Monday, January 27, 2014

Expat life can be a bleepedy bleep

I originally wrote this a little over a month ago and wasn't sure whether it was a good idea to post it.  I will post an update in the next little while....

Expat life on a foreign service package with an oil and gas company is perfect, right?  Nearly everything is paid for. Good housing, private schools for the kids, cost of living adjustments if the country you move to is more expensive than your home country, great heath insurance, hardship bonuses, a good car and the fuel for it, tax equalization, trips home to see family and more.

Yep, perfect....until....

You begin to realize early on.  Holy ****, they've got me locked.  In my case I signed a document that said I couldn't leave until 18 months into the position.  The penalty, repayment of the relocation cost from Edmonton to Perth.  A likely 100K-150K+ touch when you add in all of the flights, air and sea transport, real estate fees, temporary housing, rental cars etc etc etc.

And to be perfectly honest, 2 months in....a part of me wanted out.  I loved Perth but the role was filled with conflict and unnecessary politics and had I been sat in Edmonton I would have walked into a senior HR persons office and said, "find something else or I'm gone".  Ok, it probably would have been stated in a more gentle tone, but you get the idea.  You simply can't do that on these packages.  You suck it up and in some cases you and your families (assuming you bring it home) suffer.

Originally posted on twitter by @thinkingip

The work environment over time would improve and my family would grow increasingly attached to Perth and the Western Australia lifestyle and weather.  We would make wonderful friends and then often have to say good-bye to them as their expat terms would come to an end, or their companies realized just how outrageously expensive it is to keep expats in Perth on these packages.

The biggest question I had coming in to the process of becoming an expat was this:  What happens when it's over.  I once asked someone "When the two years is up, does something explode and then I'm magically transported to my new assignment?"  "How does it work, does the company have a process?"

I began to worry more about the next step about 4 months ago.  In my role, I see the costs, I see the profits and I always understood this was a 2 year (3 year max) get in, do your thing, train train train as many people as possible and then get out, situation (though not less than 2 years as promised).  I sought visibility but none came.  A mentor suggested I begin the networking process then but I struggled with how it would be productive while keeping it under the radar.

And then 2 months ago, I was told, "It's time"  My biggest project and the most critical reason for having me sat here was complete, the costs were too high, the global business was suffering.  "Start your networking, we'll help, we don't think it will be too hard"

Notice was given on our expat home which set the timer ticking, we had 3 months.

I walked around like a zombie that day thinking how I would break the news to my family.  No way to put a positive spin on this one.  Just need to network like crazy and find the right role and fast.

Uncertainty = Stress

Phone calls, emails, txt messages at all times of the day, to all parts of the world.  "How do you feel about _____?" would come.  In many cases even my fairly well travelled self would need to to pull up a map of the world and say "Where is that?" followed by "Oh my....ummmm no, that's not happening, I'm not taking my family there"

And magic:

"How do you feel about ______?"

"Holy ****, what could be better?  The European experience. Yes, we're on board....let's do this."

Interview, Interview, "Congratulations we'll get the paperwork going, glad to have you on board".........and then

Sorry, just got some changes from corporate, we can't afford to do it.

And now here we sit....XX days left on the lease of the house, offices around the world closed for holidays.

Expat life can be a bleepedy bleep.


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