8 questions by expat families you should prepare for
Once the global assignment candidate selection process is over, the questions start flooding in. Even though there may be many months before departure, your assignees are excited and anxious at the same time – and you will be their first port of call when they go looking for answers.
The big question for you is: how prepared are you? Take a look at the following eight questions – and assess how equipped you are to answer them. You will also find links to helpful information.
1. How much will I be paid – and how will it differ from my usual salary?
The financial arrangements you strike with expats are on the top of the list. Your organization may have rules in place, which can simplify matters.
A precedent is a great place to start: if previous expats were happy with their compensation, it should work again. This way you also minimize the risk of disaffection when expats compare notes and realize one has or had a better deal than the other.
Nonetheless, each assignment is different, and this summary of the different ways to structure a compensation package can be useful.
Do bear in mind that this will be a negotiation, and that expats will come armed with further questions – so have a plan ready and remember the following negotiation tips.
Also, be aware of the difference between ongoing remuneration and any single ‘relocation allowances’ that may be payable.
2. Where will I live?
Much depends on the destination. In some areas, you should advise expats to live in secure, gated communities (Luanda is a good example.) In others, the choice is largely down to the individual. You may want to consult experienced expats, but the actual process of house-hunting will almost always be done through a local agent.
Assignees will not expect you to know the local housing market, but you should have contact with expert accommodation agents – your FIDI-affiliated partner can either handle this themselves or recommend someone who can.
Also, remember that temporary accommodation in a hotel or service apartment is often a good way to get to know a new location before deciding where to set up home.
3. Where will my children go to school?
There are many choices. Whether to go private or use the state school system often depends on what is available – and what is good – in the host country. And should children be schooled in the local language – or go to an international school where they continue to use their own language? Private tutoring is also an option to investigate.
4. What healthcare arrangements exist for me and my family?
Healthcare choices often depend on the availability of high-quality state healthcare. Some destinations (such as Belgium) offer excellent, free healthcare to expats – in other countries, private provision will need to be made.
This useful list of key expat destinations will help you advise your assignees on whether they need to make private healthcare provisions.
5. What if there’s an emergency?
You have a duty of care towards your assignees and their families – and they will be naturally anxious to know that you are taking this seriously. Expect many what if-questions and be ready with the right answers.
From the risk of illness or legal difficulties to political turmoil and personal safety concerns, risks need to be assessed and managed, with contingency plans in place.
6. What if I don’t like it and want to come home?
Prevention is always better than cure. If expats (or their families) are unhappy in their new environment, they are unlikely to last the course. A good approach for the global mobility department is to consider what might cause discontent, and reassure expats that these issues have all been considered and addressed.
Also, prepare them for the different phases of expat life. It will not all be plain sailing, but thousands of other expats have experienced the same problems and thrived.
Of course, if all else fails and early repatriation is necessary, you will need to explain exactly how this works and what arrangements – both professional and financial – have been made for such an eventuality.
7. What happens when I come back?
Repatriation can be a struggle as expats try to re-adjust to a world that should be familiar, but which has moved on without them. Their expectations may also have changed: they have spent a long time in a different culture – often in a slightly exalted position as a foreign novelty – and now they are just part of the local team once more.
The key is to manage expectations through constant communication during the time abroad and to ensure that career progression has been discussed in advance.
Returning expats are prone to job dissatisfaction and are much more likely to seek a new employer; if you pre-empt it, you can prevent it.
8. How does the process of relocation work? What do I do next?
Getting ready for relocation is a complex business – especially if it is a long-term move that requires packing up of household goods, renting (or selling) the family home and so on.
One of the great advantages of using an experienced relocation partner is that they will be able to advise both you and your expats on what needs to happen. For a broader idea of the process, use our checklist.