GenXpat

1. First off, the title of your book is GenXpat: The Young Professional's Guide To Making A Successful Life Abroad. What does GenXpat mean?

GenXpat is an abbreviation of 'Generation X' and 'expatriate'. It refers to the new generation of 25 to 40 year old young, professional expats.

2. What made you decide to write this book?

I believe that expatriation has changed quite dramatically since the start of the millennium and I wanted to describe the new face of expats. Expats used to be a few very senior executives, who would be sent abroad to run foreign operations from top-down. Now it concerns people at all levels of international organisations. Increased numbers of expats means fewer fancy packages and less corporate/organisational support. Younger expats mean very different challenges. The question is no longer 'what will my stay-at-home spouse do with the kids?'. The question is 'how do I build a personal life and find romantic relationships 5000 miles from my home country, in a different culture?'

3. Your book promotes helping young professionals in making an informed decision about moving. What does that entail?

A lot of young people are drawn into expatriation by the glitter of a jet-setting lifestyle. That is part of the reality, but not the whole picture. Being far from home means less of a social base and a harder time establishing work-life balance. It also means starting a pattern of sacrificing personal relationships for a career - when you move once, it gets easier to move again, and harder to conceive of staying put for the sake of a relationship. I have many expat friends who are very successful and wealthy, but lonely. I think it is important to realise these trade offs before starting on that path.

4.Do you address the issue of long distance relationships in this book, what are your opinions on trying to keep a relationship with a loved one in your home country while living abroad?

Unless the situation has a clear end date, ideally within 6 months to one year, where the couple plans to reunite, it is unlikely to survive the distance.

5. Do you have any tips for those returning from abroad ?

Prepare! If you are planning to return while being employed by your current organisation, make sure that the position at home will use all of your skills. Often, if your home country doesn't have a major office of your company, it will be hard to find something suitable.

If you are planning to return after quitting your current job, try to take some time off before quitting, and go home to visit and network. Try to get some informational interviews. Get a sense for what's going on in the workforce at home, what are the trends, and how your skill set is relevant (or not). It would not be fun to make the move, then discover there are no positions that can really use your skills, or justify the salary you would like.

6. I've read reviews in which the readers talk about the balance you have between readability and information. How did you accomplish this?

I open each chapter with a personal story of one of my friends or contacts. This puts some of the ideas I present later in the chapter in a real-life context.

7. From your own experiences, what is the most important lesson that you have learnt when moving overseas ?

International work really helps in creating a sense of context. Almost all of us, even those working in their home countries, now have some interaction with foreign suppliers or customers, or a head office/satellite office abroad. Often, we get irritated because people don't seem to work the same way as we do. Working abroad helps to understand where people are coming from and allows us to interact more constructively in the new 'Flat' world (see Thomas Friedman's book 'The World Is Flat')

8. A young person moving overseas to work would definitely experience some culture shock. Do you address this idea in your book? How?

I devote two chapters to the topic. One aims to demonstrate what causes culture shock and what are its symptoms. The other gives practical tips on how to interpret actions by someone from another culture.

9. If you had one piece of advice to give to a young professional about to leave the country, what would it be?

Always keep your personal goals in mind. Don't let it become about the next foreign posting, the next pay raise, the next promotion, unless that is what you want. Ask yourself: where do I want to be now, in 3 years, in 5 years, in 10 years? Do you see a string of career moves and promotions, or do you see meaningful friendships, and starting a family? Moving every 2 years is not compatible with deep, meaningful friendships or a relationship, for that matter, unless you find a partner who is willing to follow you.

10. Do you think that going abroad is a way to advance one's career more rapidly that if that person stayed into their own country.

It can be, especially if your home country is a large, well developed country like the US or Western Europe. Companies tend to have large offices and established structures in those countries, with very clear promotional timelines. If you go abroad, to a fast growing market, there are definitely opportunities to break new ground, grow with the organisation, and create a name for yourself.

11. What would you say the most important point in your book is?

Going abroad at a younger age means building your adult life and making your life decisions abroad. It means growing apart from family and friends that have stayed behind, embracing mobility and short-lived friendships as a lifestyle, and trying to find a partner in a different culture. It will give you new skills and experience, but may not build your career in a way that is relevant back home. It will shape your whole life. Make sure it shapes it in a way that you are happy with.