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By David E. Hubler
Contributor, Online Career Tips
You’ve just learned that your boss wants you to transfer to one of the company’s overseas branches. You are elated. The move means a promotion, a raise and the opportunity for foreign travel.
In addition, the company will foot the bill for the move and pay your housing expenses while you work abroad. Sounds ideal, doesn’t it?
If you’re in the military, you don’t have a choice. You go where Uncle Sam tells you to go.
If you’re a civilian, however, you probably won’t turn down the opportunity to work abroad. However, be prepared for some unexpected issues, such as homesickness and even poor job performance.
Working Abroad May Breed Homesickness and Poor Job Performance
According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, between 10% and 20% of all U.S. managers sent abroad to work returned home early. Some experienced job dissatisfaction or difficulties in adjusting to a new work environment or to a foreign country.
The study also found that “Of those who stayed for the duration, nearly one-third did not perform up to the expectations of their superiors. And perhaps most problematic, one-fourth of those who completed an assignment left their company, often to join a competitor, within one year after repatriation. That’s a turnover rate double that of managers who did not go abroad.”
What Should You Do with Your Current Residence?
If you are renting a home or apartment, give the landlord appropriate notice and arrange to pack up and move out by that date. If you own your home, you have two choices: sell it or rent it while you’re gone.
If you decide to rent your home, be sure to hire a reliable rental agent who will regularly inspect your property and ensure that the rent is paid on time.
Before contracting with a real estate agent to sell your home, check around your office to see if any colleagues might want to buy it. If you sell, you will have to purchase a new home when you return. If you’re abroad for several years, you could face sticker shock if housing prices have risen substantially while you were abroad.
If you are swapping positions with another company employee who will come to the U.S. to work in your place, try to work out a deal to swap homes. One big advantage of this arrangement is the housing “stays within the company.”
Both of you will take better care of your temporary home than a stranger would. Horror stories abound about messy tenants who leave the property in need of major repairs or who skip out on the rent and security deposit.
Taking Your Pet Abroad
Some countries require animals to be quarantined for a certain period of time before being allowed into the country. If your host country has a quarantine (anywhere from a few weeks to a few months), first consider your pet’s age. Is your pet healthy enough to make the trip safely and then endure solitary confinement before being released to you?
If you believe your pet can withstand a long flight in a crate and perhaps weeks in quarantine, it’s a good idea to ship your pet before you leave the U.S. Time your travel so your pet’s quarantine period ends soon after you arrive. It’s not a good idea to repeatedly visit your pet in its confinement without being able to take her home right away.
The Rising Cost of Airline Fees and New Restrictions for Pets
After one dog died and two others were sent to the wrong destinations in March 2018, United Airlines temporarily banned all pets on flights. United later rescinded the ban and announced new restrictions, including regulations about size, breed and travel destinations.
Delta, like all U.S. carriers, now requires pets to fly as cargo on international routes. They must be booked through certain pet-shipping companies which, of course, charge for their services.
The Washington Post’s Mary Beth Gahan recently recounted the story of U.S. Army civilian employee, Missy Lee. Lee paid Delta Air Lines $5,000 to transport her two white shepherds as cargo on the same flight she took when she moved to Japan in 2014.
“In the years since, the industry of shipping pets overseas has drastically changed — and Lee is forking over nearly double that amount to ship the pooches back home later this month,” Gahan writes.
The best deal Lee found was on the Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways. The price tag, including fees for the booking service, was $9,400, Gahan reported.
However, U.S. military and government employees are required to fly on U.S. registered carriers, so Lee bought tickets on Delta through Animal Fly International for her dogs’ flight home in late June. With transport fees for the dogs it’s likely Lee paid more than $9,400 to bring her dogs home.
While You Work Abroad, Your Spouse May Experience Loneliness
Another important issue to consider if you’re going to work abroad is the happiness of your spouse. You will have the advantage of promptly striking up friendships with your new colleagues at work, especially if you have already met them in the U.S. or if you have communicated with them.
However, your spouse may not know a soul at your new workplace or in the country. Also, he or she may not know the native language. An inability to speak the language of the host country will make it more difficult for your spouse to meet new neighbors, strike up friendships or even shop on the local economy.
While you and your children will make new friends at work or in school, without a job, hobby or other personal pursuit abroad, your spouse could experience a severe case of boredom and homesickness.
To avoid an unhappy spouse, be sure to make introductions to your new colleagues and their families promptly. Often, your new supervisor will take the first step by hosting a welcome party where your spouse will have the opportunity to make friends.
Resolving these common issues as you work abroad can make for an exciting, profitable and educational experience.
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