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Foreign Assignments: What Expats Really Want

08 Nov 2018

Keeping relocation packages up-to-date is a core task in global talent mobility, and it confronts global mobility teams with numerous strategic and operative questions: Does the content of the package meet the needs of foreign assignees and get high satisfaction ratings? Is it attractive enough to make employees consent to a relocation proposal from their employers? Does it reflect changes in the needs of today’s global talent? A new report by InterNations Business Solutions shows how foreign assignees rate traditional and more recent elements of the expat package, from logistical services to expat support on a social level. “Global mobility management is a huge administrative and legal effort, yet the focus is shifting from a mostly operative approach to shaping the experience of the expats and their families. With this report, we want to stimulate discussion about the way expat support has to adapt to the new realities of a diverse and ever-changing global workforce”, says Christoph Zeinecker, Head of InterNations Business Solutions. The Expat Insider 2018 Business Edition is based on a survey with more than 18,000 expats worldwide, which the global expat network InterNations has been conducting since 2014.

What Is Most Common and What Is Desired?

Participants that indicated they moved for either their own or their partner’s job were presented with the outline of a basic expat package containing three groups of expat support: more traditional “hard” items such as moving services; support that helps to break down cultural barriers, such as intercultural training; and support that helps with the social integration of expats, such as access to local networking opportunities. Respondents were asked whether they had received these aspects of support from their employer, and if not, if they would have liked to. In addition, the participants rated the usefulness of the support received.

Types of Relocation Support Received — Insights

The two “bread and butter” items of most expat support programs — moving services and a lump sum payment — are also the two most commonly received types of support among foreign assignees: 7 percent and percent respectively received this type of support. The more established “soft” types of relocation support were provided to half of the expats or considerably less: While 46 percent of foreign assignees received information on local life, 37 percent received language classes and only 24 percent received intercultural training. 

Foreign Assignees_Essentials of expat support

The least common type of support can be found in the area of social integration, with only 8 percent having received membership in an expat organization, 16% access to local networking, and 16 percent access to socializing opportunities. These results correspond with the satisfaction foreign assignees report regarding their social integration. In the period between six months and two years abroad, only 49 percent think it is easy to make new friends, and a mere 35 percent think it is easy to become friends with locals. “These findings send a strong signal to global mobility teams seeking a leading edge in their field,” says Christoph Zeinecker. “In an age where social connectedness and family represent core employee values, the social integration of expats and their families should be a prime concern of global employers.”

What Would They Have Liked to Receive?

Support with social integration was clearly among the top three items that foreign assignees would have liked to receive: The top three items on their wish list included membership in an expat organization (64%), access to local networking opportunities (61%), and access to local socializing opportunities (60%). More established forms of “soft” support presented a mixed picture: 45 percent asked for this type of support and 31 percent would have liked to receive language classes. 

Foreign Assignees_Social types of expat support









What Is Most Useful?

Questions about the usefulness of the support received leave some room for interpretation, as they may reflect the quality of the service delivered. However, the responses still provide a sense of how well a support category meets the needs of the expats. Among the existing support types which stand out as most useful in this survey are the lump-sum payment (85% of foreign assignees found it useful) and having one’s move organized by the employer (78%of foreign assignees found it useful). Overall, all items in the expat package were considered useful by more than half of the respondents, including the less common elements of the package; such as access to local networking opportunities. “Lump sum payments have become a staple in expat support, because mobility teams and expats both benefit from the ease and flexibility. Yet if companies want to position themselves as caring and up-to-date employer, more social forms of expat support may be needed,” says Christoph Zeinecker.

About the Expat Insider Business Edition

The Expat Insider survey is one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive surveys on life abroad. It takes a look at the world through expat eyes in the form of an overall ranking of common expat destinations and information. In total, 18,135 expats from across the globe took part in the survey. They represent 178 nationalities and are living in 187 countries or territories. The new Expat Insider Business Edition looks at global talent mobility through expat eyes on a global level. Download the report at

About InterNations Business Solutions

InterNations Business Solutions was launched in 2018 by InterNations, the world’s largest network for professionals living and working abroad. The goal of the new division is to develop B2B solutions for global employers. The solutions support employers in two strategic areas of global talent mobility: sending employees on global assignments and recruiting and retaining professionals from abroad. With the InterNations solutions, global mobility teams are able to minimize the risk of assignment failure, reduce the workload and improve the performance of employees abroad. International recruiters can improve the attractiveness of their offer, reduce turn-over and save recruiting costs. Find more information about InterNations Business Solutions on XING, LinkedIn and on our division website.

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