Unpacking the shortcomings of Lifestyle Expatriation
Lifestyle Expatriates are often expat spouses in Dual-Career Couples, Third Culture Kids (TCK’s) and Gig Workers (or Digital Nomads as they tend to be called too). This is one driver of Global Mobility.

I have been a strong proponent of Global Mobility for years now and most readers and clients will know my general optimism towards it. This week I will be taking a critical look at the trend towards more Lifestyle expats and various shortcomings that need to be addressed. AIRINC (2019) confirms that 13% more companies now have an international one-way transfer policy (72% vs 59% in 2018). We also have to take into consideration here is that our populations are a lot more diverse than they used to be 10 years ago (Weinberger, 2019).

Let’s dive right in.

In recent years, we have come across a new source of mobility traffic. We can call this driver “lifestyle”. Through technology, economic crisis, and mobile mindsets, younger professionals are more willing to move to other countries to find work. The local-to-local hires from abroad are often “coming for love and staying for the job”. Locations with a high influx of foreigners due to low unemployment, high staff turnover and perceived high quality of living – such as Australia, Canada, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and Switzerland – attract professionals from many countries. The jobs require academic backgrounds and professional experience but can be filled by local staff, if the talent is available in the marketplace. There is, however, a downside to this trend. Not many professionals think about the long-term consequences of moving from one place to another. Social security is covered in a later chapter, as well as other potential issues that can arise for global mobility professionals.

Lifestyle expats are often expat spouses in Dual-Career Couples, Third Culture Kids (TCK’s) and Gig Workers (or Digital Nomads as they tend to be called too).

What’s in the packages?
Often the packages of lifestyle expats are limited. They have a local employment contract in the Host Country. Sometimes we support the immigration and relocation process. The company does not always offer international medical insurance or an international pension plan. In many cases, this is not because of bad intentions. Often, local HR staff has not considered the package and support as they have misconceptions about how these systems work globally.

So here are a few examples and tips to consider.

Going to the US? –  Do you face any Work and Residence Permit Restrictions?
In recent years I have heard a lot of complaints about the US immigration process among others. Protectionism has made it a more trying and difficult process in many countries. In Switzerland, too, we have more administration to tackle than before the bilateral agreement with the EU on free movement was accepted. You need to learn and understand the steps of the immigration process – for certain countries such as the US, you will need the help of a lawyer. Check if your spouse is allowed to work in the host country.

Going to Brazil? – Have you thought about your personal security?
In several countries in the world, you might face issues of personal safety. Brazil is one such country which has built a bad reputation over the years. It’s worth taking a look at your government security websites before moving to a new country. Additionally, once you are there, find out right away where your Embassy is in case of an emergency and get yourself registered with them.

Going to Europe? – Do you have social security in this particular European country?
Imagine if you will, that you move overseas with your spouse, you just find out that you are pregnant but you don’t have health insurance coverage yet in the new country, nor any type of social security. You might not have new coverage because insurance companies won’t accept you or they will increase their premiums significantly.

This leaves you stuck in a limbo where you are waiting for the lengthy assessments for private medical, social security and international pension to come through, while your spouse or yourself require the use of those facilities.

Going to the Middle East – Do you have any residence rights if you get fired?
The employment on a local contract poses a risk in many countries in the world as you might have to leave the country in case you lose your job. If you accept a contract in the Middle East, make sure that you understand your rights and obligations but also your residence permit status. Is it bound to your employment or financial security?

Going to China – Are you ready to face the pace and work 24/7?
Some countries have a different work ethic than others. Some countries are highly productive while others still have a lot of inefficient processes. You could move to a country like China and be surprised how many hours you are physically expected to be “at work”, in the office or even socializing with colleagues. The pace in fast-growing markets such as China could drain you or become stressful in the long run.

Going to India – Will you face tax issues and do you understand your package? 
As a local hire, you might have different legal implications to consider than an expat being sent by a company. If you are going to India, it is worth checking the kind of tax exposure you will face there and to really understand the package that you are offered.

Relocation Planning is left up to you
Many companies have not implemented a great process for hires from other countries. HR often works ad-hoc and as mentioned doesn’t understand all implications.
I once met an expat who moved to Switzerland around the New Year and didn’t have a place to stay when she arrived! Normally, the company could have provided temporary accommodation but that did not happen, the expat ended up having to figure things out on her own.

You somehow forgot that the host country has a different native language than English
Internations mentions that there are still many expats moving to another country without managing the host language to a workable level. I’m often surprised when clients complain about German being ‘so hard to learn’. Even if you can survive well in Switzerland without German, not speaking the language hinders you from integrating into a culture and entering the “circle of trust”.


How can Global Mobility help if they are not empowered and don’t have the staffing?

Increase the Scope, Team and have Global Mobility report to the CEO
What can be done to improve on these shortcomings? On an organizational level, I strongly feel that making Global Mobility a  function reporting to the CEO is the most logical path to positive consequences. Global Mobility activities need to include all sorts of cross-border activity including weekly commuters, International Business Travellers, International Hires and “Digital Nomads”.

It would allow for smarter, involved decisions regarding Global Mobility professionals as part of the company’s expert staff. Looking after the wellbeing of your international workforce is now considered essential to an organization’s success, there really is no justification for slacking off on that front.

Having the CEO directly involved with Global Mobility allows them to devise budgets and become the escalation point for critical hires and moves. Often, CEOs only hear about GM when things go pear-shaped and there is, for instance, a real life-and-death situation such as a terrorist attack or a tsunami – at times like these GM might not be able to get through to them because there are too many layers of organization between them.

Address the Package Issues through a Guideline
We should address the package issues and devise at least medical coverage, support with the immigration for expat and spouse, international pension, pay for the move and repatriation in case of redundancy and ensure the personal safety of the expat family.

Despite the tougher aspects of being involved in Lifestyle Expatriation, I still maintain my optimism. The Future of Global Mobility will see us rise to the level of other corporate functions and we will be able to support our diverse global clients even better than today.

Great strides have been made in recent years and I am certain that the coming days will see more positive resolutions to people’s pain points and enhance the expat experience.

Get third edition of The Global Mobility Workbook!

Back to School – Seven Virtues for Purpose, Performance, and Productivity
Workshop Invite 23 September 2021

September so far has been more of a summer than the “Summer of ‘69”. Random song references are my thing now, and that makes sense because the #RockMeRetreat was never about “Rock’n’Roll Music” or “Jailhouse Rock.” “We will rock you!” so that no stone will be left unturned once you start on this journey of self-discovery with your Coach “Angie.”

Still, my dear, fall is here. We can still have a glass of “Summer Wine,” but the days are as short as the “Itzy Bitzy Teeny Weeny Honolulu Strand Bikini.” 

Rose petals sprinkled over my neglected Zen Garden, sunflower fields turned brown, and you have started to turn on the lights in the morning again. When you get home from work, you don’t want to sit outside anymore as it is dark, but you might vaguely remember this feeling you had as a kid when you were playing hide and seek at this time of the year, and it was just a notch better because it got dark at dinner time.

Apples are ripe for harvest, and the smell of onion pie and early wine hangs in the air. How do you remember the early fall, back when we were in high school? I remember a particular moment going down the stairs from our horrible grey concrete school building of the 70s, thinking, “This is great! I love being back at school!” I swung my newly acquired pepita jacket across my shoulders and closing my leather school bag with a sense of accomplishment. 

Do you miss those times where you felt like the world was in order and that you had all the opportunities ahead of you? You know when you feel like a “Rockstar” sipping champagne in a limo, with your Bono hat on, driving through “New York” with a bass drum pounding similar to the headache you will have the following day? 

Is this the life you want to have, without limits, without regrets, and certainly without the need to have a “boss” tell you what to do, as you know best how to do your job, how to build your contribution to the world and how to achieve your goals in work and life?

If you want to get to this focused and productive life level, you can start with building weekly practices and adding them to our RockMeApp. Last week I already spoke about seven easy-to-implement steps to help your body adjust to a new culture or new environment. This week, I would like to dive even deeper with these seven deadly rituals for focus and productivity

1 – Start Your Week with Monday Wishes

Starting your Week with Monday Wishes is a powerful way to start your week. Use your Have-Done-Diary (journal) to write down your wishes for the week without limiting yourself. Even if you end up re-writing your to-do list, just brain dump everything you wish for the week. The list should include fun stuff like “a bunch of flowers,” too.

2- Craft Your New Morning Ritual

I believe we should all have a morning ritual, and you can design yours around your needs, lifestyle, family, and pets. For example, you can think about which order you ideally go through your morning to have a happy and productive day ahead. Pro tip: Don’t check your mobile phone during this time of the day.

3 – Finish with Friday Reflection

If your workweek closes on Thursday or Friday, use the last hour of your day to clean up your desk, sort paper or emails, write a task list for the week ahead, and then go through our four reflection questions on the RockMeApp. Here’s a helpful virtue of separating the workweek from the weekend. I’ve talked about taking 90 minutes on Saturday to finalize open tasks instead of working late with a few of you. Test this; for me, it works well.

4 – Plan a Digital Detox Day 

Taking a real break from Social Media, especially those funny videos on Facebook, isn’t easy unless you have a plan on where you can hide your phone for 24 hours. You might be a parent and need to be reachable for your children. Using my uncle’s strategy to have an elementary mobile phone to remain reachable over the weekend for essential clients and family can pay off. Alternatively, you can try to apply willpower (just kidding). Turn on the “Radio GaGa” and listen to unexpected songs, hear the news without images and enjoy that wonderful feeling.

5 – Weekly Practices You Can Do Anywhere

Weekly practices are a vital element of our programs. They help with sanity maintenance and make you a happier person to be around (as opposed to your inner Mr. Hyde, who is also a corporate zombie.) If you are struggling to define what practices are helpful to you or haven’t even started, I encourage you to define weekly goals that you can achieve no matter where you are. Examples could be daily walking targets and relaxation exercises or keeping your space clean of clutter

6 – Consider my Productivity Hacks 

If you feel you have maxed out your productivity already, please test this: If you can implement one of these seven productivity hacks (1- Have-Done Diary, 2 – Pomodoro Method, 3 – Eisenhower Matrix, 4 – Pareto-Principle, 5 – Peace Island, 6 – Repetition Checklists, 7 – Outsourcing Housework) and you notice any changes you might still have potential to improve, and there’s always space to learn and get better at tools. Also, to let you in on a secret, I used to waste a lot of time with mundane tasks such as looking for the correct passwords or making sure I had the right document version. A year ago, I often needed to follow up on team tasks and could not always rely on them. We now use password managers, a few master spreadsheets, and SLACK for team communication. I cannot say that this has increased our productivity. Still, my stress level is lower as now everything is well organized and accessible from anywhere and all team members.

7 – Revisit Your Weekly Planner

When you started working with the weekly planner (we usually hand this out at the end of all programs), you might have noticed an increase in productivity right away. Now, with a bit more practice, you might see that you could make optimizations or that you could change your meal or exercise plan for the fall. I recommend that you keep the general structure and only optimize what doesn’t work well yet.

How about you practice one virtue for eight weeks and let me know what happened? I would love to hear from you. If you wish to further work on your purpose, performance, and productivity, I recommend joining our RockMeRetreat from 18 to 25 November 2021 in Grisons, Switzerland. Sign up here to be invited, and we’ll set up a call to discuss this further. 

On Thursday, 23 September 2021, we finalize our preparatory workshops with “Packaging Moves – Getting More out of Your Global Mobility Deal.” Respond with “I want to be a Rockstar.” or nominate a song for our playlist.

Angie

Further Reading

https://teachings.eckharttolle.com/path-to-liberation-resisting-and-demanding-nothing/

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/tech-sabbatical-10-ways-getting-offline-helped-me-to-live-la-dolce-vita/

https://www.greenhomediy.co/love-your-home/

5 Things Highly Productive People Do Every Sunday That Most Others Don’t

https://intermountainhealthcare.org/blogs/topics/live-well/2018/07/5-powerful-health-benefits-of-journaling/

https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-journaling/

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/benefits-of-journaling-_b_6648884

https://www.thespruce.com/decluttering-your-entire-home-2648002

 

 

Do you Want to Live a Life Full of Purpose?
Ilanz, Graubuenden, Switzerland

Living a Life of Purpose – Four Ideas for Sanity Maintenance

Did you just have another day where you cleaned up your desk, wondered what you had achieved today, and got home to a stack of dishes, a pile of clothes, and a crying son? Did you spend last night driving your daughter to SCUBA class, squeezed in a conference call, and forgot that it was your mother’s birthday? Did you then at 11 PM sit down thinking “Why am I not moving on with my life?”

Often we think we are too busy to do that right thing, the Ph.D. we wanted to start, the Master we wanted to finish, the weight loss program, and healthy nutrition we wanted to implement. We keep ourselves too busy to meet a new partner. We play safe and the older we get the less risk we are willing to take.

Often we spend our time doing the wrong stuff. Sometimes there are good reasons to hang onto a job, a client, or even a marriage. Sometimes hanging in there is part of the deal (“…for better or worse…”) but there is also a fine line between going through rough patches and self-destruction.

In the past, I also got stuck in a story that I have been telling myself for the longest time. I have achieved balance in my life through continuous learning and weekly practices. And to speak like a true ZEN master: It’s the practice, not the achievement that makes it important for me. 

After you have been exposed to this pandemic and the anxiety in the world you probably lie awake at night thinking about the latest argument with your manager, the constant nagging of your spouse about living “here” and your teenager trying to find their identity as an artist.

You sometimes spiral down into the rabbit hole of worry and your inner Gollum starts telling you all the critical feedback you have received EVER as if you are Arya Stark and had to remember every man who was ever bad in the world. If you feel like this (even on the odd occasion) I would like to invite you to the following sanity maintenance practices

1 – Press the Pause Button

You might not know how to do this but I will teach you. For those of you who are following our programs you probably understand that maintaining a weekly practice helps you in the process of being more satisfied with your achievements. 

2 – Plugin Your Purpose Batteries

For some of you, reconnecting with your purpose sounds too difficult to even get started. Maybe you thought you had defined your purpose clearly but now you have doubts. Is that really the reason why you are in the world? Is this the area of work and life where you can influence the world the most for the better or are you just in this for the status, the money, and the company car? Is your reason for this international move the next career step in Caracas or is it the housing allowance and the package your company pulled together?

3 – Divorce Work from Your Self-Worth

When I speak to some of you I understand that work plays a very important role in your life but so does your spouse, your children, parents, siblings, and friends. You are more than a breadwinner and after having been in the corporate world for such a long time and having made it here, don’t you think you deserve to focus more on your important relationships? Don’t you deserve sipping rosé in the Biergarten at Zurichhorn on a Saturday? Open-Air movies with your loved ones on a school night?

4 – Kill Your Inner Corporate Zombie.

You do not have to be a corporate zombie either. The company pays you to deliver 42 hours of work (in Switzerland). All productivity research shows that our productivity declines after six hours of focused work. Potentially, we need to deconstruct the 42-hour workweek as it was designed for industrial workers, not knowledge workers, let alone our new breed of Digital Nomads.

Money has a limited value. When basic needs are met, the rest is a luxury, and no pair of shoes, no holiday, no luxury car will replace your health, your happiness, or time spent with your ailing elders. What is it that you truly need? Have you ever worked out how much money is enough? 

I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post “The Digital Nomad – Part 1” that we’re growing my company organically. I was inspired by creator Paul Jarvis and his book “Company of One”. Paul takes off time during the summer and winter when he thinks he made enough money for the year. How you can learn that will take a bit of reprogramming. I invite you already to join our upcoming free workshop series, where we will tackle:

1) Getting More out of Your Global Mobility Deal -> Packaging Moves

2) Designing Work to Support a Global Lifestyle  -> Persisting Mindsets

3) Becoming the Trusted Partner for Your People -> Presencing Moments.

All workshops will be held online via Zoom on Thursdays at 5 PM starting 9 September 2021. Guest speakers, workbooks, and slides will be given to you later through the participant list.

You are invited and you can just let us know that you want all the invites by replying “Rockstar” to this email.

Kind regards

Angie

P.S. Please note that seats are limited and that we have to have your reservation by 30 September 21. Should we need to cancel the RockMeRetreat because of the Pandemic we will pay your enrollment fee back. If you need us to send a formal proposal to your employer please contact our project manager Anne-Kristelle Carrier.

If you want in on the Rockstar Pipeline > Sign up to the RockMeRetreat list

Avoiding Global Talent Acquisition Failure – Six Basics to Add to Your Recruiting Guideline – Part 3
Hiring Talent from the Globe

I’m on a MISSION to bring the HUMAN TOUCH back into Global Mobility. One theme that I see more now is that we Global Mobility Professionals are involved in the recruiting of Global Talent. This makes a lot of sense when you consider that we have the knowledge and skills to deal with most of the challenges that hiring people from other countries brings. However, since in most organizations we are not officially responsible we don’t get the resources we need to deal with recruiting professionally. Hence, we can consult but not support. So, dear recruiters, I hope this is helpful.

Lifestyle Expats, or Self-Initiated Expats (SIEs), are an important factor in today’s global force and the actual circumstances suggest the phenomenon is on the rise (Habti & Elo, 2019). In fact, thanks to technological changes, such as online recruiting, the labour market has become more international and more fluid and made the process of filling jobs internationally (internally or externally the organization) much simpler. As a consequence, an increasing number of professionals consider working abroad a realistic career option and there are growing opportunities to identify and eventually find a job abroad.

We are in the middle of an unprecedented global crisis, which is bound to create a stronger recession than the 2008 financial crisis, and the war for talent is as heated as ever. 

Specialized Subject Matter Experts are increasingly hard to find and when you turn to places rich in talent such as Singapore and certain areas of the US like Boston and the Silicon Valley, that’s of course where competition is already extremely high. Moreover, there is no real point in stealing from the competition if you aim at bringing in innovation. 

It’s 2020 and the global workforce is as varied as ever, with five generations working side by side and companies striving to fulfill all their D&I goals (gender/religion/ethnicity/sexual orientation). As cited by Forbes, diversity plays an ever more important role in recruitment and is proving to be directly correlated with an increased revenue for the company (Boston Consulting Group, 2018; KPMG, 2018). 

Yet, relocation policies have historically been a one-size-fits-all model and are often still struggling to include points such as religion, ethnicity, age, disability status, working mothers, non-traditional family units, etc. 

Make sure your Global Mobility policies acknowledge and support your employees’ varying needs to make them feel more encouraged to accept International Assignment. The point is to ensure that deserving and promising talent does not experience barriers to success.

Demographic changes will require highly-skilled migrants to fill positions as turnout of university graduates declines in developed countries. Also at the EU level and among the Member States there is consensus on the need to address labour market shortages, worsened by the deepening demographic crisis and skill mismatch (Platonova & Urso, 2012).

Even rich countries like  Liechtenstein, (Beck et al., 2018; Hauri et al., 2016) may have a hard time attracting talent. Other more traditional expat hubs, like Singapore, London, New York City, the UAE, Hong Kong and Switzerland, continue leading the ranking despite the high costs of living. In this case, according to the 2020 Global Talent Competitiveness Index, what really makes the difference are their socio-economic policies in which talent growth and management are central priorities. 

Perhaps even more important to acknowledge is that the world of work as we knew has already changed. With new technology enabling employees to work almost anywhere and anytime, the classic ‘nine to five’ is outdated. In an article published by Sage People even before the pandemic changed companies’ approach, figures speak for themselves:  not only do 50% of the US interviewees say they’d like to be more mobile at work, but a good 54% would change job if it meant more flexibility.

In Global Mobility, Virtual Assignments are an opportunity to give employees the much longed-for flexibility they seek. Despite Virtual Assignments having always been on the rise since the widespread implementation of the internet, it’s easier to see how they’re going to be even more numerous in the aftermath of the Corona-crisis. In fact, never before have so many employees worked remotely in order to guarantee essential business continuity. 

But there is another side of the medal, and this is the portion of talent who seek international experience as part of their decision to join a company.  In particular, overseas assignments are becoming more appealing among Millennials, who often see the opportunity to live and work abroad as more rewarding than a pay rise. They are called Digital Nomads or Telecommuters. According to Smart Gear, 90% of digital nomads plan on working remotely for the rest of their careers, while 94% of them encourage others to try Digital Nomadism themselves.

Whether or not you’re having troubles attracting talent, here are six basics to add to your recruiting suite that you should consider during and after the recruiting process. 

1 – Make Sure They Have a Realistic Picture of What it’s like to Live in Your Expat Hub

Try to put yourself in the mind of a candidate who is contacted by a company in a foreign location. What’s the first thing that you would like to know? Salary? Job title? The direction of the company? Probably none of these things, but rather: “Why would I want to move there?”

Moving continents, or even “just” countries, isn’t a decision that can be taken on the potential of a great office view only. Instead, candidates need to know what the place looks like, what language is spoken, where they (and maybe their families) would live and whether they would fit in.

It is useful to include this information on your careers page so as to make it more of a relocation portal and less of a job listing. Workable offers a service to help you in this process. Not only will candidates benefit from this information, but so will your company: showing what candidates want to know during the overseas job hiring process builds your credibility from the beginning.

This type of thinking is beneficial for companies at every level, whether you’re hiring someone 70 or 7,000 miles away.

2 – Help with the Move of Household Goods

Among Expats and Expat Spouses, the phase of moving abroad is often cited as the most stressful one. Moving out doesn’t take one day only: there are farewells, often a party, and especially when small kids are involved, the family needs to stay with friends or in a hotel room. While Expats are still busy handing their work over and finalizing conversations with clients, Expat Spouses are often alone in coordinating all the logistics behind the move. That’s why it is important that they are connected with a moving company. Having someone who takes care of their house goods until they are settled in the new location surely spares the Expat family from a lot of stress. 

If you are looking for a relocation company, consider paying a visit to the Keller Swiss Group. They offer relocation services, household removals, business relocation and household storage services, both in Switzerland and worldwide.

3 – Organize Support with Immigration 

Organizing support with immigration is definitely another helpful and efficient way of helping the expat family during the stressful pre-assignment phase. In recent years, the process of obtaining work permits and visas has become more complex. Letting Expats and Expat Spouses navigate this sea of bureaucracy all alone would put on them an incredible and unnecessary amount of stress. 

When it comes to immigration compliance, each case is different and needs to be examined thoroughly. Some relocation companies, like BecomeLocal in Switzerland, are specialists in this field. They can help you handle the permit process, write applications and submit to the authorities, instruct professionals and executives to obtain visas, sparing your organisation and the expat family a lot of hustle.

4 – Provide Spouse Career Support and A Pre-Hire Assessment for the Spouse

The effects that International Assignments have on the Expat Spouse’s wellbeing and state of mind are often underestimated. For some Expat Spouses, the sudden change from independent career person to stay-at-home parent has a strong psychological impact, even more so if getting a working visa is not possible.

Coaching is a very powerful tool with which companies can support Expat Spouses. With the help of a Career Coach, some Expat Spouses manage to start their own businesses while living abroad, thus finding deeper fulfillment in the experience.. At Global People Transitions we are specialized in this. If you want to know more about what we do to help Expat Spouses find motivation and new perspectives, visit Global People Transitions or send me an email (angela@globalpeopletransitions.com).

It is also very fair to the Expat Spouse to have a realistic idea of whether their profile actually leads to potential employment in the host market or whether their chances of finding work are slim. An Expat Spouse Coach can also help with a pre-hire assessment for the Expat Spouse.

5 – Consult them on Technical Issues such as How to Get Health Insurance, What to do About Their Taxes 

Once again try to put yourself in the mind of your future employees. They now have a clearer idea of what it means to live in your expat hub and they are positively considering relocating there. Perhaps their spouses and children are coming along. In this preparatory phase, Expats are inevitably very busy with what needs to be handled back at home in their professional and private life. But they also need to be ready for what’s coming next. 

Handling both “back home” and “in host country” can be extremely overwhelming, especially if this means going through important technical issues of a country with a different system and in a language they don’t understand. This is the right time to step in and consult them on important decisions such as which type of health insurance to get and how to do it, but also on how to handle their taxes. If you can’t deliver this in-house we’re happy to help.

6 – Sprinkle Everything with  A Bit More Human Touch

As I said earlier and many times before, HUMAN TOUCH is my MISSION and the key to enhancing the employee experience. Deloitte (2019) proved to be onboard with that when stating that today’s global workforce is attracted and motivated by a more personalised, agile and holistic experience than before. This is why it’s important that you find your way to unlock the HUMAN TOUCH. For example, you can start by welcoming new team members with a hand-written card. You will make their first day a celebration. 

If you wish to review your global recruiting policies or your process please contact me for a proposal via angela@globalpeopletransitions.com.

Resources 

Become Local. Swiss Immigration Adviser. https://www.becomelocal.ch 

Harrison, C. (2019, 19 Sep.). „7 Surprising Statistics about Digital Nomads.” Smart Gear Blog. https://smartgear.travel/7-surprising-statistics-about-digital-nomads/

Hayes, A. (2020, 7 Apr.). „What is a Digital Nomad?”Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/digital-nomad.asp

Keller Swiss Group. Worldwide Moving Relocation. https://www.kellerswissgroup.com/

MBO Partners. (2018). „Rising Nomadism: A Rising Trend.” MBO Partners, Inc. https://s29814.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/StateofIndependence-ResearchBrief-DigitalNomads.pdf 

Montilla, E.  (2020, 17 Jan.). „Achieving workplace diversity through recruitment in tech.” Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2020/01/17/achieving-workplace-diversity-through-recruitment-in-tech/#2214496a1359

References

Beck, P., Eisenhut, P. and Thomas, L. (2018). „Fokus Arbeitsmarkt: Fit für di Zukunft?”. Stiftung Zukunft.li. Retrieved 28 May, 2020, from https://www.stiftungzukunft.li/publikationen/fokus-arbeitsmart-fit-fuer-die-zukunft 

Boston Consulting Group. (2018). „How diverse leadership teams boost innovation.”, BCG. Retrieved 28 May, 2020, from https://www.bcg.com/publications/2018/how-diverse-leadership-teams-boost-innovation.aspx 

KPMG. (2018). „Inclusion and Diversity: How Global Mobility can help move the Needle”, KPMG. Retrieved May 28, 2020, from https://assets.kpmg//content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2018/06/global-mobility-inclusion-and-diversity-how-gms-can-help-move-the-needle-FINAL.pdf

Habti, D and Elo, M. (2019). Global Mobility of Highly Skilled People. Cham, Switzerland: Springer. 

Hauri, D., Eisenhut, P., and Lorenz T. (2016). „Knacknuss Wachstum und Zuwanderung: Hintergründe unde Zusammenhange.”Stiftung Zukunft.li. Retrieved 28 May, 2020, from https://www.stiftungzukunft.li/application/files/3215/1635/3318/Knacknuss_Wachstum_und_Zuwanderung_Endfassung_22_11_2016.pdf

Platonova A. and Urso, G. (2012). „Labour Shortages and Migration Policy.” International Organization for Migration. Retrieved May 28, 2020, from https://publications.iom.int/system/files/pdf/labour_shortages_and_migration_policy.pdf?language=en

Second-Class Commuter – Showing Status in an Egalitarian Culture

As a Swiss resident, have you ever pondered over your social status living in Switzerland? 

Whether the minor details that portray status such as the level of luxury you adhere to while commuting on the train? The transport system in Switzerland is very well laid out and fully planned, so much so that the railway system is the primary commute system for most. Trains have two categories or classes, aptly named as the first and second class. The first class is geared more towards “business people” and professionals on their daily commute to work, whereas the second class or lower class is reserved for the “normal” or median people of society. The question arises that, the system set in place is very clean and safe, with emphasis put into an effective schedule and overall experience, so why is there any need to travel in first class other than seeking out a higher status in society.

I am a second-class commuter and by choice. The train gets me from point A to B without lacking anything in-between. I’ve travelled in first class on a few business trips, and I proclaim to not be aware or ignore my status however that isn’t true. After meeting many expats and foreign personnel, most come from a high and elaborate social lifestyle from their respective homelands, pouring their wealth into extravagant luxuries to portray their accumulation of wealth. 

Many of them have informed me of their housemaids, cooks and sometimes even drivers, as they aren’t accustomed to housework and chores let alone looking after their children. Their perception of Switzerland is that they will fit seamlessly and thrive in a land of milk and honey (or cheese and chocolate in our case!).

But then again! The Swiss lifestyle and reality is far different. When we discuss privilege and being in the “Circle of Trust”, we must understand what status means in an egalitarian society and how it might be different from a more hierarchical society or a society where you are born into a status.

The “Classic” Family Model

Life, although simple, is beautiful in Switzerland for the “natives”, that is, women are more likely to uphold the household and carry out the associated burdens of home economics. Running the home and grooming their kids is all part of the routine, yet if the women are professionals they’ll take a step back after their first child to accommodate the family. Women only received voting rights in Switzerland in 1971 and there is still a lot of catching up to do when it comes to gender balance and equal rights for women in the workplace.

You must not forget that the Swiss also often have their parents and in-laws nearby, so they have support options for childcare and emergencies that you might not (yet) have as a newcomer to this country.

Childcare is very expensive, gross childcare costs were equal to 69 percent of the average wage in Switzerland, the highest proportion among OECD countries in 2018, based on a double-income, average-wage-earning couple with two children! 

That is more than half of the mean income a household generates. Switzerland also lacks in qualified educators, but fees for private kindergartens are quite high, with an indicative day cost of CHF 60 to CHF 150 for cities like Bern and Zurich. (If you are interested in working in childcare, I highly recommend a consultation with my friend Monica Shah at Children First.)

So many women decide to stay home or not work 100% and if you are a female expat with children (or even without) it might be expected that you do the same. 

Other Support Options I Have Tested

Opting for a cleaning person was a trial-and-error story for me. I was very used to having a cleaner, even in my early career but even those who may afford it are often not satisfied by the quality of work given the steep price you may have to pay. I tried several agencies for cleaning and finally came to the conclusion that I’d rather do it myself (together with my partner). This is not great, because I’m not very good at cleaning and ironing but I have gotten better over the last 10 years. To be honest, now I often feel that it even helps my brain digest all that has been going on during the week. If you are planning to hire a cleaner make sure that they are insured either through an agency such as Batmaid or you run your own payroll with SVA.

Egalitarian Cultures value Modest Behavior

Culture clashes here are evident due to the difference in “status” as compared elsewhere in the world. High ranking professionals such as CEO’s are often seen taking the bus and train to work. Their appearance isn’t necessarily associated with designer suits, expensive cars and watches. The Swiss tend to live a modest life, with small houses they do not like to show off. They define their status and luxury by travelling the world, bearing children and enjoying a vacation in a nice cottage in the mountains. 

Luxury is a longer period of time taken off work to follow a dream, being able to volunteer, support an NGO or support the commune by being in the fire brigade or in an association. Being able financially to work part-time or have your spouse stay at home are signs of luxury in the world today.

I often hear “The Swiss don’t like to work hard.” And I would like to add “The Swiss don’t have to work hard, but they still show up for work, because they have a strong work ethic and believe in delivering high quality at work.” Your perception of what comes across as being slow or not interested in service delivery might be influenced strongly by your home culture and expectations created by how things are in your home turf.

Go through the Pain to Follow Your Dream

Although most steps may feel common when moving to a new country, it often takes a while to truly get settled in. Time and real integration play a vital role in my opinion especially after two to three years. 

You start to enhance your social circle outside the reserved expat or foreign community, the sooner you embrace the country in its entirety  is when you really feel “at home”. I used to have status in Germany. I was an Executive, a “Leitende Angestellte”. I had an apartment, a nice company car, and a team. I also had a cleaning person, a tailor and enough money for several holidays and trips. Then I moved to Switzerland and suddenly my status changed. You probably wonder how I could let that happen as a Global Mobility professional. 

I should have made a net-to-net comparison and request a better package. I should have insisted on coming to Switzerland with an appropriate corporate title AND I should have known that there will be social security risks when I transfer on a local contract. And yes, despite the fact that I am a Global Mobility Expert I made a few miscalculations. I did not get the deal I deserved and I suffered a few years from this mistake. I accepted the terms of the contract because I followed my dream. I wanted to live in Zurich no matter what. And when you are emotional about a goal in life, you easily forget the pain. 

Learn Budgeting and Cash Flow

What does this mean for the “second-class commuter” in Switzerland? It means learning and following more frugal habits, planning finances not just for the future but also for recurring expenses and lifestyle quirks. Based on my experiences and those of people who have lived in similar circumstances, here are the nine budgeting tips that will be helpful especially for the startups and entrepreneurs:

1) Carry very little money with you when you go to town. Leave your credit card at home. Use your credit card only for emergencies or online bargains. Have enough money to buy a cup of coffee (max 10 CHF).

2) Call a friend for coffee instead of dinner and hope that they will ask you to come to their house. Invite friends to your house for a glass of wine.

3) If you reach a milestone such as two years in the business, celebrate yourself at home. Cook a nice meal and buy healthy food.

4) Pay small amounts at the grocery store with your bankcard so you see exactly what you spent your money for. When you go out for drinks or fun only carry cash and when you are out of cash return home. That’s especially important when you tend to buy expensive drinks at 15 CHF. (Imagine how long you work for one drink!)

5) Budget all your spending especially your holidays or how much money you spend on clothes, makeup, sunglasses and shoes.

6) Strictly separate business from private spending but try to optimize your private spending by using legal options to deduct costs for a home office, laptops, phone, Internet connection and cleaning services.

7) Avoid television and exposure to advertising. You feel a lot less like spending money on crap that you don’t need.

8) Avoid impulse buying decisions by adding all potential buys (books, seminars, travels) to wish lists. I even have a wish book. A lot of my wishes do not appear so important after a few weeks. Others just materialize themselves.

9) Love your business plan. Add anything you will earn right when you have the confirmation. Stay on the careful side but motivate yourself by adding all future turnover and checking the total annual turnover regularly.

If you need more advice on how to secure your old-age pension or budget your life in Switzerland without the hassle of watching every Franc, I highly recommend Keren-Jo Thomas, Financial Planning for Women.

How you show Status in Switzerland

A big luxury in Switzerland is being able to have one half of a couple stay at home to oversee the children, oftentimes the woman fills in the role while the husband earns the bread. What will happen if you move to Switzerland, unpacked your luggage and barely just settled in to realize you’ll have to live life like a “second-class citizen”? Feelings of struggle and working too hard at the office may arise with thoughts of not visiting the mountains as often you’d have hoped for. 

Learn Swiss German or French

Expats, migrants and international hires often underestimate the need to learn the local language Swiss German (or French), and in this phase doubt whether the move to Switzerland was the right choice. However, learning (at least understanding) the local dialect and language(s) will help you integrate and get access to what I refer to as the “Circle of Trust”.

With a more realistic idea of what to expect, detailed planning and the right support in the face of challenges, you can offset the “valley of tears” associated with your move to Switzerland and achieve the financial and mental stability that every “second-class citizen” would like to achieve. If you need our support we are happy to connect you with the right resources. Ideally, you join our HireMeExpress program or the RockMeRetreat in November.

Have an inspired week ahead

Angie

References:

https://www.expat.com/en/guide/europe/switzerland/10476-child-care-in-switzerland.html

https://medium.com/gokong/how-to-budget-for-childcare-costs-in-switzerland-31e4f024214a