There’s No App for That

Empathetic Relocation Support: there is no App for that!!

So very true. Even though a service provider will embrace the future and go with the flow of change towards a more online experience, there is no substitute for interpersonal support when it comes to relocating abroad!

Enjoy this Post on LinkedIn by a colleague in the relocation field!

EuRA Global Quality Seal for i-Mobility

We are proud to announce that on Friday February 10th, 2017 we passed the re-certification audit for the EuRA Global Quality Seal.

Each year new requirements are added to obtain the EGQS. That goes to show that the EuRA is actively expanding their knowledge and is eager to develop the best practices and quality standards in the Relocation Industry. We learn a lot from them and take pride in being a member of such an organisation.

We also discovered that our scores on customer satisfaction are among the highest in the industry! 

We are proud to carry the EGQS for the next two years and will make sure to keep up the good work!

Cristian

 

The hardest part of moving overseas is the reverse culture shock of coming home

“You’re so brave” was the most common response when we announced that we would be moving overseas to the Netherlands. Within 12 months the plan had grown from an idea over the kitchen table to my husband organising a European passport and starting to job-hunt.

On our first overseas trip together, a decade earlier, we had spent a few days in Amsterdam and shared memories of getting lost amongst the canals and friendly locals helping us find our youth hostel. This seemed like enough for him to say yes to a legal job opportunity in The Hague and for us to pack up our three-year-old’s toys and her little sister’s pram and prepare for a very different Dutch experience.

“Returning home brings with it an expectation that everything will be the same, but the people I left behind have moved on and I’ve changed as well,” writes Mihal Greener.

With all the excitement involved in the move, it didn’t feel like we were being especially brave. Restless for a change, we reasoned that if it didn’t work out we could always just pack up and return home. The decision that took reserves of bravery only came seven years later when we decided to leave our home in the Netherlands and return to Australia.

To outsiders, this didn’t look like the difficult move. We were going back to Melbourne, the city we had grown up in, to an extended support network of family and friends. We spoke the language, knew where to get the best coffee and how to get around. But from lurking on expat discussion forums, I knew that repatriation was frequently labelled the hardest move of all. It’s where day-to-day life is easier, but the trade-off is a loss of adrenalin and sense of adventure that comes with the challenges of making a foreign city into a home.

Of all the parts of our lives in the Netherlands, it’s the adrenalin that has been the hardest to leave behind.

My world felt so much larger living in Europe. Not only could I jump into a car and delight at crossing borders, but my eyes were also opened to a different way of approaching life, from home birthing to a lack of materialism and cycling everywhere. My community was filled with fellow expats who were raising their children as global citizens, moving countries every three or four years. My UK neighbours would share stories about being evacuated from Africa with only hours to pack and leave, or having armed guards accompany them in the Middle East, while I admired how worldly their kids were. I started feeling like anything was possible, making lists of places to visit and idly speculating about which country we should move to next.

Returning home felt like the adventure had abruptly ended and the world became much smaller again. It’s not just the physical distance but also the ease of daily life, where fresh perspectives and new experiences need to be more actively sought out.

Returning home brings with it an expectation that everything will be the same, but the people I left behind have moved on and I’ve changed as well. We’ve missed chunks of each other’s lives, the real stuff that happens beyond social media and is shared over a glass of wine. There’s a space that needs to be filled.

Robin Pascoe, author of Homeward Bound: A Spouse’s Guide to Repatriation, compares repatriation to wearing contact lenses in the wrong eyes. “Everything looks almost right,” she says. Not quite fitting feels more unsettling than integrating into an entirely new culture.

I Am A Triangle, an online expat group, evolved from a blog where Naomi Hattaway describes how when a person leaves circle country and moves to square country, they leave as a triangle – no longer quite fitting in in either place. As a triangle, the adage is to give the reparation process at least a year to settle in. It’s also, I suspect, the time it takes to lose that connection with a past life and allow the longing and comparisons to subside.

The duality of being a triangle is that so much feels familiar and at the same time so different, causing its own kind of disorientation. Within our family this division was amplified. As parents we had to readjust to life in Australia, but it had always been our home. For our children – aged 10, 8 and 5 – who had spent most of their lives in the Netherlands and where the youngest was born, home was where they had their bedrooms and school friends and they were all devastated at having to say goodbye. Australia was the country on their passports and where they would fly out to every few years to visit family and friends.

Now they are struggling to keep a sense of their Dutch identity, despite not having a passport or any tangible identifier of their time in a country where they felt, for the most part, like they belonged. The Olympics brought home these conflicted loyalties when my daughter proclaimed her support for the Netherlands at every possible opportunity. In case there was any ambiguity about her thoughts on repatriation, she also made sure, whatever the event, to vocally support any country competing against Australia.

Each of our children has a different accent and different relationship with the Netherlands and Australia, a product of their respective ages and identity. They’ve grown up loving Vegemite, but at an Australia Day BBQ a week after our return they were the only children refusing tomato sauce on their hot dogs, instead squirting it next to their cheese toasties to dunk the sandwich into, Dutch-style.

While people are welcoming us back home, we are all grappling with the realisation that repatriating means having a bit of your heart on different sides of the word. Of all the experiences we shared, this is the part that requires the most bravery.

BREXIT & The Younger Generation

The younger generation in the UK has lost the right to live and work in 27 other countries!

“A quick note on the first three tragedies.

Firstly, it was the working classes who voted for us to leave because they were economically disregarded, and it is they who will suffer the most in the short term. They have merely swapped one distant and unreachable elite for another.

Secondly, the younger generation has lost the right to live and work in 27 other countries. We will never know the full extent of the lost opportunities, friendships, marriages and experiences we will be denied. Freedom of movement was taken away by our parents, uncles, and grandparents in a parting blow to a generation that was already drowning in the debts of our predecessors.

Thirdly and perhaps most significantly, we now live in a post-factual democracy. When the facts met the myths they were as useless as bullets bouncing off the bodies of aliens in a HG Wells novel. When Michael Gove said, ‘The British people are sick of experts,’ he was right. But can anybody tell me the last time a prevailing culture of anti-intellectualism has led to anything other than bigotry?”

by Nicholas Barrett, journalist

How to be a kick-ass expat

A wonderful blog by “And then we moved to…”

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.”

Expatriate, the term sounds so exotic and unattainable to some. It sounds plain terrifying and unappealing to others.

When I hear the word “expat”, I feel a sense of excitement. When I hear that someone has left their home to go live abroad – I feel a direct affinity with them. Because let’s face it; contrary to popular perception, being an expat is no easy gig. You are constantly outside of your comfort zone, you have to start from scratch in each new posting, your world view is ever-changing, and if you’re like me – you can never remember your new phone number. Or where you packed your grandmothers tea set.

When I was 19 years old, I left home to go on an adventure. 15 years, 7 countries and 3 continents later, I call myself a long term expat. What started off with just me and 1 suitcase, has turned into a full blown adventure with a 40 foot container, an expat husband from the other corner of the world, 2 kids born in different countries and a very, very, big collection of travel photos and books. I have adopted a perpetual ‘expat state of mind’ so my phone has at least 8 different time zones (easier to schedule those around-the-world Skype dates), my bed linen bought all over the world doesn’t match (why can’t they just make 1 international size fits all?) and I shudder and draw a complete blank when I’m asked to fill out a ‘permanent address’ on any form.

Whether you are someone who’s leaving home for the first time, or a seasoned expat who can’t remember where ‘home’ is anyway – allow me to share my biggest learnings from expat life.

Here are my top 10 ways to be a kick-ass expat

1. Excitement vs Fear of the Unknown – Your attitude is key:

When you start an expat stint in a new country, there’s always a healthy balance between your excitement for the new adventure that lies ahead, factored in against your fear of the unknown (will it be safe, will I be able to make friends, will I be able to find my favorite brand of cheese?). You could be really scared to start all over again and I won’t blame you – heck, I’ve been really scared a few times when I’ve landed in a country that I’ve never been to before and suddenly there I am to start a new life.

But if you want to make it an adventure, you definitely need a healthy dose of curiosity, optimism, resourcefulness and some self-deprecating wit and humour to laugh at yourself and your mistakes along the way. As I have moved from 1 expat location to the next, part of the thrill has been to figure out the mundane things in life in a new setting with new rules – asking for directions in a foreign language, figuring out a bus schedule, starting a new job or giving birth in yet another foreign country.  I have recently learned that obtaining a residence permit in Dubai will take longer if the government official promises “it will be ready in 5 days inshallah (God Willing)”, so no need to hold your breath or get upset about it – it will happen eventually (for each ‘inshallah’ that you hear, add about 2 days waiting time roughly).

2. Don’t be afraid to put yourself “out there”:

When you are new to a place, it really helps to put yourself “out there” and say “yes” to everything. My top tip is to go to as many coffee mornings, casual get-togethers, neighbourhood meetups, new mother support groups and any other activities you are interested in, hear about or get invited to – this is how you will find likeminded people and probably make a friend or two.

These coffee mornings are sometimes where I would find answers to my most pressing questions and concerns: can you recommend a pro-natural birth gynaecologist? Where can I shop for spices and South Asian ingredients? Which nurseries are open for admission?  Word of mouth and recommendations from other expats are how I am used to making decisions now. Tap into online resources and expat forums as well in your neighbourhood or communities – someone will have an answer for you that will make this whole experience seem less overwhelming.

3. Don’t “trail” behind your spouse, view it as a chance to reinvent yourself:

The great thing about being an expat is that it affords you a fresh start – you get a clean slate everywhere you go. This may sound like a luxury but I think it is also a necessity. Sometimes, when you’ve been living in one place for a long time, doing the same job at the same place, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Sometimes changing your scenery and moving to a new country with new opportunities and new possibilities can give you the impetus to reflect on what it is you really want to do, or quite simply the chance to explore other passions, hobbies and interests.

Being on the expat trail afforded me a huge win – I was finally able to make the career change that I had always dreamed about. I hung up my finance hat in Denmark and put on my creative one in Singapore. I started writing for a local magazine, and spent each day loving what I did. It has since led to a full time career change; one that makes me look forward to my week ahead.

4. Learn the local language:

Moving to an expat location where you don’t speak the language and cannot communicate in English is hard. Probably the toughest time I had was moving to Berlin in 2007 when I didn’t speak or understand a word of German. I used to walk the streets, not knowing what people around me were saying and it was the most unnerving and frustrating experience ever. I felt I’d become illiterate overnight since I couldn’t communicate or read the newspaper or make sense of any of the road signs.

Learning the local language is a must in so many expat locations, and it provides an amazing insight into the new culture you find yourself in. Even if you can get by without learning the local language, it definitely helps to have a basic understanding of it and the local lingo. In Denmark, it sure helped to realise that a sign outside a boutique which said “slutspurt” meant final sale, and in Dubai, although my expat essential Arabic lingo is limited, it is powerful – “yallah” (lets go), “habibi” (dear) and “inshallah” (God willing) get the job done on most days.

5. Perfect the balance between belonging and saying goodbye:

This is a tough one; I struggle with it each time. Each goodbye seems harder than the previous one. Hard because once you live in a place, that place becomes part of you, and you carry it with you, no matter where you go next in the world. And then the funny thing happens: you are in a new, unfamiliar environment, you are trying to figure things out, and you can’t help but compare everything to the previous place, which you truly miss. However, the irony is that the previous place was just as unfamiliar in the beginning, and being rightly or wrongly compared to another place. Before you know it though, the comparisons diminish, you start to develop a feeling of belonging, until one fine day just when you’re feeling settled, you’ve found a fantastic hairdresser and have just paid next year’s school fees upfront,  it’s time to move on of course and say goodbye.

Expat life is a perpetual battle between pragmatism and nostalgia. It’s a strange and beautiful and bittersweet struggle at times, but it is wonderful to experience how a place that used to be so ‘random’ will now follow you on your journey and will never totally fade away from your heart. I still sit up each time I hear something about Copenhagen on the news – whether it’s about a climate conference or about Danish design – it’s a small reminder of a place I once called home.

6. Trust your spouse:

Marriage is tough – an expat marriage is even tougher. Dealing with a hectic job, a traveling spouse, an unfamiliar environment, and being away from family and friends – can all easily take a toll on your marriage. (The divorce rate for expat marriages is alarmingly high.) You may be dealing with cranky kids, not knowing who to call to fix the washing machine or where to go to find Italian bread, and your husband may be dealing with a different working culture, corruption or nepotism in the port terminals of Africa and a different way to get things done etc.

Trust is key, and open communication is paramount. A move abroad can strengthen a marriage if both partners are on the same page and tackle the challenges together. It’s important to view it as a joint adventure – share learnings and key insights, try to explore together as much as possible and always be compassionate and kind and put yourself in your partner’s shoes.

Personally, one of the toughest aspects of our expat marriage I found, was being dependent on my husband in a way I had never been before. In Singapore, I was quite literally his “dependent” on a “dependent’s visa” which meant that even dealing with the phone company would require his consent. Such challenges can be very hard but it’s the stuff that makes you stronger. And bitter. Just kidding!

7. Pass on an identity to your 3rd culture, expat kids:

Parenting is no easy job, but raising expat kids in a 3rd culture where neither you nor your partner are from, can be plain overwhelming. In the midst of the expat haze, it’s important to pass on an identity to them, and teach them where they come from, where their parents come from, where they were born and where they currently live.

Three things that have worked greatly for us have been:

  • Regular visits to our home countries and quality time with the grandparents
  • Cooking food from our respective countries at home
  • Speaking to our kids in our native languages

So much of our own identities have been shaped by language, food and culture, so we try to pass all this rich heritage to our kids too and make sure they are as familiar with eating biryani as pasta. That they are able to understand German and sing in Urdu.

However, it’s natural that the kids will only know our home countries as vacation spots, and that’s okay. They will probably end up identifying the most with the place they spend the majority of their time growing up in. As long as we give them roots and wings, they are allowed to fly in any direction they want.

8. Travel often and whenever you can:

Travel is the grease on your expat wheels – it’s what makes your life fall into perspective. Travel keeps you going, it shows you that the adventure is never finished and that you still have so much to learn. Being an expat in a foreign country offers you the best avenue to travel and explore a certain region or continent, so grab this opportunity by the horns. You will never regret trekking across temples in Cambodia as Monks reach out to bless your 8 month old or being caught in the middle of an elephant parade in Northern Thailand.

9. Accept you will be homesick for many places simultaneously:

The concept of homesickness becomes a complicated one for most expats. I sometimes feel I am in a state of perpetual homesickness – craving a Danish pastry in Singapore, and Chilli Crab in Dubai. Longing for a beautiful fall in Massachusetts and winter in Karachi.

My advice is not only to accept that you will be homesick across continents, but to embrace it and make it part of who you are. Keep the memories alive whichever way you can, whether it’s looking back at photos or reconnecting with an old friend you made during your time there. This will not only make it easier to deal with the various nostalgia, but will also enrich your life and the expat journey you are on.

10. Collect experiences but treasure something from each place:

Everyone tells you to collect experiences and savour memories, but sometimes a physical reminder of where you’ve been can really cheer you up when you’re having a bad day. These are the things you point to the movers to take extra care of, because they are of sentimental value. Some of the things that I like to look back upon which remind me of my expat journey are:

  • A book by Hans Christian Andersen (my favourite Danish author) given to me by my work colleagues in Denmark. My husband received an old map of Viking Denmark which he treasures too.
  • A Peranakan Elephant with Singapore street names given to me by close friends in Singapore the day I left.
  • Paintings of Brighton, UK given as a wedding present from friends at Sussex.

Source: www.andthenwemovedto.com

The Repatriation Dilemma

I went abroad & learned a lot! I came back, no one cared, so I left.

More and more people are globally mobile, moving from their home country to other international locations to support global business needs. Sadly, few companies take advantage of the vast knowledge that these roving managers gain of different markets, ideas for inventing or enhancing products and services, and strengthened human networks across functions and geographies. Also, few companies seem to realize that repatriation “shock” is often a more difficult transition than the culture shock expatriates experience when going abroad. According to Brookfield’s 2015 Global Mobility Report, only 5% of companies measure the ROI of international assignments at all. Even though the business case for having a strong “Repatriation Process” is easy to make, only a handful of companies actually have one.

Consider my friend “John.” John and I first met in 2005 at an executive education program that I was leading. In 2006 both John and I found ourselves on international assignments in Shanghai. We both returned to the U.S. after about 3-4 years. John left his Midwest-based manufacturing firm about a year after his repatriation. When I talked with him about why he left he said:

“No one really cared that I’d spent three years in China. There was no plan for my repatriation. I realized that the organization did not value my experience, and did not have any system for transferring my learning to others. The next person, also an expat, who took over my role in China started from the same place I had and made many of the same mistakes. This could have been avoided if the firm had involved me in his on-boarding and allowed for an overlap period when I could have transferred my key relationships, and key learnings, to him. In the end, I realized that I had changed and the company had not, so I left.”

Considering the investment his employer had made in John’s China experience (over four years this added up to about two million dollars) this is an astonishing loss. In fact, saving just one experienced leader from leaving after repatriation typically pays for the development and implementation of a whole “loss prevention” system. Happily, John’s new firm is now taking advantage of the knowledge, insights, and experience that he acquired at the expense of his old firm!

On the “foreign” side of the coin, often the “receiving manager” and “receiving team” have little or no say in who is selected for assignments. This leads to a lack of ownership of the assignee’s success. As one Japanese manager at a Western MNC told me recently in Tokyo,

“If the company did not bother to ask for our (Japanese market) input on who is coming to ‘lead’ us, our motivation to help the person succeed is lower…. we have learned that we can often ‘wait out’ an expatriate leader who is not interested in taking time to build relationships with us and to really understand our business challenges here… we know the assignment is temporary and the person will go home. We can just continue to operate as we always have and politely ignore the assignee’s sometimes ridiculous ideas.”

Building a process for repatriation saves time, energy, and lots of money. Proactive repatriation processes include:

  1. 1 Having a development plan for expatriates before they leave for their assignment. This should include on-boarding coaching for the person and his/her team that covers intercultural and interpersonal communication, and a periodic team effectiveness evaluation.
  2. 2 Building an internal communication forum for expatriate employees. This can include pre and post-assignment interview data that is recorded and shared. Such a forum can also include a social media component enabling communication between future, current, and past international assignees.
  3. 3 A process for ensuring that returning assignees have a role to come back to that leverages their experience. Most international assignees in large MNCs spend the last six months to a year of their assignment focused on securing their next role. Having institutional support for repatriates ensures that the person remains focused on delivering results right to the end of the assignment.

Shockingly few globally-operating companies have an organized plan for addressing the needs of their “returnees” from abroad. Putting one in place will increase retention, increase the candidate pool interested in international assignments, and improve the “global mindset” of the overall organization.

Source David Everhart, President Aperian Global 

Dutch Heritage broadcasted on NOS.nl

Deal all,

If you want to get a sense of what being a proud Dutchman is all about, check out this link: www.nos.nl.
It’s been 30 years today exactly that the Elfstedentocht, skating over 200km on nature ice took place! No one knew at the time, but our future King Willem Alexander also participated under the name A. van Buren.
The NOS is broadcasting it online right now, 15 hours long!!
Enjoy!

Happy Holidays!

Please note that our office is closed for a few extra days on December 24, 30 en 31! On behalf of all of us at i-Mobility we wish you Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!

Job openings available

If the following appeals to you, please contact us!

What does Quality mean to us? 

  • To be the best high level service partner for employers in the Netherlands and DSP partners abroad;
  • To have an impeccable reputation;
  • To create ambassadors for our company, both through our employees as well as through our customers and clients.

And how does it show?

  • Radiant quality, evident in all we do;
  • Using the best and most innovative IT solutions available;
  • Great process management;
  • Perfection in financial administration;
  • Hiring only the best people;
  • Great teamwork;
  • Great place to work.

We have freelance consultant positions available for the Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Amsterdam area. Anticipating growth, I would also like to get in touch with candidates for the IMC role, a full time position at the office. Detailed job descriptions are available upon request.

c.vanbreemen@i-mobility.nl

Taking care of elderly parents when living abroad

What to do when you are offered a position abroad and your parents are getting older and need extra care? This is an additional worry and also an extra hurdle to overcome. In the Netherlands, a new initiative has seen the light. Two of our former colleagues have jumped into this void and created a new service to Dutch expats (to be).

Below message comes from Tammy and Maureen of MeerService.

 

nieuwe logo meerservice - www.meerservice.nu

 

Being an expat: great, adventurous, exciting and fascinating. Right?

Absolutely, the experience is usually valuable and very rewarding, but it certainly has its challenges as well. One of the downsides is missing your family. Especially the worrying about your parents and the guilt that may go with it, can really cast a shadow over your experience abroad.

Having worked with expats in the Netherlands, we understand the problems you could potentially face. Parents do get older and gradually require more practical assistance. There are things you might ask the neighbour to do – a small errand, vacuuming the living room, or returning a library book.

But who takes care of the larger challenges? What if using the stairs becomes an issue for your father? What if your parents’ bathroom needs to be moved to the ground floor or your mother has to go into a nursing home? Who ensures that the whole process is both well prepared and minutely carried out? We could make this list even longer, but you get the gist. Of course you want to be able to reach your parents within an hour. When this is not possible, these challenges remain. So what are the alternatives? You can not cross the Atlantic or Indian ocean in a heart beat…That is a very long commute!

Would it not be comforting to know that someone is always on the look out and ready to help here in the Netherlands? When immediate action is required, we can act and look after you and your family’s best interests. We have the information needed and an extensive network to find the best solutions. The stress, sleepless nights and the feeling of falling short can become a thing of the past.

Are you ready to finally be able to outsource these tasks to a partner that understands you and your family’s needs? A partner who believes that professionalism and speed can and must be combined with dignity and warmth?

Please contact us via info@meerservice.nu

Best regards,

Maureen Vogel and Tammy Maduro