Little Steps recently met with the lovely and long-titled Shaila Gidwani of Crown World Mobility and Crown Relocations, who works for the company as APAC Regional Manager for Intercultural Language Training & Partner Support Practice. We talked about the process of relocation, something that’s very close to our hearts and our audience. Shaila gave us some golden info, tips and tricks on how to prep before leaving for your new home, how to cope when you get there and what challenges your family will face when you return to your home country. Watch our Facebook Live below or read on for her interview tips for families moving to and from Hong Kong.
The news of needing to relocate usually comes at a pretty short notice. Families should ideally have the info and start prepping at least 6 months before the big move. Individual priorities aside, families are most often worried about the bureaucracy, schools & housing, here are some general tips on how to navigate it all!
So, first and foremost, make sure that you have your immigration papers, that your visa is secured and that all the relevant certificates are translated. Overlooking something paper-wise can significantly delay your move or cause serious complications, so be patient with the frustrating red tape.
Schools and educational opportunities are top priority for families which often causes them unnecessary stress. It's very hard to navigate the abundance and variety of excellent schools and curricula offered in Asia, yes, but you will find a great school. Shaila suggests that you single out 3 or 4 schools and then, ideally, visit them on open days or book a private tour to see how well it fits your kiddo in practice. She also points out that parents should keep an open mind when it comes to new schools—just because a school is highly renowned, doesn't mean it's the best choice for your child!
Pro tip for making relocation easier for your kiddo: include them in the process by, for example, letting them pack the things that are important to them and encouraging them to unpack themselves in their new home!
Another obviously crucial thing is accommodation, and much like with schools, a little look-see can make all the difference. Pictures are one thing and feeling the space yourself is another. This is obviously not always possible, but you should jump at the opportunity to take a look at your potential apartment (or just explore offline what's on offer) if given the opportunity. Taking a preview trip and exploring the area in advance is the best thing you can do—there are questions that immediately arise when you get there, but are easily overlooked before making the move.
The first weeks and months of living in a new place sometimes fall under the honeymoon phase of cultural adaptation. This process has a roller coaster quality to it, so this high can quickly take a dip when unexpected cultural gaps or other issues become more obvious. All family members are affected by this in different ways:
1. The assignees might be taken aback by differences in communication or hierarchy in the workplace. Crown Relocations has cultural training programs that prepare them for this.
2. The partners should be fully involved, especially as their position is not predetermined. They may want to develop their own social and/or work networks, but don't know where to begin. Crown Relocations has a Partner Support Program for building on their competencies, skills and cultural knowledge!
3. Families? Though most families worry about kids the most, they are actually the most adaptable (teenagers have a much harder time, though). Crown Relocations has Youth Trainers that help kids learn to intentionally recognize the highs and lows for the normal oscillations they are and learn to cope.
Pro tip for the whole family: before leaving home, create an action plan containing the things you want to experience in your new home. When you experience a dip, consult your list and go make your wish come true together as a family!
Repatriation, i.e. reintegration, is something many families take for granted. Repatriation Programs can help families deal with the feeling of being less familiar with your original home than you thought you would be. Moreover, you yourself might be a very different person. Repatriation is especially challenging for children who often know their second home far better than their first one. The assignees have an opportunity to incorporate what they've learned into their native work culture and the partners need to rebuild old networks or again build new ones. You cannot just pick it up where you left off, but this can be an advantage with the right guidance!