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Expert Expatriate

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Expert Expatriate

by Melissa Brayer Hess and Patricia Linderman

Nicholas Brealey © 2002, 273 pages, $19.95 (ISBN 1-85788-320-9).

Your Guide to Successful Relocation Abroad

An expatriate is anyone who is living outside of his or her home country (Note: the term has nothing to do with patriotism). Personal experiences have taught global nomads Melissa Brayer Hess and Patricia Linderman much about surviving as expatriates. Having lived in more than 10 countries between them, including France, Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt, Cuba and Germany, they have gathered the lessons they have learned and turned them into a guidebook for those who are relocating in a foreign destination. In Expert Expatriate, the authors have compiled their own stories and those from dozens of other expatriates to help relocated workers avoid culture shock, adjust to new environments, and have a better experience overseas.

A Sense of Humor

The authors describe living and working abroad as a rewarding adventure. To make that adventure a positive one, they start their book by providing examples and tips that can help those working abroad for the first time get organized and find the support they need. Make the time to prepare for the new assignment, they write, and start learning the native language and culture of your host country as soon as you can. They explain that finding a “sponsor” in the new country can also help you get settled during the early weeks. “A sense of humor is an excellent coping mechanism — particularly useful in getting you through the stresses of an international move and the first weeks in a new country.”

The authors explain that learning the local language will help you make the most of your time in a new country, and will help you open the door to fuller and more varied experiences. They write that it can also help to reduce the stress of arriving in a new place. The main requirements are time, effort and a willingness to take risks and laugh off mistakes, they write, and regular practice is a crucial part of making progress. Although there are many options for learning a new language, such as a tutor, independent study, CD-ROMs and group classes, the authors point out that understanding your own learning style will help you find the best way to progress.

The authors offer a long list of tips to help those with all learning styles maximize their success. These include:

• Read aloud to yourself, a partner or a tape recorder.

• Test yourself with flash cards.

• Set realistic goals and follow through on them.

• Use physical props to help you learn vocabulary.

• Use the power of rhyme.

Timing Your Packout

When managing a move, the authors suggest you pack out early if possible. They explain that living without your belongings in your home country is easier than scheduling your packout at the last minute and roughing it in your new country. An early start at organizing your finances and paperwork is also advised. This includes keeping track of every credit card payment, renewing your driver’s license and arranging a way to handle your regular banking transactions from abroad. The authors also describe what should be hand carried, such as passports, visas, plane tickets, children’s birth certificates and perhaps a laptop for long flights. They suggest leaving truly irreplaceable family heirlooms with a trusted relative.

Learning about the culture of the new host country is the best way to ensure a smooth international relocation, according to the authors. For example, the authors relate the story of the Saudi diplomat’s wife who was greeted by monsters with bloody teeth and terrible faces at her front door on her first night in the United States. Had she known about a holiday called Halloween, she would have been better prepared for the shocking surprise of her first trick-or-treaters.

To help readers find information about a new culture and avoid embarrassing mistakes, the authors list resources that can give expatriates a head start on their own adjustment. They suggest looking for information that specifically addresses the new culture on Web sites and in books and manuals. Reading popular books, magazines and even children’s stories from the new country can also help.

Cultural Sensitivity

The authors write that cross-cultural communication takes a sensitive touch, so understanding the point of view of the local people can only help. Chapters on moving children and pets overseas, adapting to a new environment, maintaining physical safety, spouse issues and reentering your home country provide vital insight. ~

Why We Like ThIs Book

The authors of Expert Expatriate infuse their advice and strategies with a sense of fun, adventure and practicality, turning the hassles involved in such a massive undertaking into a thrilling opportunity to learn more and reap vast rewards. Their focus on stress reduction make their book a valuable resource for anyone considering a distant move. ~

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