What is an expat ?. Well I will define it like that: Theoretically It is a kind of expert send by a company to work temporary abroad (usually 3 to 5 years) in order to share his knowledge and in the same time to learn something new which can be valuated once she/he returns in her/his country of origin. Usually this practice is very much applied in tech companies such as automotive industry, aerospace, IT, hi-tech or any other related to engineering business. It may be very well applied also in other domains (probably medicine, law, media etc.) but in general is related to activities in engineering. The purpose of an Expat it may also be to build a team of enthusiast engineers in such a way that at the end of his contract, the team can continue alone to create and develop new amazing products for the future of the company.
In some cases an expat can be also compared with a kind of mentor or a leader which help his employees grow in their career and why not to become new leaders as well. If the expat does a good job, of course he will be rewarded and even promoted once returned back home in his motherland. Therefore such an expat really need to have some great skills both technical and social. I mean on one side he must be technically really good in his field of activity, able to give realistic technical solution to any problems and to be very creative in approaching any technical challenge he may face, with other words to be a real inventor.
On the other side socially speaking he must first of all socialize and communicate with as much as possible people at work around him. This means the NR.1 skill for that is to speak the same language with his new team. If he is a technical a good engineer, but at first doesn’t master the language, at least he must immediately start to intensively learn the new language in such a way that after the first year of his expat contract to be able to have at least a basic conversation in the language which most people around him are speaking it as native language. If he is able to master the language after his 1st year the rest will come very easy afterwards and additionally he will create a lot a new great friends which may be of a great help in his future professional career and not only. Having good friends on which you can fully trust is the most valuable thing that a person can have in her life. A good friend is like a gold mine with unlimited resources. If you have that, you are richer than any other guy who has money instead.
So coming back to language skill of course it depends a lot which language is that. If is Chinese, well then it would take more time until you master it, but if is English you have no excuse.
But all what I have just mentioned above is just pure theory. In practice in the most cases it is exactly the opposite. During my entire professional career I have never met any skilled expat engineer or even worst, an expat which is suppose to behave as new manager or team leader. I still want to believe that such expats as I theoretically described in the first part of this post, really exist and I will be honored to meet one of them in the future. But talking strictly about what I have seen so far, I can only say the world is really a big place for idiots which beside that are also paid. And some are really fucking well paid.
This phenomenon is very much present in the multinational companies which have also a lot of idiots in management positions too. So therefore their companies somehow still continues to promote the incompetence masked by confidence instead of pushing forward the true competence and creativity. They continue to excel in their stupidity by thinking that if they send expats where their company is locates abroad it would bring any added value in return somehow. How the fuck do they choose their expats qualified to represent them abroad?
Well… this is done by putting money on the table and simply saying: who wants to go? And there are many morons to jump first and go screaming me, me, me,, just pick me….muuuuu…. miaw, miaw… chif; chiff… Perhaps I exaggerate a bit, but this is the only thing I have in mind after seeing how much incompetence is actually send abroad. The most expats I ever met so far were and still are unable to socialize with native people let alone and not to speak about their technical skills. They are so afraid not to loose their jobs in their origin country, that they immediately accept to do whatever the company can offer, but only to keep the comfort of having a secured monthly pay and not to become unemployed. Some people unfortunately really work to live, and they let money master their lives instead of being the opposite. Many are even relocating with their entire family (wife, husband, kids, cats, dogs etc).
The adults are in such cases very naive. If you carry children after you, you are not smarter than a frog. The social development of your kids will be considerably damaged if they don’t fit in the new culture with the native children. I know many families like that where their kids became anxious and very reclusive. Those which are in this category are of course receiving a good benefit package from the company such as even their kids (school or kindergarten expenses) and unemployed wife/ husband are completely covered for the entire period to be spent abroad. It’s absolutely a huge waste of cash for the company. If the expat is lucky enough to be from the U.S.A., U.K. or any other English speaking country relocated in a non-English speaking country, that is still OK because English – even if is not the Nr.1 language spoken in the world taking into consideration only the native speakers (I guess is the 3rd after Chinese and Spanish) anyway English is the world language, the most easiest to learn. There is no country in the world where you cannot find anyone speaking it. You can learn English even at the North Pole. Absolutely everywhere on the planet you can study English language. Even so, if you are native English speaker it would be a huge step forward to become good friends with your new non-English speakers colleagues, if you put the effort to learn their native language.
But except English speakers, the speakers of other language than English have no excuse. At least they first of all must master English before to make any step in a foreign country. And in this pocket there is no need to mention that I will put the most French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Italians, etc expats have a huge problem to be successful abroad. They relocate abroad and pretend that people will speak the language of the country of company’s origin. Let’s take for example the German companies. Everywhere in the world where there is a local site of that company, they go there and pretend that all people in the new location – at least all white collars – will master German. Hey assholes… German is a multinational language only spoken in 3 main countries in Europe, you can not compare it with English. People in the new country don’t have to adapt to speak any German at all, its is the German expat which must adapt and learn for God’s sake the damn national language in the country where they go for work. I don’t want to generalize but unfortunately a big part of Germans are not able to properly articulate a good English. It’s somehow understandable that their language abilities are quite poor developed during their school years.
I also don’t say that Germany doesn’t have a lot of good technology, yes of course they have and thumb up for that, big respect, I have no problem with that at all. I respect Germany, until now I’ve invested almost all my career so far to work with them, also from respect I became fluent in German too. But I am only talking about how some Germans behave outside Germany (or let’s say German speaking area). As social individuals many of them are not adaptable. If they go abroad as a group of expats from Germany they almost never mix with the local people. The expat managers are even worst, they really don’t socialize at all and they put ZERO effort to learn anything new ( a language, a technical skill or whatever it may be), in their mind they come from Germany, therefore no need to improve anything.
Which in fact it is quite obvious that they have no idea about anything, they are just present because they company offered them a nice benefit package and that’s all that matters. In that case I have also have ZERO respect for such individuals. The smart Germans don’t go abroad, they stay in Germany because they are damn good right there. That’s why German engineering is excellent, the smart and highly skilled German engineers always remain in the country and the low skilled ones are trying their chance abroad because they are aware that in Germany they can not compete. Germany tries to get rid of unskilled engineers and the only opportunity is to send them abroad to let them embarrass themselves. I am sorry to say such words but this is exactly what I see and I don’t exaggerate anything.
Referring to English language skills, look, I just have a Famous German example in mind : Arnold Schwarzenegger. – I am a big fan of him by the way 🙂 – He lives in the USA for decades. Without praising him too much, I would say he is the most famous and successful German speaker alive. He spent all his adult life in the U.S.A. and he still have that funny German/Austrian accent. But man, I love this guy, I wish him a very long life :-). But there are also perfect examples such as Christoph Waltz. This guy is also amazing, in fact they both are Austrians :-). If I reconsider my saying above about Germans perhaps I shall exclude Austrians from the picture. I have worked with Austrian people and indeed they seem different than Germans. Austrians have something specific, they are even funny guys and they speak better English than Germans :-).
That’s why I say is not a bad thing to work abroad as expat for a while, but for that you better put your ass at work and the first thing you have to do before anything else is o start studying the language or improve it a lot while you are abroad. Otherwise you totally compromise yourself, people won’t have any pleasure to work with you and they will actually want you to go back from where you come from. And if you are also not technically skilled in something, that will make the things even worst for you. If you really want to succeed as expat, either as simple engineer or as manager just put away the greed for money and thing twice before your departure why do want to do what you plan to do. Do you have a goal beyond the money? Do you see where is your final outcome of your activity there? Will you create impact by improving yourself and the others? If you know WHY you do it and you have answered YES to those questions, then go ahead. Go for it man!!. Be an example for many.
Unfortunately, in many cases the expats I’ve met so far, after their rerun in Germany they were not promoted at all and in fact their career didn’t evolve in any remarkable way. To work in a different country that yours, is a huge engagement. You only succeed if you integrate yourself as much as possible with that new culture. Otherwise stay the fuck at home . Don’t go anywhere, you have no idea how stupid you look in the eyes of the other local native people. Stay where you are and take care of your family.
P.S. – I have given the example with Germans because I deal with them for very long time, but this is the same applicable at some different scale to French, Japanese, Italian, Spanish and any other wide-spread successful companies, even the English/American ones. The culture map is very different. I will talk about that more in detail in my future posts J. In case someone who read this post is getting offended about what I said, please just understand the context, I have German friends too. I have friends from many different countries. But if my words are to harsh … let that remain at the level of opinion about expats, I don’t apologize for anything. Take it as I said!!!