“It is so big on the outside but the reality is that it feels very small on the inside.“
Said Raj who was describing how he feels after the first nine months of his expatriate assignment in the United States. Raj is from Delhi, India. His relocation came quickly and, like many expatriates, without sufficient preparation. His company provided him with a start date, a one-way ticket to Washington D.C. and a hotel for the first 30 days. From the moment he arrived he has been learning things as he goes. This prompted the realization that what he was truly experiencing was a very small aspect of his expatriate opportunity.
Recognizing that he is in the United States and the metropolitan Washington D.C. area caused him to recognize that even with this big opportunity the life he is living is very small. It is a constant cycle of work, home, work, home, work and back to home. While he knew that the expatriate experience was a tremendous one he was questioning if it was truly any better than if he had stayed home. He recognized that he needed to take action to change the situation.
Raj is not unlike other expats. Often the most comfortable place to be is the reason that we moved abroad; our work. It is familiar and what we know. In an effort to explore more I introduced Raj to an exercise that I use with many of my expatriate clients Getting Involved – The Second 90 days. The goal behind this exercise is to inspire and encourage the expat to stretch a little, get involved and meet new people outside of their work and social community. “What is the payoff?” he asked. The benefit is that you grow by doing and, hopefully, learning and having fun in the process.
He asked, “why the second 90 days?” Because the first 90 days are too busy finding accommodations, unpacking, settling in and handling administrative details such as getting a driver’s license, enrolling children in school and setting up a bank account. Additionally, our primary focus is the work and we will have plenty of demands adjusting to the new environment and its people.
“Yes, that makes sense.” I asked him if he sees a point, where after the first few months, if he had made a commitment to get involved in activities outside of his work and community that it would have changed where he is in the ninth month. “Yes, I can definitely see the benefit in expanding who I know, where I go and what I’m doing outside of my work. The biggest benefit would be that I would have been experiencing more of this life in the United States.” I nodded in agreement as he definitely understood the meaning behind the exercise.
We began our conversation on getting involved. From this an action plan developed to expand his community and circle of friends immediately by scheduling social events and joining activity groups. Raj and I also reviewed what was working and the successes he had achieved in his first nine months. This brought a positive focus to the conversation from which we could build upon.
Raj came back to me several weeks later and reported that he was having a great time getting involved. His big expatriate experience no longer seemed so small.
Scott Masciarelli, PCC, BCC is a leadership coach and trainer and multilingual avid world traveler. He partners with executives and expatriates to support both their personal and professional leadership growth. Scott’s clients achieve success on their terms.