The transition from one country to another, as you say goodbye to one place and travel to the next, can be a very traumatic experience. Not knowing what will happen when you arrive – being unsure of what you will have to do when you walk out of the airport, or even how to get from the airport to your new accommodation – can be very stressful.
Transition services are designed to help you through this short but difficult stage. Though they are very basic, the services can go a long way towards making the entire stay much more enjoyable and productive as they get the posting off to a good start.
Prearranging a car to meet you at the airport with a driver who speaks your language and knows exactly where you are going can smooth the arrival process dramatically and be well worth the small expense. This is especially so if you are traveling with children or have little time to organize your move. A few nights in a hotel can allow you to ease into your stay by giving you a chance to explore your new home with less stress, for instance, by allowing you to find out where to buy food and other essentials before you have to step fully into your everyday life.
Finding suitable housing in a new city can be time-consuming and frustrating. The problems of language and a lack of knowledge on the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords are difficult to overcome alone, but a good home-finding service can make the process almost enjoyable.
The time frame for finding a home will almost certainly be short, so it is essential that the home-finding service begins the process of setting up appointments for you before you arrive. Some home-finding services are run by estate agents, which can have pros and cons. On the positive side, they should have a good range of properties on their books, but on the negative side you will be restricted to what they have available and not be able to use their help with property advertised elsewhere.
In a new city you will have to find the best place to buy food, clothes and other essential items, but reading labels can be just as big a challenge when the language is foreign. Especially when you have children, having someone to show you where to go and what store-cards you get can quicken the process of setting up your new home.
A guided tour of your new city, both to let you know what is there and to help you get your bearings, can reduce much of the fear of getting lost that is common to newly-arrived expatriates and their children. Tours should include shopping districts, parks, tourist sites and other points of interest to you.
With the massive amount of information that you receive on arrival in a new city, much of it is likely to go in one ear and out the other. So having it written down and collated for easy reference is always useful. Such packs should include contact details of doctors and dentists who speak your language, local hospitals, the local ambulance service, your national embassy and other essential services. Tourist brochures, advertising material from shops, and public transport information can also be useful.
Setting up a new circle of friends is an important aspect of settling successfully into an expatriate posting. Agency-arranged invitations to cocktail parties, expat spouse associations, clubs and other places where you can meet people can ease the initial difficulties of breaking into established social circles and making friends and business contacts. Some agencies organize such events for their clients, so that newly arrived expatriates can meet longer established ones.
Leaving a destination can be just as complicated as arriving, what with vacating accommodation, discontinuing utilities, deregistering with government agencies and other bureaucratic formalities. Arranging for one agency to look after your move out of the old location and into the new one should mean that everything gets done properly.