JS 62: Psychological Aspects of Moving Overseas with Gudrun Kittel-Thong Author of ‘Expatriate Relocation’March 4th, 2014 by Jason | Comments Off on JS 62: Psychological Aspects of Moving Overseas with Gudrun Kittel-Thong Author of ‘Expatriate Relocation’
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Gudrun Kittel-Thong, a German national, lived in Edinburgh (Scotland) and London before moving to Hong Kong, China. For the next 25 years she immersed herself into the exciting culture of this city with its unique blend of old traditions and innovative life style.
Her Master’s of Education degree, professional coaching training and schooling background led her to support expatriates from various countries who came to Hong Kong. Being an expatriate herself and raising an intercultural family she was closely connected to the various emotional issues that can come up when moving to a foreign culture. She observed recurring concerns that individuals, couples and families faced when going through the transition of relocation.
Major observations were:
- Overwork and frequent business travels with concurrent health and relationship issues for the working partner;
- Culture shock, overwhelm and general insecurity for the accompanying spouse whose professional career often was kept on hold while living abroad;
- Child rearing problems and the subject of Third Culture Kids;
- For single expatriates it was the mix of struggling to form deep new friendships and building a secure social network at the same time that work demands exceeded the norm.
All these topics and more are detailed in her book Expatriate Relocation – How to Manage the Emotional Issues when Relocating. Gudrun familiarized herself with the traditional Chinese perspective on leading a balanced life and today combines this with her additional qualification as a Relaxation Therapist (Entspannungspädagogin) in her coaching work.
Now back in north west Germany on the North Sea coast Gudrun continues to work with expatriates abroad via SKYPE focusing on career development matters in combination with finding the unique life and work path that every individual strives for.
ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the JetSetter Show, where we explore lifestyle-friendly destinations worldwide. Enjoy and learn from a variety of experts on topics ranging from upscale travel at wholesale prices, to retiring overseas, to global real estate and business opportunities, to tax havens and expatriate opportunities. You’ll get great ideas on unique cultures, causes, and cruise vacations. Whether you’re wealthy or just want to live a wealthy lifestyle, the JetSetter Show is for you. Here’s your host, Jason Hartman.
JASON HARTMAN: Welcome to the JetSetter Show! This is Jason Hartman, your host, where we explore lifestyle-friendly destinations worldwide. I think you’ll enjoy the interview we have for you today, and we will be back with that, in less than 60 seconds, here on the JetSetter Show.
JASON HARTMAN: It’s my pleasure to welcome Gudrun Kittel-Thong to the show! She is an expert in expatriate issues, and her book is entitled Expatriate Relocation: How To Manage Emotional Issues When Relocating. Gudrun, welcome. How are you?
GUDRUN KITTEL-THONG: Thank you, I’m very well, Jason.
JASON HARTMAN: Well good, it’s a pleasure to have you on today. Give our listeners a sense of geography, and tell us where you’re located, if you would.
GUDRUN KITTEL-THONG: I am back in Germany, after 25 years in Hong Kong. And Germany in the very north, on the North Sea, which is close to the Netherlands.
JASON HARTMAN: Fantastic. How did you come to write this book? I mean, I think the emotional side of expatriation is rarely covered. It doesn’t receive too much attention, at least in my eyes. How did you come to write it?
GUDRUN KITTEL-THONG: Yeah, you’re very right. It was because I was an expatriate myself, and I’ve lived many years abroad. But also, I was counseling expat families and their children, and during the years doing that, I noticed that they all had to reinvent the wheel every time they come abroad, and that’s why I thought, I put it all together in a book, to save some of the pitfalls of going abroad.
JASON HARTMAN: So, what are some of the pitfalls? I mean, overall, let’s kind of figure out if this is a good idea to be an expat, or maybe it’s not worth the hassle and the downside.
GUDRUN KITTEL-THONG: A lot of time it’s a great experience, and I would also always suggest to go ahead. However, if you go ahead as a family, and one partner is the one who’s being posted abroad, then the whole family of course has to go, and it’s a big uprooting from the usual place of your home. And you enter to another culture, maybe sometimes even another climate. You have to adjust a lot, in a very short time. And to pace, if you take time before relocating, to look at what’s important to you, or what you want to maintain, and to get really informed about what you can expect. And many times, what I have experienced in sessions is that the accompanying partner usually is also working in the homeland, but once abroad, they kind of put their career on hold, which is great on the one hand, but on the other hand, sometimes makes them restless and it kind of takes away the self-worth, for some. That’s what I’ve noticed. So—
JASON HARTMAN: So, kind of compare and contrast. There are so many singles nowadays. In fact, in the last three presidential elections in the US, singles were actually the largest voting bloc, although they’re not viewed as a voting bloc, because it’s usually by age or income level or race or ethnicity. But you know, overall, it’s singles. So, talk about some of the issues, and compare them, if you would, for singles versus married, in expatriation.
GUDRUN KITTEL-THONG: Okay. For singles, for example, it’s up to their initiative to make new friends, whereas if you go as a couple, or with children, you can meet other parents through your children. But as a single, it’s all the parents’ own, how much initiative to take. How you go out, and at the same time, you need to be clear yourself who you want to meet, and not just go out and hope for the best, but go to places where you would meet like-minded people. That’s very important. Yes. And with woman, it’s different again. Especially going to Asia, which is a very youth-oriented culture, that may generalize, and sometimes I find that single women over the age of 25 find themselves a bit at a loss at finding—
JASON HARTMAN: Now that’s interesting, that you say Asia’s a very youth-oriented culture. I would have thought the US would have taken the prize for that one. But it’s really quite interesting when you look, especially at Japan specifically, because Japan is just aging, aging, aging! I mean, one of their big economic problems is that they just don’t have younger workers coming in! They’ve been, of course a very closed country for—really forever. So, that’s impacting them in a pretty negative way.
GUDRUN KITTEL-THONG: Yes, and it’s a very work-intensive environment, in Japan, as well as in Hong Kong. People work hard, but they also play hard. But eight, nine, ten hour working days, not unusual. So, people work very hard, and then in their free time, they really look for quick fun, to really have fun. And they travel. If you’re in Southeast Asia it’s a short distance to Malaysia, or to Indonesia, to all these very exotic beaches. So, people are very mobile. Especially if you’re single; I think you can be very mobile, you can anywhere, anytime.
JASON HARTMAN: So, how do expats feel when they come to a new country? Take us through kind of some of those feelings, and how one can deal with them more effectively.
GUDRUN KITTEL-THONG: Many experience overwhelm, because of the many new impressions that start pounding on you the moment you step out of the plane. It is usually easier for the working spouse, because he or she goes into the job, or into an environment where they are barely familiar with what they expect. Whereas the rest of the family has to reorientate themselves in accommodation-wise, [unintelligible], which often the language barrier can be very frustrating, if you need something fixed in the house. Southeast Asian cultures also have the—well, how should I put it. Having household workers, which is very convenient, but at the same time, something to get used to if you’re coming from Europe or the US, where it’s not that common to have someone living with you doing the house chore. Household chores. So, a lot of new and unknown factors come into life. For the children, for example, they have to—they enter a new school with new friends, and new curriculum. It’s not easy. And the non-working spouse has to find, has to organize life from morning to night, and might not be very familiar with the country itself. So, it can be stressful, but it can also be very exciting, if you take it from that perspective.
JASON HARTMAN: Do you have any particular recommendations on some of the most friendly, and maybe least friendly, places to be an expatriate?
GUDRUN KITTEL-THONG: I think that depends very much on yourself. When I first came to Hong Kong, I found it a very, very strange place. But now, it’s, after so many years, I would say it’s a very, very warm place. So, rather than looking at different countries and their more or less welcoming tendency, look at yourself, and see how you approach new cultures or new situations. And the more open you are, and the more ready you are to just dive in and not compare—never compare with where you are coming from. Then you will manage anywhere.
JASON HARTMAN: Okay, good. Good advice. What else would you like people to know?
GUDRUN KITTEL-THONG: Know yourself. Meaning, know what is important to you, what are your values, and know what you need to feel comfortable; it might be anything from what kind of workplace do you like to work in—a close office, or do you like open space? So, check it out before you relocate. What kind of private life do you want to have? Do you want to have lots of action—so, find out beforehand, also know that if you need help with getting to know people, find out where you can go, if you can—Internet gives you lots of information, so, inform yourself, get informed before you leave. Even better, have a short visit before the real relocation, and familiarize yourself on a tourist basis, so you know, okay, this is how the streets look like, okay, this is where I will be living, and then come back and then come again. Also, take one day at a time. Don’t try to manage everything within the first month.
JASON HARTMAN: Well, you’re in Germany now. That’s your home country, is that correct?
GUDRUN KITTEL-THONG: That’s my home country, yes.
JASON HARTMAN: And you lived in Hong Kong for 25 years?
GUDRUN KITTEL-THONG: For 25 years, yes. Most of my adult life.
JASON HARTMAN: Wow. What’s next for you? Any other places? Or are you gonna stay put?
GUDRUN KITTEL-THONG: That’s open. Open. For now, my heart has pulled me back to my roots. But now that I’ve been here a couple of years, I’m open to new ideas, and new countries. So, yeah. If you—as an expatriate, you come back after many years, back to your home country, you can even experience a culture shock, reverse culture shock, in your own culture. It’s very—it’s interesting. So, if you spend most of your life as an expatriate, I think you will be mobile for the rest of your life.
JASON HARTMAN: Yeah. Well, very interesting. A lot of great new experiences, for sure. Are there any websites or organizations that you can recommend, for people landing in a new country, and thinking gosh, I’ve gotta meet some people, develop some connections? You know, including language issues, too.
GUDRUN KITTEL-THONG: The best way would be looking in the country you are, and you can always check out the embassy’s websites. Because it’s usually, organizations in place give the information to the embassy to distribute it to their people. So, don’t just check your own embassy. Also check the other country’s. It would help with meeting people.
JASON HARTMAN: Okay, fantastic. Well, give out your website, if you would, and tell people where they can find your book!
GUDRUN KITTEL-THONG: Yeah, my book is available on Amazon. So, just key in my name, or maybe Expatriate Relocation would be the easiest—
JASON HARTMAN: And let me spell that, by the way. It’s G-U-D-R-U-N, Gudrun. So, the book is entitled Expatriate Relocation: How To Manage The Emotional Issues When Relocating.
JASON HARTMAN: Okay, fantastic. Well, Gudrun Kittel-Thong, thank you so much for joining us today!
GUDRUN KITTEL-THONG: Thank you for having me.
ANNOUNCER: This show is produced by the Hartman Media Company. All rights reserved. For distribution or publication rights and media interviews, please visit www.HartmanMedia.com, or email [email protected] Nothing on this show should be considered specific personal or professional advice. Please consult an appropriate tax, legal, real estate, or business professional for any individualized advice. Opinions of guests are their own, and the host is acting on behalf of Platinum Properties Investor Network, Inc. exclusively.
Transcribed by David