Top 10 HR tips for international assignments

Relocating to a new country can be a daunting prospect for employees – especially if it's your first international assignment or you are being accompanied by your family. Here are the top 10 tips to make sure an international assignment a success.

To address some commmon international assignment relocation concerns, Bourne Relocation Solutions has compiled a list of its top ten tips for potential assignees, to help with the practicalities of moving abroad, to make it easier to settle everyone emotionally and psychologically on arrival, and to help global mobility managers consider how they might be able to use their policies to assist.

Top tips for relocating potential expat workers

1. Arrange for the expat employee visit to the new destination

If possible, this is definitely the best way to get a taste of life in the new country, to experience the culture first-hand, visit potential schools and homes, gain an insight into facilities in the area, and even do a test-run to work or school.

2. Create a budget for the relocation

Understand completely what the relocation policy entails, and budget for things that aren’t provided. Are things like school expenses, accommodation and health insurance covered? Are you given a budget for professional home search, language training, or flights home in the case of an emergency? Make sure you know up-front what is and isn’t included, so you can budget accordingly.

3. Join expat forums and start reading blogs

Hearing about the experience of people who’ve been through the relocation experience and asking them about your concerns is a great way to get a realistic insight. Ask questions, get support, and make business or social connections in your new area.

4. Prepare for culture shock

Understanding that life – from food and currency to language, behaviours and routines – will be different in the host location is important. If your employer provides cultural training, this is a great way to prepare. If not, make sure to do your own research, involve your family and help everyone build their expectations, to minimise any unsettling impacts of the change.   

5. Learn the local language

If you don’t already know some of the language of your host country, then your preparations should include learning as much of your new language as you can and making sure you know some business language, social language and everyday phrases. Communication with the locals – however basic – will help you feel more settled and confident in your new surroundings.
Here are some more tools for talent management and promoting successful international assignments:

6. Prepare your ‘trailing spouse’

If your spouse is accompanying you on assignment but is not relocating their own job, then identifying career opportunities, perhaps evaluating any training that might be required to do their existing job under new standards, or retraining for a new career they are interested in will go a long way to making the transition easier if they are planning to work. If your partner isn’t planning to work in the host country, then establishing new social networks will be an important part of helping them settle in.

Read more about: International dual careers: latest policy and practice

7. Know the local rules and laws

Understanding how to behave both legally and in a socially acceptable manner is really important, especially if you’re going anywhere outside the EU, where attitudes towards public behaviour and dress codes can be completely different. Take some time to find out about the customs, local laws and regulations of the new society you are about to enter. Getting them wrong could result in your (at worst) breaking the law or (at best) publically embarrassing yourself.

8. Check your travel insurance policies - especially travel, health and home

As a minimum, you're likely to need travel and health insurance – especially where your host country does not operate a national health service for which you will be eligible. In addition, consider insurance for your new home, and make sure that other policies, such as life insurance or car insurance, will cover you while you’re abroad, too.

9. Research and arrange a moving services

If your employer is not paying for international shipping of your household goods, or if you receive a lump sum but are responsible for your own arrangements, then you should consider researching and appointing a mover three to four months in advance of your move. If you’re sourcing your own removal company, it’s a good idea to get three quotes, to make sure you’re getting a cost-effective price and the level of service you require.

10. Consider which other additional services you'll need when you relocate

If your employer isn’t providing full relocation services, then you may want to consider budgeting for certain services yourself. Assistance with finding a school or a home, helping you with inventory check-in and arranging utilities when you arrive can really help get you set up and settled quickly without the stress. This article was first published in 2014, but was updated on 29 January 2019.

For related news and features, visit our HR section. 

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