Tag Archives: #relocation

Guest Blog by Reinild van der Vecht

It’s been three years since I moved to Switzerland following my husband, who got a great job here. For him going to work every day was business as usual. My challenge to make a happy life here has been quite a struggle. I was going to three changes:

  1. The career I had back in Holland needed some reviewing; it felt right to leave and start orientating on new possibilities.
  2. I was pregnant with our first child.
  3. The relocation itself: starting over in a new country.

I started on the third part: integrating in Zurich by taking intensive language courses and following the women’s integration course organized by Stadt Zürich. I enjoyed it! In the meantime I had my medical files translated and changed into the Swiss system of pregnancy controls. Via my husband’s company I became part of the International Dual Career Network (IDCN), where I started orientating on the Swiss job market. Also, I was quite busy organizing our move and the administrative tasks. These first months I had lots to do and to discover.

Then after almost 6 months, our son was born. Finding a new rhythm with the baby kept me quite busy, not to mention all our family and friends visiting us. I made new friends, new moms like myself I met at the “Mütterberatung”, at the integration course and at the “Rückbildung”.

Three months after the birth I was making plans again: I was visiting network events, getting my B2 German diploma, I planned to send out applications and I put my son on the daycare waiting list. By the time he was six months, I remember I felt like he was strong enough to be in daycare and I really needed time for myself. I wanted to be seen as Reinild again, not as ‘just’ someone’s wife or mother.

That’s when the real challenge started.

I applied for several jobs, tried to have a daily and weekly routine with my son and friends, but somehow I felt lost. Looking back, I didn’t really accept the situation I was in. I enjoyed the time with my son, but was missing my professional life. The applications I sent where too different, not very well targeted.

And to be honest, I didn’t send that many…

I decided I needed help. With a coach I researched my situation, my strengths, skill set, ideas and dreams. We brainstormed what jobs and companies would fit and I checked on additional education possibilities. Following an additional educational program at a Swiss university made the difference. My son went to daycare (he was 18 months by then) and I had time to go to school and to study. It was hard because the program was new to me (I was changing industry), everything was in (Swiss)German and making a real connection with the other students was not that easy. But I managed and eight months later I received the certificate and was eager to find a job.

This time, I really took it seriously. I started telling friends what I was looking for. I asked some of my colleague-students for lunch to discuss their careers and companies. It helped me to figure out what I wanted and which job titles and companies fit to that. In the meantime I followed a very hands-on workshop on how to apply and get hired in Switzerland. With a big portion of luck I found a job and I love it!

My lessons learned, which I hope will help you:

  • Take your time to relocate physically and emotionally.
  • Acknowledge your situation and accept it.
  • Make a plan, set achievable goals, be confident that your competencies are valuable wherever you are.
  • Broaden the way you look upon your life and career. I once read an interview with a Swiss director saying: “Es sei nicht tragisch, wenn man seinen Traum nicht leben könne; es gebe immer eine gute Alternative.”

 

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Reinild van der Vecht works as Process Manager at a Swiss cable company. In 2016 she successfully completed the CAS Logistics Strategy and Supply Chain Management at ZHAW School of Engineering. She lives with her family in Zurich, volunteers as treasurer in her local Turnverein Fluntern and is an active member of the Powerhouse Network.

Child psychologist

This is Clara. She moved to Basel in 2012 from the UK. Her husband had received a very good job offer and they both decided to move here together. Clara was not aware that her degree in child psychology would be less known in Switzerland plus she had to learn the German language before she could function here. After one year she felt rather useless and depressed.  In one moment she focused on your job search, the next moment she was playing with children. In another minute she opens her email account only to find that she was rejected for all the jobs she applied for the previous week.

Sounds familiar?

  • You feel disappointed and angry.
  • You blame Switzerland.
  • You blame the fact that your German is not fluent
  • You hate your partner for exposing you to this situation.
  • You might even feel like you do not know who you are anymore.
  • You stand in the line at Migros and a person barks at you and you stop to care.
  • You do not get that the cashier asks for your “Migros Card” because of his or her funny foreign and Swiss accent.
  • Maybe this is the day you called the handyman to fix a light bulb only to discover that you cannot communicate with him or her.

You are exhausted, tired, emotional and you just wish to pack up and go home. You certainly do not want to meet another Swiss person tonight. Then your wife calls to cancel the dinner you had planned for both of you.

This is the typical expat spouse experience. What often happens is that you have a “culture shock” a bit later than your (working) partner as in the beginning of the international assignment you are too busy to organize the home and settle in everyone. You are too busy supporting your children and your partner. One day, you notice that you have your own needs too. Some expat spouses therefore only have a “culture shock”  late in the first year of assignment or even the second year.

What can you do to overcome “culture shock” and focus on your job search again?

1) Develop a regular routine.

2) Go for a short walk of 15 to 20 minutes per day.

3) Practice a relaxation method such as progressive muscle relaxation.

4) Write a diary or blog to digest your experience.

5) Go on a weekend trip with your family.

6) Reconnect with friends and family.

7) Build up a social circle.

8) Meet professionals through structured networking groups.

9) Watch your eating and drinking habits.

10) Invite one person you do not know well for a coffee per week and get to know this person better.

What happened to Clara?

Clara took a course and rebranded herself. She also built up her network in Basel and continued to study in her field. Today she is working as a freelance teacher working with global children at the International School in Basel.

Birds relocating

by Angela Weinberger

Moving your belongings from one house to another can be stressful and time consuming. Moving your belongings from one country to a house in another country takes the task to a whole new level. Relocation is among the top ten stress factors in life, just one below getting married.

As Global Mobility Professionals we have assisted hundreds of professionals and their families move from one country to another. There are seven tried and true points to making the relocation go smoothly.

1)   Organize. Consider all that you need to do to get packed and moved and organize that into several steps. Then work through these steps day by day. It’s better to do several baby steps over the week than one giant step in a single day.

2)   Take time. Set aside time each day, early morning for example, to consult your relocation to-do list and to get a few things done. This not only helps you focus on staying organized, but also clears your mind for the rest of the day’s activities.

3)   Delegate. When working with a professional relocation company, clarify in advance what they will be responsible for and what you will have to make up for. As an example, many companies will pack, but not unpack for you. Find out from your company how much of your belongings they are willing to move and decide what you might have to leave in storage.

4)   Separate important documents. Be sure that anything like customs documents or your child’s passport doesn’t end up in the packing boxes. Keep these and other important documents separated and in a safe place.

5)   Take good care of your health. Moving is stressful for all involved. Eating right and staying hydrated is good for you and those helping you pack.

6)   Give yourself at least two days to arrive and unpack. Adapting to life in a new place can be easier when your new house feels more like home. Before you get back to daily life, give ample time for your family to arrive, unpack and settle in.

7)   Be prepared for the worse. Sometimes moving goods overseas means they get lost or damaged. Although this rarely happens, it’s good to consider before you move that antique piece of furniture you love so much. If you do decide to move valuable objects, get adequate insurance coverage first.

With these points and by giving yourself plenty of time to think through the details, I am confident your relocation to your host country will be a successful one.

Many of my clients relocate regularly. I usually move every three years. With the time you get better at relocating but it is usually still stressful. Relocation is one of the top 10 stress factors in your life. It does not rank as high as the death of your spouse but close to your own marriage in common stress factors.

What can you do to make it a little less painful?

1) Organize:
It is all about organizing yourself and all those relocating with you. Try to break down the move in as many baby steps as possible and work those off day by day. Better one baby step a day than a huge step in a week.

2) Reserve time to get tasks done:
You can set aside a time in your diary possible early in the morning where you get 1 or 2 relocation items off your checklist. You will instantly feel better for the rest of day.

3) Delegate:
If you can work with a professional relocation company clarify expectations early. Find out what their service includes. Usually they will do the packing but not the un-packing of your boxes. Get an understanding of the volume your company will pay for you to relocate. Discuss early which items you will store.

4) Seperate important docs:
Sometimes the most important customs documents or your child’s passport end up in a moving box. Important documents need to be separated and best kept outside of the apartment during the packing process. Scan all of them and put them in an electronic folder like dropbox where you can access them at any time.

5) Make sure people have enough to eat:
Moving is stressful enough. You can create a good atmosphere by providing enough food and drinks to get through the packing.

6) Plan at least two days for arrival and un-packing:
My mum once had to unpack all my boxes because I needed to start to work. It took me quite a while to find out where everything was. Some of the things my mum put away nicely are still where they were three years ago. Try to make sure you have enough time to unpack. With children you need to plan extra time too.

7) Shit happens:
Sometimes moving goods get lost at sea or damaged. If you care too much about granny Susanne’s old kitchen cupboard you might need to consider to store it. If it is valuable make sure you get proper insurance.

These are seven small tips for keeping sane during relocation. Let me know what you think of it.

 

 

Some assignee overreact when they transition from one country to another. Having recently been exposed to a mild form of bribery I do understand that trust not always comes easy. However, there might be good reasons why your company has a relocation firm to support you with finding housing in the host location.

  1. You usually do not know the market and you do not know the law.
  2. Rental agreements and rights of tenants are different from country to country.
  3. What are considered utilities in one country might be different in another.
  4. There is a different way of measuring the size of an apartment.
  5. Countries have different rules: In Germany for example usually an unfurnished apartment does not have a kitchen. In Switzerland people share washing machines. In India temporary accommodation sometimes has a live-in house boy.

Try to trust the relocation company a little and do not question everything they do. Also hold back on your judgement of speed and service especially when you move to a very tight market like Switzerland where everything depends on having good relationships with landlords and agencies. When I moved to this country I got so frustrated with the apartment situation that I said: “It is easier to get a leading position here than a decent apartment. And when I like a place it costs at least twice as much as apartment at home…”

When you decide to have your rental contract and other agreements checked by a third party this might be a good idea if you come from a country where relationships are not valued highly. In a country where the spoken word is almost as good as a contract this could be seen as slightly offensive.

Once you are in the cultural trap and you realize that your assumptions might have led to a decision that is not completely acceptable it is worthwhile listening what other (more experienced) expats have to say. One lesson I learnt the hard way in India was that it is not always a matter of being right or wrong. Sometimes you also have to remember that we are all humans and all want to be trusted, loved and accepted.

It seems very easy but it applies to every culture I have encountered so far. If you treat people with respect and love they are usually feeding that back. For many people here who have never left their home mountain it is hard to understand what you are stressing out about.

People like me (Global Mobility Experts) know how hard it is for you in the situation with a spouse on your side who is only half happy about YOUR choice of coming here and the additional stress of not knowing where to get your dry cleaning done and the like. If you trust us you will notice that you get a lot of positive benefits of the doubt and that we are here to support you.

Good luck with transition. I’d be happy to hear more on your experiences.
Angie

PS: …and when the s… hits the fan and a real conflict with your relocation firm is burning up, you can always call me for peace talks.