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The art of painless relocation

Although there is currently talk of a reduction in the number of international assignments available to employees, which means less relocation, there are still many reasons why people move to another country.

It is often more effective and more efficient to train up local talent to provide continuity and sustainability in international offices. But if you look at one big industry – the world of football – relocation happens on a massive scale. In the case of British football, 69.2% of the players in the Premiership were not born in the UK and come from a total of 65 different countries, with the highest percentage of them coming from France and Spain.

Have you ever wondered how they deal with relocation? Obviously, all sports have their own kind of sub-culture so players always share some commonalities.  But how do their partners/spouses and children cope with the move? There have been numerous footballers who have struggled with the toughness of UK football, including the former French under-21 striker Vincent Pericard and Hernán Crespo, the former Argentinian Chelsea player, who struggled with everyday tasks due to both cultural and language difficulties. Can they be expected to integrate fully? And do they require specialist footballer cross-cultural training?

Culture shock

When people live abroad they often suffer from homesickness and experience culture shock. At first everything seems wonderful and life is an adventure but then the “honeymoon phase” wears off and a phase of withdrawal and disorientation sets in. This can be triggered by something small and it’s possible to see cultural differences as a kind of conflict – it can lead to depression and make you feel confused, in fact you may never have felt like this before. After a while the recovery or acculturation process begins (thank goodness!) where you might still see the differences unfavorably in comparison to your own culture and maybe you find friends from your own home culture or other foreigners to engage with. By the time you have reached the acceptance stage you learn to see the differences between cultures as normal and you manage to master situations and enjoy life again. Here mastering the local language is also part of the process.

During culture shock people may suffer from:

  • Sadness, loneliness
  • Changes in mood
  • Loss of identity and/or confidence
  • Physical ailments and being preoccupied with health issues
  • Missing family and friends


Help is on the sidelines

 So, what can be done to alleviate some of these symptoms? Here are some tips for employees, and families when trying to settle it.

  • Be positive about the situation – try to see the positive sides to life in the country and sell them to your children.
  • Remind yourself that what you are going through is normal.
  • Include some physical activity into your life from day one.
  • If you are a partner /spouse accompanying your partner and don’t have a job to go to, get in touch with an interculturalist or career coach as it will give you some focus and will help you see how your skills can be used in the new country. Maybe it’s time to take a step back and see what you really want to do and what’s on offer – there are so many things you can do on and offline these days.
  • Maintain a sense of humour! It’s good if you can laugh at some of the situations you get into.
  • Find a buddy to offload onto – maybe from your home country and then when you meet locals, you won’t have to rant at them. A lot of people won’t understand what you’re going through but you need to talk about it.

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Relocation training

Relocation training that takes you through the whole process of moving and even ends up accompanying you home at the end of it can be very valuable. It helps make all those transitions easier, helps families to hit the ground running.  Everyone will go through culture shock to some degree but there are many things to be gained from working in another country – think of those essential transferable skills that you learn: resilience, flexibility and open-mindedness. These are indispensable competencies in any industry in 2018.

About the author: Vanessa is an experienced intercultural trainer and coach.  After living in Austria for many years, she’s now back in the UK and is passionate about accompanying professionals and their families through the relocation and repatriation process. 

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