Relocating expats need more help with culture shock

Published:  16 May at 6 PM
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A new report states that professionals country-hopping between assignments need more assistance with relocation stress.

The survey involved over 2,700 expat professionals in 160 countries worldwide, with middle-aged family men making up the bulk of the respondents. However, the study showed the majority of expats head overseas alone, leaving their families in stable environments whilst they move between different positions in diverse countries.

A major reason as to why most expat professionals are choosing to go it alone was that, nowadays, interesting job opportunities are opening up in remote locations or emerging markets. Facilities in such destinations are unlikely to include Western-style heathcare, international schools and a safe, stable family environment.

Although a high percentage of multinationals offer help with relocation to culturally different environments, inbound relocations are rarely supported but are needed in many cases. Replies to the survey indicated even more help is needed with fitting in with local cultures, including basic lifestyle issues such as the best places to buy groceries.

Most respondents would have preferred to be given cultural and locally-based information before they left the home country, rather than after they’d arrived and were struggling with the challenges of their new position. Adjusting to moving back to their home countries, they noted, could be as complicated and stressful as was the relocation overseas, particularly with tax and banking issues.

The majority of expats surveyed were US citizens, but numbers of respondents were down from two years ago and 25 per cent down on the same survey in 2001. It seems that multinationals nowadays are concentrating on the recruitment of local talent, with skilled expat professionals being brought in on short-term contracts to deal with specific issues.

The tendency to use local talent instead of expat expertise is most evident in Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Emphasis on Saudization first came in several years ago in answer to the disproportional numbers of expat workers compared with locally employed Saudis. Expats still make up the bulk of residents in the region, but are gradually being eased out by local governments.
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