Live and Work Abroad

Live and Work Abroad, A Guide for Modern Nomads, by Huw Francis and Michelyne Callan

Much of this book is stuff I wish I would have known 15 years ago when I started my own life as a nomad. This book is of use to everyone just starting out, with enough good content that even expats higher up the learning curve will find much of value.

The book comes in three parts: tools and advice to help you decide whether to live abroad at all, nuts and bolts stuff about packing and moving and health needs and schooling and lastly, information about culture shock and the long-term effects of a life abroad on a family and a career.

Should I Take My Job and Life Abroad?

If you're already an expat, you might want to skim this part, though the basic questions posed are still worth answering for yourself. What effect on my life as a single parent will a new life abroad have (Is child care available? How does the host country view a single parent?)? Will the move help or hurt my professional life (Will I become the company's expert on emerging markets or will I be left behind as home office relationships dictate promotion?)?

A separate section addresses the very real problem of the "trailing spouses", the partner who does not have a great job in France waiting for him or her. There may be very few jobs open to, say, a U.S. trained tax accountant, in Mali.

Unlike in the old days when "spouse" actually meant a wife who stayed home and baked cookies, many partners will see their own career blunted with a move abroad. Even if being a stay-at-home parent for awhile has some appeal, will that hole in a resume be fatal five years from now? How to best prepare your kids for a new life (page 83 lists fourteen common fears children harbor about a move, such as "our toys and books will be left behind", or "we'll have to eat strange foods").

The book does a good job of talking you through such issues, which just about sums up the value of the first third or so of this volume"€raising questions you might not have thought of, with pointers to other books and on-line sources for more info.

Nuts and Bolts

After you've decided to accept the posting to Brunei, what next? The middle section of this book has tidy chapters like "How to Get it There (packing and unpacking", "Shipping Pets," and sections on housing and helping the kids through a long flight. Page 105, for example, offers a handy chart to help you decide what method of transport will suit your needs best, so that important stuff arrives with you (expensive but quick air freight) while heavier less needed things arrive later (by slow ship). Speed is always a matter of money"€how fast can you afford to go?

There are also thorough chapters on child care options, including the use of in-home maids and nurses, and a long section on schooling abroad for the kiddies. The latter issue is I think one of the things I hear more about than any other from parents living abroad, concern that the heirs' education does not suffer just because you've found life in Beijing infinitely more interesting than life in Baltimore.

The book does a nice job of laying out the potential choices, to include an International Baccalaureate degree, an "American" high school degree and the like, all obtained through some combination of local schools, "international" schools and/or "American" schools.

While from country to country these names may or may not be used interchangeably, a heads up that things are more complex overseas is crucial. If you're an American reader, you may find some of these chapters a bit hard to grab onto"€what the heck is an International Baccalaureate anyway? What are "A Levels"? We don't have that thur thing in Kansas, Dorothy. All the more reason to read carefully, Totto.

In sum, about the Nuts and Bolts, we have a lot of info along these lines on this web site as well, but you'll find the book's take on these topics of use. To be honest, this book's heart lies with the decision making and the lasting effects of a life abroad, and I found these nuts and bolts less useful than the other ingredients in this soup.

So What?

O.K., so even if you're not Indiana Jones, you've been at the branch office in Damascus long enough to know your warp from your weave (which I'll confess I don't know enough about carpets to even spell the words right) and after skimming the chapter on packing with a world-weary sigh, its time to toss this book aside and go boar hunting or something. Hah! Not so fast Professor Jones!

If you've missed out on the troubles culture shock can cause, your spouse or dependents or officemates may have not, and so you'll profit from reading what the authors' have to say, and following up with their suggested on-line resources. Things you might not think of, such as "always feeling different" or "too much/too little personal space" can sneak up and bite you on the bum (page 127). There are also signs to watch for in your kids, such as "excessive or obsessive in their leisure activities" or "disruptive at school or at home."

Long after you've adjusted to your new culture, life overseas will continue to have some effect on you and your family, and understanding the good and the bad will make you a better parent. Will you be raising a "third culture kid (TCK)", knowledgeable about many places without feeling a part of any one? Will it matter if your child starts college in the U.S. without having seen an episode of "Survivor"? How will you feel if a local school "at home" sends your child for ESL lessons? Can you balance the wonderful things a diverse life has to offer with the pitfalls it may threaten your spouse or kids with? For how many years will Granny be content to spend more on postage than presents for your kids?

The final section of this book poses these questions and provides guidance and sources for more investigation. It would be easy to blow this stuff off as too touchy-feely, too much the kind of thing that keeps radio psychologists in practice, except that it is real. In the end we all make our choices about a life beyond the city limits. This book is a valuable resource for those considering such a life, and a valuable starting point for many discussions and chats a family should have as part of the trip.

You can't live anywhere without you affecting the place and the place affecting you. Thinking about all this is something you must do for yourself and for your family, and the final pages of this book help you get started. Like the adverts say, life is a journey, live it well. This book can help you to do so.

Live and Work Abroad, A Guide for Modern Nomads is available for on-line purchase at Amazon.com.

Full disclosure: The authors recommend our web site and quote from it in their book.

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