Expat Extension: Is it Time to say Goodbye yet?
So here you are. Living abroad as an expat for a while. Well adjusted. You have overcome culture shock and are feeling completely settled in. However, the clock is ticking and about 9 months before your expat assignment is over you might wonder:
Of course you are going home, right? You said you will stay for three years. You have assured friends and family members that you will be back after three years. Colleagues know that you will only be gone for those three years. They expect you. You are going back!
And suddenly a new thought arises:
Can I stay longer?
If you are the expat you start to look into it. You might ask your boss if it is possible to extend the assignment. In some cases your boss might even approach you to ask if you would like to stay longer. The decision is now in your hands.
If you are the expat spouse, this discussion might be slightly different: one day you and your partner will have THAT talk: Honey, we could stay longer. What do you think?
Well, there are four possibilities: if you both want to go back home-great, no problem. You enjoy the rest of the time and get excited about moving home. If you both want to stay-great! The problem you now face might be to tell friends and family that you are staying and depending on how supportive your relatives are, this will be an easier or a more challenging message to deliver. But in both cases, you and your partner are on the same page and that makes everything easier, especially if children are included in the mix.
But what do you do when one partner wants to stay and the other wants to leave?
And what do you do when the pressure from family members back home is overwhelming and you no longer know how to defend your decision?
Yes, you know me well: Coaching ;-)
Because this decision is yours to make and sometimes it is impossible to hear your own thoughts when everyone around you might tell you what is best for you.
One of the greatest advantages of working with a professional coach is that you have someone who is there to support you, but who has no interest in influencing your decision. In a way, a coach doesn't mind if you stay or leave the country, but he cares that you make the right decision for you and your family. And this gives you the chance to openly say what you truly think and feel without having to worry that someone will judge you or knows what is better for you.
COACHING because a coach is here to support you, not to influence you.
One final note: if you are the expat spouse it can seem like that this decision is completely out of your hands. Especially during these unprecedented times right now. Your company might tell you to stay, just to tell you a few weeks later that you have to leave, just to tell you another few weeks that you can stay after all.
This is not only confusing, but can lead to all sorts of emotional feelings. You might feel helpless, because you have no say at all in the decision. And feeling powerless is usually the root of any anxiety.
I like to point out two facts that might support you if you are in this position.
First, in most cases the decision of your company probably has nothing to do with you personally. They are doing their job. It´s business, not personal. Maybe even more during a pandemic, when everything seems to be out of control.
Second, the truth is no matter how hard any situation in life gets, it is our choice how we respond to it. And as expats, we are used to handling unfamiliar situations quite well, wouldn't you agree. So you can ask yourself: what is in your control? And you might realize there is plenty.
And this realization is empowerment per excellence.
THERE COMES A TIME WHEN YOU HAVE TO DECIDE BETWEEN TURNING THE PAGE AND CLOSING THE BOOK.