Expat life will not be the same

Photo Credit: Lara Cores

Photo Credit: Lara Cores

There were times that you could be pretty sure that a trailing spouse was a woman. Well, not anymore. Heineken reports that among their 500 employees 20 out of 80 are women now, whereas eight years ago it was only 4 women against 96 men. (source: Financieel Dagblad, 14 april 2014)

Weather the partner is male or female, we all know by now that the partner of the expat plays a crucial role in the success of the international assignment. The trailing spouse is usually the one who has a bigger challenge adjusting than the expat. You could say that when the partner isn’t happy, the international mission has failed all together.

Heineken has understood this very well. They have a special global mobility team based in Amsterdam, that coordinates their 500 expat employees worldwide. They not only arrange the usual practicalities like work permits, international moves, and housing but also dedicate attention to the cultural education of the expat, their partner and other family members.

Getting to know the habits, norms and values, language and culture of the temporary host country starts long before departure with help of a personal coach. At Heineken they know that the level of success of the expat assignment is closely linked to the level of satisfaction of the spouse or partner.

About a year ago they even started a program specifically for the ‘other half’. Its focus is to support the partner in giving meaning to their new life. This could be career coaching, study guidance or helping to start up own business.

I’d say Heineken offers the perfect example of how to show your employees that you understand and care for their situation. They are willing and have the experience and the expertise with expats. Other companies and many SME’s who are not so familiar with international employees do not treat their expats much different from their local employees. There is no time, knowledge or attention to get into the necessary expatriate package.

On a global scale, the nature of the employment contracts are changing. More companies provide expats with a local contract, also the bigger organizations. What does this mean? In the best scenario, the employees can negotiate some extra conditions to make sure he or she doesn’t feel worse off. This usually results in getting some extra income and a reimbursement from expenses, instead of expensive expat packages that used to be the norm. What is that, being worse off?

Photo Credit: RichardStep.com

Photo Credit: RichardStep.com

Of course, practicalities need to be arranged. You have a house, you have a school for the kids, work permit, parking permit, driving license. Your partner goes off to work. And there you are.

That is the moment when most partners start to experience the most difficult time.

  • How do I feel at home?
  • Will I ever belong here?
  • Where do I meet people who understand me?
  • So many things I don’t know yet, who do I turn to?

Personal coaching for partner and family members is not a luxury. It is a necessity. They are usually the ones that have the hardest time while their partner is incorporated into the new work environment, building new networks, getting to know colleagues and receiving advice almost automatically. While the partner sits at home with moving boxes, with or without the children, wondering where to go and where to start.

Please leave a comment if you have something to say about the topic from your own experience. Do you think personal coaching could fill in gaps and if so, how?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Mirjam Boogaart says:

    Someone wrote me last week to know the source of the data mentioned in this article. It’s the Financieel Dagblad, 14 april 2014. I cannot find your e-mail anymore!!! Hope the info reaches you like this 🙂

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