You’ve just gotten some big news: Your partner (or your parent, if we’ve got any young readers out there) is being offered an international assignment at work. You have the opportunity to relocate to another country together.
Whoa. This is a big deal. You have a lot to think about — and we’d like to help. As corporate language trainers, we’ve worked with a lot of families before and during their international relocations. So we wanted to share a few of our favorite resources that should be helpful as you make this decision and (if you decide to move) embark on this new chapter in your lives.
Research Your International Move
First things first, right? You have to figure out whether this international relocation is right for your family. If you have kids, a good starting point for your research is Expat Insider’s Family Life Index. This survey of expats ranks the best countries for raising kids abroad. In case you were wondering, Finland, Sweden and the Czech Republic came out on top.
We’re sure you’re probably already also Googling everything you can about the country where you might move. As you do, don’t forget to look for blogs from other expats. There’s an amazing community of people who work overseas and are very upfront about sharing what the experience is really like. To get advice that’s customized to your family’s situation, you can even try posting specific questions about your move on Quora, a question-and-answer website with 300 million monthly users.
As part of your decision-making process, we also urge you to check out our past blog post “Let’s Get Real About Expats & Mental Health.” If someone in your family has a mental health condition, that doesn’t rule out relocating internationally, but it’s something that will require extra planning and consideration for your family.
Plan for Career Changes
Decided to make the move? Congratulations! You now have a seemingly endless to-do list. Chances are, one of the tasks on that list is figuring out your own career situation after your international move. Maybe you intend to keep your current job and work remotely, but that still means plenty of changes if you’re used to working in an office. It’s possible to be super-productive working remotely — but it’s also possible to get distracted and let your work relationships, especially with your boss, suffer. To get ready for working remotely, we recommend picking up a copy of our friend Maura Nevel Thomas’ book “Work Without Walls,” which has lots of tips geared specifically to remote workers. It will help you get more done wherever you are.
On the other hand, if you’ll be looking for a new job after you relocate, be sure to take advantage of all the support resources your spouse’s employer offers. If nobody has mentioned anything, don’t hesitate to ask for career assistance. That’s advice from Mariam Navaid Ottimofiore of the expat blog And Then We Moved To… (While you’re on her site, grab a copy of her free guide “10 Things to Consider Before You Say Yes to an International Move.”)
The Global People Transitions blog has some more good advice to consider as you prepare to job hunt internationally. This article points out that one of the main barriers to finding work in a new country is a lack of language skills.
Another problem is that you don’t have the same network in your new country as you do in your current home. Now is the time to start working your LinkedIn network and asking your connections if they happen to know anyone they could introduce you to in the area where you’re relocating. You might be surprised at what a small world it actually is!
Even if you can’t get a head start on networking, you can still get to know new people after you move by using meetup.com. We’ve recommended Meetup before as a great way for expats in the U.S. to find places to try out their English skills and for U.S. language learners to connect with native speakers of other languages. But Meetup is also available in countries around the globe. Use it to connect with fellow expats who can show you the ropes in your new country and, hopefully, connect you to job opportunities. You could also find gatherings where you can hone your language skills — and build friendships — with local natives who want to practice English.
Help Kids Adjust to a New Life
If you have kids, they were no doubt a huge factor in your decision to relocate and in your planning for this international move. On the one hand, you see the potential for this move to be an incredible learning experience and adventure for them. But on the other hand, you’re also worried about helping them adjust to this major life change.
Again, the best starting point is finding out what support your spouse’s company offers expat families and taking advantage of that support. Beyond that, there are lots of other resources out there to help you get ready. We’re totally impressed with Expat Child, a one-stop hub of information for families moving overseas with kids. It was created by Carol Hallett Mobbs, a UK native who raised her own daughter in Japan, Germany and South Africa as they moved for her husband’s job. Of course, we were thrilled to see that Expat Child has a trove of articles about helping kids acquire a new language. Other highlights include advice tailored for kids of different ages and a comprehensive section on education options for expat kids.
Let us know if the info in this post is helpful for you in your international move. We’ll be doing more round-ups like this from time to time, so if you know of other blogs, articles or other resources that we should feature, just drop us a note.
Finally, we want to leave you with a reminder that language skills can make all the difference in whether your family thrives after an international move. Contact us for a free consultation: firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 401-3159.