Culture Shock Expats Want More Employer Support

Expats in culture shock when moving countries need more help to cope with the stress of relocating, claims a new report.

As country-hopping for work becomes a lifestyle choice for a new class of professional international workers, more people need advice and support when they change jobs, says the study from Cigna Global Health Benefits and the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC).

The key takeaway is most employers help with outbound relocations, around 54% offer support for expats returning home, leaving many in need of help.

The survey looked at the experiences of more than 2,700 expats across almost 160 countries and discovered the typical expat profile was for a middle-aged family man.

Although 81% matched the profile, researchers also found most expats go overseas solo, leaving their families at home rather than uprooting them as they move between jobs and countries.

Expat roles in decline

The report also disclosed that another reason expats left their families at home was because more assignments are to emerging markets or remote locations.

The survey also revealed that expat roles are declining.

The majority of expats surveyed were from the USA, but the number was 10% down on 2013 and a quarter fewer than 15 years ago in 2001.

The report writers concluded that more multinational companies were recruiting local talent rather than expats and that expats with special skills were parachuted into short term roles to deal with specific problems.

The study also suggested tax changes in the US were increasing the employment cost of expats.

Better communication

Concerning help and advice with relocating, the report revealed:

  • 75% of expats have help from employers to relocate, including removal costs, setting up utilities and assistance with medical cover
  • 80% of employers did not tell expats about local culture or lifestyle and simple guidance, like where to buy groceries
  • 25% of expats confirmed they were on at least their fifth international assignment

“Expat employees want employers to give them better information about their assignments and local culture before they leave their homes,” said Leah Cotterill, vice president, North America Client Management, Cigna Global Health Benefits.

“Some employers are doing this job well, but many need to improve.

“Many expats told us that they need just as much help with tax and adjusting to moving back home as they did with moving abroad.”

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