If you spent the first weeks of September dashing off to buy school clothes, pencil cases and lunchboxes, spare a thought for the parents – and children – for whom this month will have brought even more upheaval.
For many families it makes sense to move to another country just before the new school year starts, or even once older children have left for university – sometimes joining a mother or father who has already moved there. It’s always a challenge moving to another country but, as emerging economies draw increasing amounts of business from the west, it’s becoming a reality for more and more of us. Recently, for example, a SilverDoor client opened a new office in Casablanca and, before members of staff moved across, two members of the SilverDoor Sales Team travelled to the city to meet accommodation providers and gain experience of the city. They were able to report back on exactly what expats might find difficult in the country, from ramshackle taxis to finding somewhere to eat or drink during Ramadan.
Families moving abroad – particularly to a country with a very different culture – have to deal with a multitude of considerations. For many, their first concern will be their children: where to send them to school, and how to make sure they settle in. Many parents want their children to work towards an internationally recognised qualification and in countries in Africa, Asia or the Middle East they will generally send them to an international school. Although this is the best option in most cases, the benefits of integrating children into the local community should not be underestimated.
In fact, children can often adapt far more quickly than their parents, although the first few months abroad will inevitably be difficult. The transition from one lifestyle to another can be made easier by maintaining a routine, from mealtimes to bedtimes, and by encouraging children to mix with others at school straight away. Parents should bear in mind that their children might not feel settled straight away, and try not to let their anxiety about moving to a new place unsettle them. Young minds are malleable, much more able to take in new sights and sounds, accept cultural differences and learn new languages. The recent HSBC Expat Explorer Survey concluded that children living abroad are more ‘internationally minded’ and more likely to live abroad when they’re older.
Relocating can also be difficult for partners. The workplace can provide an easy way to meet new people, but partners often find it difficult to find jobs in the new country before they go and it’s often a slow process even when they’re there. Some employers may also offer training and guidance to partners, recognising that the happiness of the family unit is as important as the happiness of their employee. In the meantime, most major cities have expat associations which organise outings and get-togethers, uniting people going through a similar experience.
SilverDoor work with a number of relocation agencies. Serviced apartments give employees somewhere to stay while they wait for their family to join them, or somewhere for newly arrived families to stay while they search for the long-term accommodation that’s most suitable for them. We have recently been shortlisted, for the second year running, in the Corporate Housing Company category in the Expatriate and Mobility Management Awards (EMMAs). Last year, The Telegraph said the awards, which are organised by the Forum for Expatriate Management, were “set to be the Oscars of the global mobility profession.” Judged by a panel of some of the industry’s most highly respected names, the awards recognise the importance of companies whose services and advice ease the pressure on those moving abroad.