Moving abroad for work is something that can be frightening and exciting in equal measure. The situations involved can of course vary greatly – there are some who make an international move out of necessity or prompting from their company, and there are those who make the decision to move abroad as an adventure and a way of broadening their horizons. There are those who move away by themselves, with the only concern being how they might adapt, and then there are those who must take into account the feelings of their family who must come with them.

There are a great many challenges to face for anyone who makes such a move. According to an HSBC Expat Explorer survey, the most common problems faced by expatriates include:

  • The language barrier
  • Finding a place to live
  • Making new friends
  • Sorting out finances and healthcare
  • Finding a school for the children

Primarily, there is the issue of culture shock. Travel allows us to see another way of life but on vacation you have the knowledge that this change is temporary – a move for work has the added issue of permanence which can be daunting. Language barriers, the lack of family and friends, and the support they offer, and add simply the stress of moving, and all it entails can be short-term problems.

Of course, time is often the greatest healer of these problems and you can slowly come to acclimatize to your new surroundings. However, there are measures that can be taken to minimize the difficulty of a move and speed up any homesickness or fears about the move for you and your family. One such step is making efforts to learn the language. Through learning the language comes a much-improved ability to communicate, which can not only help you to make friends, but also can improve your performance in work and settle more easily into the new role.

For an individual, and also their spouse or children, it is important to simultaneously ebrace your new surroundings and immerse yourself into a new way of life, but also have one eye back home. Especially in the early stages of the move, contact with friends and family back home can lessen the feelings of sudden change and ensure a smoother transition. With tools such as Skype, Facebook and email this is far easier now than ever before.

Being organized in advance and ensuring that you have sorted both the obvious aspects of the move such as accommodation, and the less obvious such as a new doctor or various bits of paperwork, will mean that as the time to move comes closer you can focus on saying your goodbyes or identifying and thinking about aspects of the move that excite you.

Despite the anxiety often associated with it, a move abroad for work should also be about excitement, adventure, and can bring a positive change in your personality – upon returning home, you might find yourself to be more open, engaging and willing to try new things which are all skills that are beneficial to a career.

This article was written by Chris Storey of the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC).

BlueSteps is the exclusive service of the AESC that puts senior executives on the radar screen of over 8,000 executive search professionals in 74 countries. Be visible, and be considered for up to 75,000 opportunities handled by AESC search firms every year. Find out more at 


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