A Great Move: Home is where the heart is

Hip private members’ hangout to London’s creative sector, the Hospital Club, was the perfect home for the Santa Fe Relocation-hosted launch of an inspiring new book by expatriate coach, Katia Vlachos.

A Great Move book cover and display
The venue and tie-up between Santa Fe and Katia Vlachos reflects the creativity with which relocation management companies are responding to global mobility trends today and the current focus on individual assignment experience. These were both celebrated in the recent Relocate Awards, where Santa Fe Relocation won a Destination Service Provider of the Year award for its work globally from 96 offices and was highly commended in the Best Relocation Management Company category.Explaining why Santa Fe Relocation was supporting Ms Vlachos and her book, A Great Move (published 28 June 2018), Neil Bothams, CEO, Europe and APAC at Santa Fe Relocation, said while the tie-up was “something a little bit different,” it complements perfectly Santa Fe’s focus on the assignee to create additional value.Aimed at people on the move, their families and everyone involved sponsoring and supporting them, A Great Move sets about boosting awareness and understanding of what makes a good relocation practically, and from an emotional, social and psychological perspective, to create “home.”“Santa Fe is on a journey and A Great Move is a passport for us,” continued Mr Bothams, currently navigating with his family their own relocation to Singapore. “This book gives great tips on how to prepare, which we already have at Santa Fe. But it also asks and explores more fundamental questions, such as ‘what is home?’ It challenges and guides people through their experience.”

Building emotional connections between individuals and places

With talent mobility and assignee experience hot topics in global mobility, Katia Vlachos’ holistic approach is very timely for HR, global mobility professionals, sponsors and line managers.Critically, it encourages would-be assignees and family members to clarify their personal and professional reasons for the move and challenge their assumptions before committing to its success. Armed with the knowledge of what will makes the move “tick” for assignees, and the book’s useful insight into the emotional side of relocation, everyone involved in the move has a toolkit to optimise their experience and support to bring people “home.” “More and more people are choosing to relocate and for doing so for many different reasons,” said Mr Bothams. “We’ve recently launched a consumer website. This is a fantastic development in how we support these trends, and this book is part of that. We are tapping in to a feeling, an emotion, when we offer our services: we are putting the red heart back into the red horse of Santa Fe Relocation.” Speaking to Relocate at the launch, author Katia Vlachos, a defence analyst, researcher and expat coach now living in Zurich, welcomes how Santa Fe is embracing her new book as part of its DNA. “I’m very excited Santa Fe is focused on this philosophy and making it happen,” said Ms Vlachos. “International moves are an emotional journey and it’s so important to create the right conditions to thrive.”
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Personal relocation journeys

Vividly illustrating this point from her own experience as an international assignee, partner and family member, Katia Vlachos shared the story of how she came to write the book. Born in Cameroon to Greek parents, moving to Greece aged four, then moving between the US, France, Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland, Katia took her audience on the emotional journey of what it has taken to find her home in each destination. After a series of “really easy moves where I was pretty comfortable as a foreigner in these countries,” Katia said that it was a move to Vienna that hit her hardest. “Vienna was a shock to my system. I couldn’t feel at home. I didn’t like the weather and I was cold. I couldn’t connect to the people or the culture. Nothing clicked. I always felt like the token foreigner.“People were always nice, but I always felt out of place. I talked to other people. Then I met Tina, who was also Greek and of the same generation. She fitted in and I found myself asking why couldn’t I be like that? This started to get me interested in how people make moves.”

The right support for international moves

A researcher by training, Katia felt that by understanding moving, she could help people like her struggle a bit less. “As I was researching, I found it wasn’t just me who was struggling,” said Katia. “There are very high termination and assignment failure rates. This has a cost for the employers, but it also creates tensions in families and emotional stress.”Katia believes that with more of the right support and resources, people can reduce the emotional discomfort that can come with international relocations. A Great Move: Surviving and thriving in your expat assignment, therefore aims to optimise the move process for everyone involved.It is organised around five core principles. These offer a sound framework for weighing up the benefits and opportunities of every aspect of international moves.Each chapter covers diverse perspectives, including links to personal development, career aspirations, concepts of what makes a home, individual personalities and attitudes to change. Within each chapter, conversation pointers, personal assessment tools and checklists help would-be assignees to explore the issues and check their assumptions as they relate to them, helping them to create the foundations for successful moves and a home-from-home where everyone can thrive. 

Seven tips for successful international relocations

At the launch, Katia offered guests her top seven take-aways for best practice international assignments: 
  1. Look before you leap: International relocations are a big decision and life changing. Give it the consideration it deserves. Have a structure to the decision. Determine the ‘why?’ for making the move and if a partner is making the move with you, involve him or her in clarifying what this is. If your partner is onboard, invest and commit together to making it work. Reflecting on her personal experience here, Katia said that the difference between her and her friend Tina was that Tina wanted to be there, whereas Katia didn’t.
  2. Know what to expect: Find out as much as you can about the destination before you move and from career, personal development and wellbeing aspects for everyone involved. There will be consequences for making the move. This stage is about checking your assumptions and finding out what the deal-breakers are.
  3. Prioritise the family: As an assignee, your needs are often the focus. It is up to you to figure out what your partner and family members need, follow that and line up the resources to make it happen.
  4. Think about what your family needs to make the new location feel like home: “I didn’t do this [in Vienna] and I felt homeless,” says Katia. “It was different when I moved to Zurich. I knew I needed to be close to water, have a close circle of friends and was much more intentional in making that happen. It really helps to be conscious of what makes home for you and your family.”
  5. Don’t do it alone: Use the support networks that are around you and find your tribe. The expatriate community is huge and helps create that feeling of belonging.
  6. Anticipate the adjustment process: If you move, you are most likely to go through a sequence of stages, like honeymoon, crisis, recovery and then adjustment, over time. It helps to know what is coming so you can help yourself and your family members develop the skills and ability to cope with change.
  7. Take care of yourself: Preparing and moving for an international assignment can be intense, overwhelming and stressful. Sleep and eat well and exercise. Indulge yourself from time to time.
A Great Move: Surviving and thriving in your expat assignment is published by LID Publishing Ltd, ISBN 9781911498605 and available from online at agreatmovebook.com, Amazon and all good booksellers from 28 June 2018.For related news and features, visit our Partner & family Support section. Find out who won in this year's Relocate AwardsRelocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online Directory