Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Expat 101

Five years ago I didn't know where Turkey was and it was unlikely I could have given a useful definition of expat.

Some things I learned along the way:

1) The sooner you call where ever you are "home"; even if it is temporary, the easier everything gets.

2) If you do nothing else, learn all the local language you possibly can by whatever means you can.

3) "You're not in Kansas, anymore." Or where ever it is you're from - make peace with that and move on.

4) It's your responsibility to stay in touch with friends and family back home.  Out of sight - out of mind is a cold hard fact of life, so you're going to have to work at maintaining relationships with people at a distance.

5) If it's not in the contract, it isn't going to happen. CEO's and CFO's may agree to all sorts of things, but in the end the contract you sign is all you can expect. A detailed contract is your friend.

6) Trailing spouses need exceptional partners.  I am fortunate because mine communicated and shared decision making.  We have seen many unique expat marriages arrangements in our time here and some unusual divorce arrangements too.

7) If you're moving abroad for the money; don't.  Exotic travel destinations and your family's income converted to local currency may look like a windfall, but there is a downside for both the employee and the family when you're ten thousand kilometers from people you love.

8) Your children may suffer.  Do everything you can to mitigate that pain and loneliness. This applies to children of all ages.  Even adult children can be affected negatively when their parents live abroad.

9) You're stronger, more resilient and more creative than you think.  You can do this! Learning a new language, navigating a new culture and finding satisfaction and contentment is possible even far from home.

10) Treasure the people you meet along the way. Other expats and natives living in your new country will be invaluable assets as you navigate the new culture and cope with the unfamiliar.