Immigration – A Step Further Away From Expatriation

Relocating to a country to settle down is not exactly the same as working as an expat in a foreign country. As an expat, your future in your temporary home is partly determined by the length of your work contract and you are determined to make the most of it so that it brings you one step higher on the corporate ladder.

Relocation for settlement is reinventing yourself in a place that you hope to call home. Settling in a new country requires a lot of resilience, strong life coping skills and a huge dose of healthy self confidence. What you currently know as your “home”, your “roots” will now transform into a whole new meaning. A different perspective will be given to your life starting from day ONE you start this new phase of your journey.

There has been since the beginning of civilisation, movement of people from one country to another and from one continent to another. In the early 1900’s, when there was no internet and globalisation was not yet a reality, immigrants had no clue what they will find in their new home. They hanged on to the hope that a better future awaits them in their adopted “home”.

For today’s new generation of immigrants, things seem to be easier. There is so much information available on the internet. There are a number of professionals offering support services to help them settle down and immigration rules have been formalised in most countries. In terms of lifestyle, there seems to be a few similarities with the emergence of well known brands such as Russell Hobbs, Colgate, Nike, Apple becoming household names in a number of countries.

However, the complexity of starting afresh in a new place is still very much present. Doing business varies from country to country. Building a social network can also be a challenge. When you are out of your comfort zone, the instinctive response is to look for familiar cues such as meeting countrymen having done the same journey as you or befriending like minded individuals going through the same experience.

A successful integration would require that you hone your personal commitment to get out of your comfort zone and nurture a willingness to explore and learn. You will be facing challenges that you would not have anticipated such as your accent does not allow for a smooth communication and you feel undermined. Your clothing style makes you stand out and you are not comfortable with it so you make a compromise to fit in. These are tiny details that you may not have included in your relocation plan and yet they are powerful enough to shake your natural ability to bounce back.

Any challenge is an opportunity to develop new skills, strengthen existing ones and raise your self awareness further. Looking at challenges as positive opportunities is an ordeal in itself but yet so powerful to create a brand new perspective when life gets in the way of you achieving your goals. Remind yourself of the times you had to face challenges that you found daunting and you have successfully overcome it. Well, this is the same thing again. Life throws stuff at you as a means of teaching you how resourceful and resilient you can be.

Super heroes are ordinary people who continue on living by bouncing back from any challenge to achieve what they most desire.

What Influences Your Choices?

Some will rely on their guts instincts, others will review the facts and there will be a few of you who will use both your guts and factual information. It is important to understand what is your personal decision making process especially when it comes to making life choices such as immigrating, getting married, having your first child, buying your first home. Making life changes can sometimes lead to utter frustration, a sense of despair and your self confidence can take a hit as you dawns upon you that you have made those choices of your own free will.

Major changes such as relocating to a new country implies that there is a learning curve to go through and an opportunity cost to bear as the price of creating a new “home”. You will be having mixed feelings as you go through the learning curve and with new knowledge come confusion. What will guide you is your Inner Compass – your sense of direction and set of core values.

Everybody has values – integrity, flexibility, consistency etc. There are values that are non negotiable: those are the ones that no matter what happens in your life, you won’t compromise on any of them. Integrity is one good example. Your core values are part of  your inner compass in confusing times and they give you a sense of direction when you are facing pressures which question your sense of worth.

Your Inner Compass is the foundation of your life. How do you know whether you have a strong inner compass or not? Review your past life choices when you had to make transformational changes. What motivated you in those times? What is your decision making style and how do you make up your mind?

When your Inner Compass is strong, you have clarity and focus. Both are important when you move to the next phase of your career/life and with a strong sense of direction, challenges are easier to manage. You can’t avoid challenges and you can’t avoid making mistakes. This is how we all grow as professionals and as a person. What you are looking for is a set of core values that will guide you in your choices. This is your Inner Compass.

Do you know how strong your Inner Compass is? Have you had time to define it and build it over time? To know your sense of direction, you can probably review your life choices with a life coach or discuss them with your mentor. You can also keep a journal and jot down your feelings and thoughts as you go on your journey. Over the years, the journal becomes your own personal reference document that can help you review. Self introspection is useful when you are able to step out of the “story”. If you are looking for a life coach, please refer to well known associations of professionally qualified coaches who have received specialised training to do their job,


Cross Cultural Intelligence – CQ

Psychometric testing has long been used to determine your strengths and weaknesses, your behavioural attitudes and based on the results, how well you fit with the job you are currently doing and more importantly, whether you are a good fit with the corporate culture of your employer. In the international arena, a number of aptitude tests exist to determine which areas you have focused upon and how strong are you in those areas. As there is always an opportunity cost to any choice you make, there will also be areas where you have not paid any attention to because they are not relevant to the jobs you were given or they are areas where you don’t feel particularly comfortable.

Over time, as your career develops, you will be asked to diversify your skillset depending on the type of responsibilities you have in your job. In the case where you are working in a team of multiple nationalities, or you are dealing with international clients, there are certain skills set that are critical if you want to pursue an international career. Some examples are Openness, Flexibility, Listenning Skills and Cultural Knowledge. These skills are also relevant in your local market. However, they become essential when you deal with people coming from different cultural background, behaving in ways that are “normal” to them but not so much to you.

The world is now becoming a small village with the possibility of interacting with people of different nationalities in the same country.  A number of people think that “I have travelled to a number of countries so I should be ok”. Travelling to countries as a tourist and working in those same countries is not the same thing. Speaking the same language does not necessarily guarantee that there won’t be any misunderstandings in your business dealings with third parties. Cross cultural intelligence is important if you want to be better prepared to manage the hurdles of working in a multinational team or working as an expat in a foreign country.

Cross cultural intelligence (CQ) is the natural evolution from Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and Emotional Quotient (EQ). CQ covers aspects that Emotional Intelligence does not take into account. Assessing where you are in terms of cross cultural intelligence is possible by going through one of the aptitude tests. There are a number of them available: Argonaut, The International Profiler (TIP) etc. I have been trained on using the TIP to help my clients make their own self-assessment. The TIP covers a variety of skills as well as emotional strength which is about the ability to cope with the unexpected and managing your personal stress.

These tools are best used with the help of a cross cultural coach to whom you can be accountable to in the event you want to work on strengthening existing skills to include them in your strength areas or you are looking to build new skills.