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Preparing for a Global Assignment: Plan Early, Manage Expectations

Making sure an assignment ends in success starts at the beginning. When assignees and accompanying family members are preparing to relocate, shifting from tourist into transition gear early on can help to hit the ground running. The sooner you are able to settle in, the sooner you will be positioned to fully experience your new location. Beyond conventional cultural and language training, here are three simple suggestions that can help both the assignee and family begin to feel at home in the new location:

  1. When visiting the new location, replicate the things you normally do at home. An example would be to spend time in a grocery store or market, or other types of retail establishments frequented at home.
  2. Expatriates often seek community in the company of other members of the expat community from their home country which can make it more difficult to assimilate with the local culture. An alternative is to identify local groups that represent your individual interests or affiliations. One example might be the local chapter of an alumni or professional association.
  3. Determine what your access will be to things that are important to you and your family such as recreational activities and hobbies. Set realistic expectations about what will be available in your new city and be open to trying new things. Where possible, consider arranging for lessons or instructions to accelerate learning.

Taking both personal and professional considerations into account at the start of an international assignment will help hold a space for the things most important to the assignee and his/her family, and help to ease the adjustment and transition.