Guest post by Nicole Le Maire (learn more about Nicole at the end of this post)
And they are in many places!
In my early years I encountered many individuals located overseas and living luxurious lives and working in exotic places. I thought “When I grow up, I want to do exactly that.”
However, once I experienced the concept of working and living in a foreign country, my feelings and emotions changed. I learned that individuals relinquish their comfortable lifestyles and leave family and friends to experience a challenge, a new adventure.
To gain more insight, Ghys, writer of Global Nomad Coming Home, states: “Once an expat, always an expat. Only those who’ve done it will understand and nobody wants to trade it. It’s a way of life that never leaves you no matter where you live.”
Organisations expect hard work and a readiness for commitment on the part of employees. In return, many provide only a local salary and benefits package.
During my 16 years abroad, I saw many friends and acquaintances from my generation plead for extra support and allowances to make ends meet. Instead they ended up on local country terms and conditions without the necessary support. These experiences have had a profound and lasting impact on the way I approached my career.
Off to Saudi Arabia
After many years of working in Human Resources and with many expatriate and local contracts across the world, I decided to go to Saudi Arabia to see how life is for a female on a local contract in an internationally considered hardship country.
Unfortunately, I decided to go through a recruitment agency that had just started up. Instead of the promised car/driver, own villa in compound, correct salary, two flights home a year and challenging HR role – it became a shared villa, half of the salary I had in my previous job, a flight into Saudi and one to leave.
The driver/car became a big bus with many unhappy faces, while the challenging role had a turnover of eight people in three years.
However, overcoming barriers that exist is one of the most important aspects of an “expatriation strategy.” This is true when an individual, in most cases, is now working within a culture where ground rules and expectations vary considerably from the employee’s home environment.
With an open mind I started my life and work in Riyadh while negotiating with the organisation regarding the promises.
The speed at which a female (or male) can learn the essential assumptions and expectations established in the country’s community will ultimately dictate the effectiveness or the achievement of a productive period, as well as indirectly impacting upon the new organisations’ overall business strategy.
I made some really good local and international friends at work. However, the dependency on the job role is changing rapidly as local nationals are increasingly being given the opportunity of employment in similar or more senior posts with less experience.
In the long-term this is empowering for the countries in establishing a professional workforce. Nevertheless, I call into question the impact on people such as me who want to go abroad and whose only option remains working on local country terms with less positions available and working with people with lesser experience in higher positions.
International organisations have learned from experience that employing people for far-off operations is a highly complex undertaking. However, local organisations may not have that experience and international work may not be viewed by local organisations as the best means of developing people.
All too often, however, the role and work are not carefully thought through as well as the possible consequences considered of hiring a foreigner. Such lack of forethought can result in a person being sent aboard who is then impacted personally by a variety of factors and consequently unable to carry out the work abroad effectively.
That is my situation now. I have learned my lesson after four months in Saudi Arabia and I have resigned whilst fighting the battle of being terminated after my resignation.
Another phenomenon is that females sometimes have to deal with stronger power differences between the different working cultures while working abroad, especially in Middle Eastern countries.
Of course I would go back to Saudi Arabia to work in the private Human Resources industry as I now have friends there. But I would make sure that I will receive a luxurious life and comfortable lifestyle!
Opening the door to my own business
However, when one door closes another opens, as this has added impetus to a new perspective and need to research this phenomenon by starting my own business — Human Resources Global Ltd.
Looking forward to sharing more international Human Resources insights with you.
About the Author
Nicole Le Maire is an international Human Resources expert who offers tailor-made packages to meet organisational and individual international goals. Email her at [email protected]. Download her free report “How to Best Utilise the Skills of Female Expatriate/Local Assignments” available on www.humanresourcesglobal.com. (c) 2011 Human Resources Global