How to meet the challenges faced by the non working partner in living and working effectively in a different culture.
By Michael Aspell
A leading relocation company has estimated that 71% of overseas postings fail due to the inability of the spouse or partner to settle in the host country.
Intercultural trainers use the term “assignee” to refer to both the employee and the employee’s partner or spouse as both people are of equal value to the success of the assignment.
An assignment to a different culture can lead to overwhelming feelings of dislocation in the spouse or partner.
The assignee no longer has the life they had, they no longer have the contact with work colleagues and friends.
This alienation can lead to marital stress and infidelity, overeating, shoplifting and even substance abuse.
It may be worthwhile at this point to note that most HR professionals have never had a personal experience of relocation and it is not unusual that the objections and issues raised by an unsettled assignee are met with dismissively. “Stop whining, your husband is very well paid and you are on a good deal” was one response recorded by an assignee.
There are solutions.
WIFI is critical. – It provides a link between the old life and the new one as well as being a powerful tool to explore the host country. Indeed, some intercultural trainers believe that WIFI should be included in the first tier of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Settling In period – Assignees should also take the opportunity to allow themselves a “settling in” period. During this time the employee should not work but together with their spouse and partner take time to explore the host country and spend time with their spouse or partner to ensure that he or she feel settled. This has proven to be a far more effective strategy than the rather macho behaviour of “hitting the ground running” such as driving straight to work from the airport, pausing only to drop the spouse or partner and the family at the new place of residence. A rule of thumb would be to “include the spouse in everything”.
Intercultural Training offers an opportunity to ventilate any fears and anxieties that the assignees may have regarding the assignment. The training also explains why and how the host country’s culture is different to the assignee’s home culture and provides tools to manage those differences. In the training assignees will be able to address questions fundamental to the success of the assignment such as;
*Why are you here?
*Why are you doing this?
*What do you want to achieve on this assignment
*How can you make this assignment a success rather than just a series of frustrating challenges?
The training also helps the assignees to formulate an action plan to ensure that each assignee can live and work effectively in the host country.
Michael Aspell offers Cross-Cultural Training; to help people live and work effectively in the United Kingdom and in other countries.
His training would help you live and work effectively by giving you an understanding of the cultural aspects of the United Kingdom.
Michael Aspell qualified as a lawyer in 1989 and practised as a solicitor in the United Kingdom specialising in Immigration law.
He is the only Cross-Cultural Trainer in the UK with experience in the legal profession.