Expats are homesick

B. Sommerhoff

I'll go away and you will come with me - that's how it used to be. At a time when executives were almost exclusively male and their wives were mostly housewives, there was no long hesitation: if the employer offered the opportunity to go abroad for a few years, the family would come along. Of course and without audible grumbling. "It's very different today," says Stephanie F├╝rsattel, who is responsible for expatriates at ThyssenKrupp Stainless AG. "Today women have a life of their own, their own career. They don't necessarily wait to move to another part of the world with their children."

But that is precisely what is important to many companies: that the family goes with you when three to five years in the USA, China or Eastern Europe lie ahead. In order to make the decision easier for those affected, companies therefore offer extensive preparation and support programs. "If the partner doesn't support the move," says F├╝rsattel, "the expat won't be happy either."

Family as a stable support

Deutsche Bank has also had the same experience: international assignments are more successful when the whole family goes with you. That is why the courses are always aimed at the partner. During the foreign assignment, the bank pays the school fees for the children traveling with you. And the apartment in the host country is also paid for - even if it is larger and therefore more expensive for a family of five than for a single. "The effort is worth it, because the family is a stable support that helps enormously with the integration into a foreign culture," says Joanna Tickner, responsible for Europe in the department for international personnel matters at Deutsche Bank.

This works all the more smoothly, the better the whole family knows what they're getting into. That is why companies also finance trips to the host country lasting several days for their employees and their partners. Opportunity to look around in advance at your future place of residence, get to know your colleagues and their families and look at schools for the children.

New, unknown everyday life

"These look-and-see trips are especially important to give the employee and his family security for a successful start in a new, as yet unknown everyday life," says Reinhold Peters from the Essen-based industrial group Evonik. "Even if the families already know the country from their vacation - everyday life there is often very different."

In addition to the compulsory courses in the language and culture of the host country, the company also offers its future expatriates a health check-up. Every family member receives an emergency card with a special emergency number, through which all medical data can be called up in the event of an acute illness or an accident abroad. An external service provider manages this data and can also provide information on specialist clinics in the vicinity in the event of serious illnesses or accidents. The check is repeated every two years.

On the next page: Why there is still some catching up to do with the returnees programs in companies.