
  • Refuse a request from your spouse for sex for the second time in a row unless you have a note from your doctor. $7.
  • Refuse a request from your spouse for sex for the fifth time in a row unless you have a note from your mother. $30.
  • Roll your eyes at something said by your spouse. $5.
  • Refuse a request to go to counseling with your spouse. $100. ( almost 100% predictive of divorce.)
  • Spend a year and not take a vacation with your spouse while leaving the children home. $25.
  • Schedule so many activities for your children that you leave no time for your marriage. Each week pay: $5.
  • Be upset with your spouse and not raise it because you believe it pointless to discuss it. $10.
  • When your spouse raises an issue stonewall and refuse to discuss it. $50.
  • You fail to learn what actions by you bring pleasure to your spouse. $50.

Although this list is by no means exhaustive it represents a good sample. Readers are invited and requested to add to the list.


skinny piggy bank

Knowing what you can do to save your relationship: priceless.

Let's hope your divorce piggy bank is starving.



Supporting Expat Spouses

Pic credit - fdecomite

Expat spouses often find themselves having to choose between a rock and a hard place. Moving every few years, relocating your sense of self and establishing new social circles are great fun and fantastic adventures if you have an outgoing, curious and flexible personality. If you're looking for stability on the other hand, your patience will be tested.

When it comes down to it, are you prepared to choose between your relationship and your livelihood?

The 2012 Brookfield Global Relocation Trends Study reports:

Although they are still in the majority, there are far fewer married international assignees than in the past. Given that the re-emergence of optimism in some segments of the economy is widely divergent and cautious at best, the desire of many families to preserve their two-income status is likely a strong factor in this result. In this year’s report, the percentage of international assignees that are married was 60%, the lowest in the last four years of the survey, and a full 7% under the historical average (67%). Furthermore, this year’s percentage is down 8% from last year’s report (68%) and 14% from the survey high of 74% that was reported 12 years ago. As economic realities continue to remain in flux for many employees with families, it is possible that companies’ current international assignment programs are not adequately meeting the needs of employees with spouses, causing them to decline international assignment opportunities. In any case, the identification of this as a longer term trend affords companies the opportunity to ensure their policies and benefits are aligned to meet the changing profiles of their assignees.

Imagine your partner presents you with the fact that it's a 3-year stint in Malaysia, or bye-bye VP promotion. He really wants and needs to go, but he will turn it down if you're not on board.

Great! You're involved in the decision!

Now let's see: you have a great life, your family and friends live nearby, your parents are getting up there in age, you've a fantastic job, your kids adore their school, you love your house - and you love your spouse, too.

If you decide not to give up what you have, will he eventually resent you for it? Probably right around the time that other guy gets the promotion.

If you decide to support him and move, effectively giving up your life as you know it, to a place where you cannot read grocery labels, your hairdresser doesn't understand you wanted blond not red highlights, and the culture is completely alien, will you resent him for it?

Not unlikely. Hell, your marriage may fall apart altogether.

Still, the chances of you going abroad are a lot higher in this scenario than they would be if we swapped pronouns:

Imagine your partner presents you with the fact that it's a 3-year stint in Malaysia, or bye-bye VP promotion. SHE really wants and needs to go, but SHE will turn it down if you're not on board.

As it is, 80 % of expats are men, and only 20 % are women. Brookfield's data does not go into marital status detail by gender, or at least I haven't heard back from them about it. So the reality is, more often than not it's women who have to decide between love and their own careers.

Going back to yesterday's happiness formula, I recommend adopting a positive attitude. If you decide to go abroad, find ways to fill your days with things you love but never had the chance to pursue. Do your best to be prepared for as much as you can prepare yourself for, and maintain open and honest communication throughout the process. Your partner needs to hear how you feel so you can effectively support each other.

Preparing for an international assignment comes in many different shapes and sizes. Sometimes a bit of a Google search is sufficient, many times all out language classes are appropriate. I always recommend cross-cultural trainings - even and especially if you're moving to countries with the same language. And there may also be circumstances that warrant continuous coaching support.

The good news is, your decision doesn't have to be "either relationship, or career". International experiences can lead to a broader range of (marketable!) skills and competencies for everyone involved. They can strengthen a family bond, and you'll create memories ranging from anecdotes to moments of profound shifts in your being.



Are you a "dual citizen"?

passports_v1This one's a re-post from the archives, oldie but goodie:

Expats on assignment form different levels of attachment to their new location. Do you recognize yourself in these "allegiance patterns"? Black and Gregersen (1992) defined the following five:

"Hired Gun Free Agents" feel neither particularly committed to their home nor host country company, but are always open for newer and better job opportunities. They are hired international experts who might cost slightly less than a home country expatriate, but at the same time might leave the assignment on short notice if a better offer presents itself.

The "Plateaued-Career Free Agents," as the name implies, tend to not show high commitment to neither home nor host country due to their feeling of having reached a career plateau. They typically come from inside the home country and might be attracted by the financial package an overseas assignment entails, but do not see themselves achieving promotion in the home country.

In the case of an expatriate showing signs of "Going Native," the allegiance pattern shows high levels of commitment to the local operations but not to the parent company. These expatriates are able to identify strongly with the host country's culture, language and business practices. The parent company might be able to prevent "losing" an expatriate to the local operation, or indeed another company in that country, by establishing a mentor program. The mentor will be in the home country, keeping in close contact with the expatriate during his or her assignment and help them with finding a position upon repatriation.

Contrary to the previous pattern, expatriates can also leave their "Hearts at Home," feeling highly committed to the home country but not so much to the local operation. They will find it hard identifying with the host country's culture, language and business practices. "Hearts at home"rs tend to have lived and worked for the parent company a very long time and have strong ties. Their expat deal will be sweetened by using modern telecommunication, video conferencing, and regular home visits.

Probably the most desirable pattern is called "Dual Citizen." Expatriates falling into this category are highly committed to both home and host country operation and feel responsible for and comfortable with serving both "masters." It is interesting to note at this point that depending on the culture the expatriate is from, he or she might be culturally 'programmed' to be uncomfortable with having to obey two leaders.

Companies can help their expatriates become "dual citizens" by thoroughly preparing them for their assignment, giving them very clear objectives and a clear repatriation plan from the very beginning. Autonomy in how to achieve the objectives help the expatriate develop a flexibility that will make the assignment easier.

Black and Gregersen (1992) found "Dual Citizen"-expatriates to be less likely to end an assignment prematurely and to have a higher probability of staying with the firm after repatriation. They also concluded that the expectations, demands and objectives of the assignment can determine the form of commitment. If a "role conflict" occurs, it is hard for the expatriate to feel responsible for the outcomes and he or she will thus be less committed to either side of the company.

A similar effect can be witnessed with "role ambiguity." Hence a clear set of expectations and objectives as well as a clear repatriation plan are most important for the expatriate to feel safe and concentrate on a successful assignment. The authors found the "most powerful factor in creating dual allegiance" being "role discretion." The freedom to decide what has to be done how and when in order to achieve the objectives gives expats a sense of ownership and thus makes them feel responsible for their actions and the outcomes.

Any personal opinions and experiences you'd like to add? Thank you for leaving a comment!


Black, J. Stewart and Gregersen, Hal B. (1992) Serving two masters: Managing the dual allegiance of expatriate employees, Sloan Management Review, p61


8 Steps Through Expat Change Using Personality Type


8 Steps Through Expat Change Using Personality Type

"Change is inevitable. Growth is optional." That's one of my favorite John Maxwell quotes, and if you've ever gone through an international transition or other kind of change, you know it's true. At our local APTi Chapter this week, we heard Ravi Verma talk about his experiences leading a change process at a billion-dollar company not too long ago. He applied personality type knowledge and the positive results speak for themselves. He used Kotter's 8 step model for change as a framework to highlight the different phases. As you read through them, I invite you to think of your work or your family system and see how you can facilitate the change process for others and for yourself.

8-Step Change Model according to Kotter

1. Urgency

Knowing that change is inevitable, different types have different reactions to the prospect of change. If you want to effect change, you have to create a sense of urgency. For people with a Sensing preference, for example, this can be achieved by explaining the details with data. Why is the change necessary? Who's going to do what, when, and where? What's a realistic picture of the future? To convince Intuiting teenagers of the advantages of your impending international relocation, it may be helpful to point out the general plan and direction, and come up with lots of re-frames and alternative ways to seeing things.

2. Coalition

Leading effective change means you have to have people on your team. You need to have at least one person who sees the bigger picture, one who's analytical, one to make it happen, one who is credible and liked, and one who's creative. If this reminds you of the Z-Model, you're on the right track: any kind of problem-solving or decision-making ideally goes through all four functions of Sensing, Intuiting, Thinking, and Feeling, to ensure alignment, purpose, and results. For your expat assignment, this means knowing details, facts, and figures about your relocation and destination, as well as opportunities to exploring new ideas and hobbies, taking into consideration the money and logical aspects just as much as the feelings, values, and preferences of everyone in the family.

3. Vision

When defining a vision, personality type is a helpful factor to communicate it in a way that the vision is bought into by all parties. In particular, consider the Thinking and Feeling function - does your goal only make sense for the bottom line? Ignoring the personal dimension would be like trying to balance a square table on only two legs. Underestimate people's values at your own peril.

4. Communicate

For people with Introversion preferences on your team, you may want to provide written information in advance to allow time for reflection. People with Extraversion preferences may appreciate a discussion forum, and the opportunity to bounce ideas off of one another face to face. In any case, everyone appreciates the feeling of being heard and having a voice. If you're the expat deciding whether to go or not, this means asking your HR department and every other contact who's involved in your relocation every single question you may have, and not giving up until you have a satisfactory answer.

5. Empower

For change to be successful, barriers have to be removed. You want to make sure to provide everyone the tools they need to do their parts, as well as manage any conflicts that may arise. The Thomas-Kilman Instrument may come in handy. For more information, see my post on conflict styles.

6. Short-Term Wins

To persevere over the long haul, you have to celebrate intermediate steps. This creates a feeling of accomplishment particularly important for people with a preference for Judging. Equally important for those with a preference for Perceiving, acknowledging short-term wins shows progress towards the goal. Mothers, yes, this means some days are a success if you got out of bed and folded some laundry. Especially during the first few months of your expat assignment, everything is going to take a lot longer than you're used to. That's normal. Your system is getting used to a new country. Stay positive, and cut yourself some slack.

7. Never let up

There will come a time where you feel like giving in and slowing down. To see a change process through to perfection, however, it is important not to lose momentum. To guard against change fatigue and help your team members deal with stress, consider applying the knowledge from the Introduction to Type and Stress - In the Grip manual. This is particularly relevant for international assignees, because your change process is so overwhelmingly all inclusive that moments where you feel in control might be few and far between. Stick with it. Don't give up. Know that going through culture shock is part of the process. This, too, shall pass.

8. Culture

To make any change stick, it has to change the culture. Follow up with assessments, and agree on a minimum maintenance level of the introduced change. Again, knowledge of type helps support everyone in effective ways. Once you're adapted to the new culture, you'll be able to move around more confidently, find nuances within the new country's culture, and have fun with it. Remember, adapting doesn't mean adopting, so you're still going to be yourself - only with added behaviors and perhaps even new language skills on top.

Image by Albireo2006, Flickr, Creative Commons License



German Pension System

Greetings fellow expats! As you might know, I'm on file as "agony aunt" over at I usually receive questions regarding immigration, which I cannot answer because I'm not a lawyer. This week's question was only slightly different, but I did find some more sources of information you might find helpful. When working in Germany, you and your company are jointly paying into your pension fund. The current rate is at 19.5 %, and both employers and employees pay 50 % each. To find out more about how long you have to pay in to become eligible to receive a German pension, what age you can start claiming it, and how circumstances change e.g. if you get divorced or move abroad, please peruse these links (at your own peril!):

An article with general information on German pension system

Basic facts on the German retirement system

Expat's Guide to the German Pension System

Pensions and divorce (in German)

German pension and international FAQ (in German)

Please share your own sources / experiences in the comments below!

Til next time,


Thanks to Simon for the free pic!



Managing your repatriation

Last month, I've asked you to help me find out about your repatriation practices and concerns. So far, I have 21 responses, and am now happy to share some of the findings and your (anonymous) comments. The survey consists of seven questions, covering 1. demographic information, 2. geographic information, 3. support, 4. expectations, 5. challenges, 6. hindsight, and 7. time investment. Except for the demographic information, all questions allowed for verbatim comments.

1. Respondents' Demographic Information

  • Male - 7
  • Female - 14

1.a Occupation

  • Expat Assignee - 9 (5 female, 4 male)
  • Expat Partner - 4 (all female)
  • Expat Family member - 2 (all female)

1.b Age (non-mandatory)

  • 20-30 - 3 - 5.45 %
  • 30-40 - 7 - 12.73 %
  • 40-50 - 5 - 9.09 %
  • 50-60 - 4 - 7.27 %
  • 60+ - 0

3. Which support is / has your company been providing? (multiple answers possible)

  • Moving support - 8
  • Visas - 7
  • Tax - 5
  • House-finding - 4
  • Language Training - 3
  • Repatriation - 2
  • Career planning - 1

With respect to repatriation, no support was offered except airfare.

NONE of the respondents have received cross-cultural training, work permits or career planning assistance for the spouse.

SEVEN of the respondents have received NO repatriation support whatsoever.

4. What are you looking forward to about returning home?

American grocery stores (not necessarily the food in them, but only needing to go to one place to buy all of my food).

The top three things expats were looking forward to when returning home were family (15), friends (12), and familiar environment (8), followed by home culture (7), food (5), and neighborhood (4).

5. What challenges are you and your family facing about returning home? What are your concerns?

  • Fitting in again - 14
  • Another move - 14
  • Social Circle has changed - 12
  • International Experience isn't valued at work - 11
  • Smaller compensation package - 10
  • Lifestyle is more limited - 9
  • Another career change - 8

Missing friends you left behind. And having to build a new social circle in the city you used to live, which feels a little strange, since it feels like 'your' town.

Having to return to a country you wanted to leave feels even worse after having lived abroad, even if for only a few months.

Trying to get a mortgage was near to impossible.

6. In your own words, please share what you would want / would have wanted to know before repatriating to make your adjustment and your family's adjustment easier:

I had no idea about life in the new city and region, and no real understanding of the new industry, so it would have been nice to have that information. Also, ordinary ex-pat inquiries (how long are you here for; where will you go next, etc) would be deemed threatening in the new environment, which I did not realise. The responsibilities in the new position were more limited than in the old international one, and this did not please me. There was almost no international news in the part of the US where I was sent for the new job, which was very odd after being surrounded by it overseas. My new colleagues (and even the HR department) had no appreciation of the living and working circumstances or experiences of those from other countries (or those of us who had been living on secondment overseas). It all was very surreal sometimes.

I would like to see more appreciation for the competencies gained while working abroad and would have liked more information on career chances after the assignment abroad.

I would have wanted to know that the job I moved into was actually what the description was. Sadly, it didn't turn out to be... I also noticed old friends have much less time as they're used to not having you around.

These is nothing that comes to mind as I know the area have kept in touch with friends and have repatriated back to my home country once before and so I know what it can be like. I am looking forward to it but perhaps feel a little concerned about my children and their adaptation as they have never lived there before.

Company to be honest about when my husband could return home. They kept delaying and delaying. They even argued over who would pay the return air fare! They also have no realistic job for him -- and they've had SIX YEARS to figure that out!

Career counselling. The working world has changed since we've been away. Expectations, pay and conditions are all different. Work culture also seems different (but perhaps it's us that have changed).

Be aware of the fact that the city/country you left behind, will not be the same city/country you will find upon your return. It is not simply slipping back into your old life, but adjusting to a, though familiar, now different life.

These are just a number of the wonderful comments you shared, thank you again for your time. Many of you sounded like experienced ex- and repats, so I'm especially glad you're sharing your expertise with first-timers. Recurring themes I noticed include the perceived and perhaps actual lack of support provided by the company, as well as family concerns still topping the list of challenges. Check back next week for ideas and tips of how to bridge those gaps.

If you'd like to add your comments to the survey, please click here or leave a note below.

Til next time, have a good one!



Coaching FAQ

What is Expat Coaching, and why is it important?

“An expatriate (in abbreviated form, expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person's upbringing or legal residence. The word comes from the Latin ex (out of) and patria (country, fatherland)." (cf Wikipedia)

“Individuals and organizations who engage in a professional coaching relationship will experience fresh perspectives on personal challenges and opportunities, enhanced decision-making skills, greater interpersonal effectiveness, and increased confidence in carrying out their chosen work and life roles.” (cf International Coach Federation ICF)

International moves bring radical changes with them, both in the professional and the private field. Taking an active approach to preparing for those changes with the help of coaching, by formulating clear goals, anticipating possible obstacles as well as identifying how to work around them greatly improves the chances for a successful assignment and happy families abroad.

How do I know if I need Expat Coaching?

Only you can answer this one. This may be your first relocation that you find daunting, maybe you want to be as well prepared as possible, or your expectations are not being met, you are finding it hard to settle into your new home, you have identified a knowledge or behavioral gap, or you are ready to take action to reach your goals and improve your circumstances. Expat Coaching is for you if you are looking for confidential and professional support to address the changes you are experiencing and make the most of your international experience.

PLEASE NOTE Coaching is NOT for you if you are looking for someone who tells you what to do, if you see neither need nor reason to change or improve on anything at all, or if you are looking for  therapy.

What are some of the reasons why expats ask for coaching?

Here are some situations where coaching is beneficial:

  •     when you are offered an interesting position abroad but your partner does not want to go
  •     when you take up an interesting position abroad, your spouse accompanies you, but is not allowed to work there
  •     when you and your partner decide to relocate and your relationship takes a turn for the worse
  •     when you or your spouse find it hard to get used to the new surroundings and experience culture shock, anxiety, or depression
  •     when you are having trouble building up a social circle, feel lonely, or get homesick
  •     when you cannot seem to get your new team to work well
  •     when you find yourself off your home-company's radar and out of the loop regarding career opportunities
  •     when you want to go home (repatriate)

At Building the Life You Want LLC we are prepared for these and many more questions, because we have worked through them ourselves. We understand that the expatriate and their family might be uncomfortable discussing these issues with their employers or HR departments and are therefore happy to provide a confidential and supportive environment in our coaching sessions.

What does the coaching process look like?

Once you have made the initial contact, we will be in touch to clarify any questions you might have. This will be a getting-to-know-each other type of conversation, it is not binding and we will not ask you to sign anything. If we both decide that we can make a successful coaching relationship happen, we will set our first appointment.

What happens in that first appointment, and do I have to pay for it? I've heard a lot about free first sessions!

As described in the previous answer, our first appointment or session won't be our first conversation. We are going to establish whether we're suited for each other in those initial contact conversations. That part is free. However, in our first appointment, we define the parameters of the coaching process and enter into the official coaching agreement. As such, this first appointment plays an integral part for the coaching results we aim to achieve and will be charged at full price.

Can’t I just ask my friends to coach me?

Of course you can, but we would not recommend it. Friends have a personal stake in your situation, they are emotionally involved and therefore less objective. Lending and receiving friendly support is a beautiful, wonderful thing, but it does not substitute coaching. A good friend probably cheers you on as much if not more than a coach, but they do not ask as many or the kind of uncomfortable questions that are necessary for personal growth; that’s the coach’s job. What your friend and your coach have in common is that you trust them and are comfortable sharing your feelings with them, but essentially, coaching is a professional relationship with the mission to help you reach your goals and therefore a defined end-date.

What if my situation is really difficult or really special, how do I know if you can help me?

We won’t know ‘til we try! If you feel at any point that the coaching isn’t working anymore, the first step is to let us know. Honest feedback and constructive criticism will allow us both to move forward and reach our goals. Sometimes, coach and client simply are not "on the same wavelength," and both parties are free to communicate this and pursue other avenues. However, when the personal rapport is established, and the process still gets stuck, the coach has the option of peer supervision: In the coaching agreement it is up to you to allow us to discuss aspects of our coaching conversations with colleagues of ours. This serves to anonymously get their opinions on which alternatives we could look at.

My company said I can get some coaching as part of my relocation package. If I come to you, how much information do you have to relay to my bosses?

None at all. First of all, congratulations for having chosen to work for a company that takes such great care of you! And second, if our conscience and work-ethic weren’t enough, the coaching agreement we both sign clearly states that what we talk about remains between you, whomever you want to tell, and your coach.

How many appointments or sessions do I need?

The amount and interval of sessions will vary depending on the goals you have. We define at the very beginning what your goals are and what your life will look like once you have achieved them. In that way, we know exactly when it is time for us to part ways.

When asked for a very broad and general recommendation, we found that a minimum of twelve hours, at first roughly at a weekly interval, then every three weeks, seem to work well for most people. Twelve, because lasting changes in behavior as well as mindset take time, and leaving at least a week in between sessions because your system (body, mind, and soul) need space to assimilate the changes you are implementing. Preparation for one specific event for example may need fewer session, adaptation into a new culture may take much longer. Clients can also choose to have less frequent coaching interaction, like for example once a month, which would result in a longer commitment. Sessions can also be ad-hoc, for example, three to five times before an international move, three to five times after arrival in the new country, and another three to five after the family has arrived and settled.

What’s your coaching approach?

At Building the Life You Want LLC we believe that every person is the expert in their own life and has all the necessary resources to make their goals a reality. Our approach to coaching is therefore non-directive, systemic, and resource-oriented, which means we ask questions to support you in finding your own answers, taking your background and surroundings into account. Personality Type and cultural frameworks provide tremendous insights, as do friendly probing questions and tools like reframing.

How are we going to get together, how often, and for how long?

Our coaching sessions are an environment free of judgment and full of accountability and encouragement. They can take place online (video-conference, chat, email), over the phone, or in person (Dallas area, Texas, USA). The conversations are between 30 and 50 minutes long and at an interval that suits your needs, weekly, once a fortnight, or monthly with complimentary e-mail support in between sessions.

How much does it cost?

Coaching agreements are drawn up individually once we've identified your goals and length of commitment to the process.  We also offer group workshops or online coaching with varying rates. Once we've discussed what you would like to work on, I will send you an agreement with the terms that you can accept or reject. Both of us are free to terminate the agreement at any time prior to that when we feel it's not working anymore, so there is no risk or trap that you will pay anything you don't want to.

What is the return-on-investment, ROI?

For individuals: Coaching is an investment in yourself that offers long-lasting emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual results according to the efforts you put in. Your personal coaching achievements have only the limits you set yourself. Happier relationships, better communication skills, a broadened horizon, increased self-awareness, lowered anxiety, a successful assignment, even one ingenious idea that can start your own business; those are only a few of the usual returns-on-investment that coaching clients observe. Top it off with continued motivation, support, and accountability that keeps you going, and deciding to hire a coach is the best thing you do for yourself this year.

For organizations: I would love to engage in an ROI process with your participants. In order to do that effectively, you need to tell me which behaviors or skills you are already measuring, so we have base-line data to compare the coaching results to. Ideally, this involves a control group as well, to see how much of the ROI is based on the coaching process. Broadly speaking, an international relocation costs about five times the person’s salary. Since research has shown for over a decade that family concerns and lack of acclimatization are the leading causes in assignments ending prematurely, engaging in expat coaching potentially saves the company’s investment in the relocation, it avoids the costly return of the expat and the new recruitment process, not to mention the loss of credibility in the local market.

What’s in the coaching agreement?

The agreement we both sign covers the parameters we set up during our first session, like how many sessions we are going to have over which time period, where we will meet and for how long, which fees apply and when they have to be paid, and whether you give permission for peer supervision or not. Basically, the coaching agreement serves to remind us both of our rights and responsibilities, and clarifies administrative details that might otherwise distract us from the actual coaching process.

When is the best time to start my coaching, before I move abroad or once I’m there?

Expat Coaching is effective whenever you choose to do it. If you know about your move in advance, excellent - the number of sessions can ideally be spread out before the move for comprehensive preparation, upon arrival to lay effective groundwork, and after settling in to assess specific needs that will arise. But, we know you cannot plan for everything.

If you don’t have any questions before you go or feel like your preparation is taken care of superbly by the support you are already given, our coaching conversations would be very quiet affairs. Coaching is most effective for when you have already identified that you have a need, something to change, or something specific to prepare for, as mentioned above.

OK, I think I could do with some support. How do I get started?

Choose Coaching or send us an email at doris(at)buildingthelifeyouwant(dot)com and tell us a little bit about your situation, what you would like to work on, and we can take it from there. The same is true if you are the HR specialist taking care of expats in your company - ask me about free talks or workshops I can give at your offices to prepare potential expats for what's ahead.

Where else can I find information?

We publish relevant articles dealing with coaching, communication, change, and expat life every week on our blog.

If your international relocation is something you are doing privately, all of the preparation, research, organization, and related expenses will be covered by your good self. In this case, the internet should be your best friend. You will find information about your country of choice, visa requirements, health care, banking, housing, schooling, etc. at your fingertips. Let me suggest you start by looking at your own country's embassies and consulates in the region you want to move to, and take it from there. If you get stuck, contact us and we can talk about further resources.

If you are relocating as part of your company's expatriation assignments program, your employer will help out with some if not most of the organization, planning, and expenses. For instance, it is common practice for the company to hire professional movers for you to ship your belongings into the host country, and most Human Resources and/or legal departments also help the family with obtaining work permits, finding accommodation, and funding language classes. Everything else is pretty much up to the company's budget and your expat-package negotiation skills. I strongly suggest you take your company up on all the support made available to you, actively approach them and ask for what you need, while still doing your own research, so you have something to compare the information you are being given with.

We encourage communication and feedback exchange for non-sensitive issues between the expat and the employer at all times, but only talking to an Expat Coach will give you 100 % tailor-made support based on your unique personal situation. Remember, even if our services are part of a relocation package organized and paid for by your employer, everything that is discussed during the coaching sessions remains completely confidential.