Moving abroad for work is a big step for any employee - no matter how confident they feel about it. The idea of being surrounded by new sights, sounds, accents and cultures may seem exciting - but preparing for such a step is crucially important.
For an employer’s point of view, supporting workers throughout the entire process is as essential as persuading them to move in the first place. There are logistical processes to think about - and even the emotional stresses of saying goodbye to family and friends can affect concentration levels days, weeks or months later.
“Once they have made the decision to move abroad for work - whether for a few months or for several years - most workers are gripped with a sense of excitement and trepidation,” says Rob Dolbear, managing director of relocation specialist HCR.
“We’ve managed thousands of successful employee relocations during the past 20 years - and our methods are tried and tested. We know what works well - and we are very aware of the pitfalls and the consequences of not getting it just right.
“Even after the logistics are taken care of, there are many things people can do to make settling into their new surroundings easier. A positive attitude is key - and making sure your employee researches their new country and its cultures is equally important.
“There are things you can do in some countries - for example kissing on the cheek when you meet an acquaintance - that might be considered offensive elsewhere.
“And other simple acts we take for granted here in the UK might not be as straightforward in other countries. Driving, for example. It may seem like a basic right, but if you’re relocating to Saudi Arabia, you won’t be allowed to drive if you’re a woman. Though thankfully, this is all about to change.”
The King of Saudi Arabia has reportedly issued a decree allowing women to drive, overturning a longstanding policy which had become a powerful symbol of oppression.
“Over the years, a number of women have been arrested for ignoring the ban - some through protest but others through ignorance,” added Rob. “Although this particular issue is about to be resolved, it’s so important to keep abreast of all laws and regulations abroad - including those for driving.”
Even within the EU, the number of British drivers investigated for offences committed whilst behind the wheel has increased considerably in recent years.
“Drivers from the UK are often charged for speeding, for example, mainly due to ignorance of the law,” says Rob. “People living in or visiting other countries are often completely unaware of local traffic regulations - and this can prove very costly to them and their families.
“If they’re lucky they might be fined or receive a reprimand from the local authorities of the country they are in, but not familiarising themselves with the law can put them at risk of a serious accident causing injury - or even death - to them or other road users.
“Apart from the obvious issues - like language barriers, and remembering your bearings on the other side of the road, drivers should familiarise themselves with the differences between UK roads and those on the continent.
“Road signs look different, territory is unfamiliar and speeds are measured in kilometres per hour, rather than miles.
“Some countries stipulate very specific requirements when it comes to driving, and a little research will go a long way to ensuring motorists don’t fall foul of the law. In Spain, France and Italy demand that drivers carry reflective jackets for all passengers, warning triangles, headlamp and headlamp beam deflectors. France also requires each car to carry two NF certified breathalysers. This list is not exhaustive - but it gives you an idea.”
Aside from driving and national laws, ensuring the relocating employee is comfortable with their new surroundings is crucial.
Depending on the country, there may be areas of town that are safer to visit than others. Ensuring the personal safety of your employee is another essential part of the relocation process - even down to making sure they know where they should and shouldn’t go on a night out.
“Even making sure they know where is the best place to go shopping or to the gym helps the settling in process,” adds Rob. “And there are often local community groups that make great welcoming committees, if you only know where to go or who to contact.
“Our mission at HCR, always, is to ensure a smooth transition and that means making sure that people don’t feel isolated or alone. The relocation process continues long after employees have moved in - and so does our involvement.
“There are many other ways for employers to support their relocating employees - including helping them learn a new language, and learn the laws of their new land.
“But sometimes, just knowing they have someone they can call and ask for advice once they’ve moved in can make all the difference.”