Published on July 09, 2013

International relocations typically involve assignees adapting to a new, very different culture. Even a transfer to English-speaking countries requires some language training, to understand different word usage, and cultural variations.

From both an assignee and employer perspective, the quicker the transferred employee assimilates the new culture, the more beneficial the international relocation. Adopting the following suggestions can make your international relocation policies more successful for both assignee and company. 

Culture Assimilation Services

  • House hunting trips. Depending on your lead time for the relocating employee, multiple house hunting trips, along with finding an appropriate residence, help assignees understand and assimilate the impending cultural differences they'll face.

  • Language training. Although American assignees transferring to English-speaking countries must often deal with some different spelling of common US words, the local usage and meaning of other words can present a short-term challenge. Employees transferring to some other global locations, such as Berlin, Paris or Tokyo, encounter even greater challenges. Language lessons focused on more common words and terms help assignees communicate and assimilate the new culture quickly.

  • Familiarize assignees with local laws. Just as in America, local laws in different areas of the country can be 'quirky,' to be polite. These differences in US laws can be even more confusing in the destination countries. Offering information on local laws helps assignees better assimilate the legal culture differences in the new country.

  • Help assignees navigate the confusing waters of documentation requirements. Required documents in destination countries can be vastly different from common documentation in the US. Even common, simple documents that we often take for granted in America, such as obtaining drivers' licenses, can confuse transferred employees. Work visas and permits can be even more baffling to expatriates. Helping your assignee manage these initially-confusing documentation requirements increase the success of your international relocations.

  • Assist assignees with children register for school. Do not overlook this important requirement in your relocation policy. Employees with families may want English-speaking top schools or local schools for their children to retain their American culture or assimilate the new country's culture and language. The requirements in countries with dramatic cultural differences often also have substantial school registration 'red tape.'

Employee and Employer Beneficial Features

Assimilating the new culture has important ramifications, as vital for the company as they are for the transferred employee. For your assignee to immediately contribute with high performance, consider the following issues.

  • Prepare the assignee. Once the transfer is proposed and accepted by the employee, employer preparation for the future assignee should begin, particularly surrounding language and cultural differences. Properly preparing the assignee by offering cultural information and language lessons may be the most critical component of successful international relocations. The real value to both assignee and the company cannot be overstated. Just as proper preparation helps students pass difficult exams, athletes perform better in big games or public speakers deliver more impressive talks, preparing employees for the cultural and language differences they'll face leads to similar superior performance.

  • Clearly state international relocation policies. Because of the importance, cost and significance of international relocations, employers should take great care in adopting and publishing features of their program in clear, concise and detailed language. The sheer immensity of employee transfers to different countries demands that companies leave little--preferably, no room--for misinterpretations or misunderstandings by their assignees in the monetary or expert assistance offered.

  • Partner with experts in the destination country. This is the final major component in a successful international relocation. Your company can help ensure a comfortable relocation by enlisting the aid of experts familiar with relocating employees to the experts' country. If natural language barriers exist, these professionals should be bi-lingual to effectively communicate with the assignee, eliminating misinterpretation, while helping the transferring employee assimilate the new culture rapidly.

These international relocation services benefit both assignee and company. Cultures are always a bit confusing to assignees, at least in the short-term. Companies that offer extensive preparation help the assignee become more comfortable with the relocation.

Comfortable employees perform better. Even transfers within the US can present local cultural and corporate culture differences that may confound the transferred employee. International relocations multiply the "cultural difference factor' by some level, typically a large exponent. Comfortable assignees usually reduce the 'learning curve' to a minimum.

Use these suggestions to improve your international relocations, which will translate to increased bottom lines. Always stress the positive effects of these transfers, while backing up company claims with services that help employees transfer with comfort by assimilating the new, local culture rapidly.


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