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International Hires Want (and Need) Social Integration Support

The recently released Expat Insider 2018 Business Edition Country Focus, a country-specific report based on the InterNations Expat Insider survey of 18,135 expats, identifies the needs that international hires have in terms of personal support — leading to better social integration.

The report provides insights into expats who moved abroad for work and live in China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States of America (USA). The relocation support that foreign assignees (survey respondents that were sent abroad by their employer), international hires (survey respondents that found a job abroad on their own or were recruited by a local company), and relocating spouses (survey respondents that moved abroad with their partner) received are explored in the report, as well as their general satisfaction with life abroad.

The core types of relocation support covered in the survey are: language classes, intercultural training, additional spouse support, access to local networking opportunities, access to local socializing opportunities, membership in an expat organization, information on local life, an organized move by the employer or a service provider, and a lump-sum payment for expatriation-related expenses.

Low Percentages for Personal Support Received

Of these support types, the global shares of international hires that received more personal assistance stood out as being low, compared to the more practical assistance, such as the lump-sum payment and organized move. For example, on a global level, 36% of international hires received the lump-sum payment and 43% received moving assistance.

Looking at personal support on a global level, only 14% of international hires received intercultural training (52% wanted it), 17% received access to local networking opportunities (62% wanted it), 20% received access to socializing opportunities (59% wanted it), and 8% received membership in an expat organization (63% wanted it).

The differences in the shares of international hires that received personal support versus those that didn’t but wanted it are significant. It is important for employers to work towards closing these gaps, because these types of support can ultimately help international hires with their social integration and to really feel at home abroad.

In the Words of International Hires...

Survey comments from international hires provide a snapshot of their views on life abroad and some of their difficulties with social integration.

For example, an American male international hire living in Germany said: “Socializing is hard here”. Another, a German male living in France, stated: “I dislike the language barrier and closed social circles, which are impossible to get into”.

An Italian female international hire living in Switzerland also shared some struggles with integrating into the country: “I don’t like the very poor social life. It is very difficult to integrate with locals,” she said. An American female international hire living in China stated: “The cultural differences are very difficult to adjust to.”

Definite Room for Improvement

The results are not all negative, though, with employers responsible for international hires in certain countries setting benchmarks with their social integration support. Employers in China and the Netherlands, for example, stood out most positively in terms of offering their international hires these more personal types of support.

Of the international hires in China, 24% received intercultural training (57% wanted it) and 33% received access to local socializing opportunities (51% wanted it). Of the international hires in the Netherlands, 22% received access to local networking opportunities (62% wanted it) and 12% received membership in an expat organization from their employers (59% wanted it).

International hires in the Netherlands were also happiest of those in all the featured countries.

Although this is a positive sign, the shares of international hires receiving personal support are still quite low — below the 35%-mark.

While employers with international hires in China and the Netherlands offered some of the better social integration support, those in countries such as the UK, France, and Hong Kong, provided some of the poorest support — below the global averages.

The findings, therefore, indicate that employers supporting global talent still have quite some room for improvement.

The Benefits Go Both Ways

Employers should put a stronger focus on supporting the social integration process of international hires. This doesn’t mean that it’s solely for the international hire’s private gain. This aspect of relocation and integration support needs to be viewed from both the professional and personal angle. Professionally, it’s about their skills, knowledge, and talent, and personally, it’s about their emotions and well-being.

Social integration has a great impact on the international hire’s productivity at work and ultimately the organization’s success. Therefore, it’s worth investing in as it will not only lead to more satisfied employees abroad, but more successful and sustainable international talent acquisition and retention for the organization. 


This article was originally published by Worldwide ERC in April 2019.

Expat Insider 2018 Business Edition Country Focus

Expat Insider 2018 | Business Edition Country Focus

A Snapshot of 9 Featured Countries

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