Preparing for a successful expatriation

  • Make your mobility a success by taking a step back and keeping a global vision, from departure to return
  • Avoiding the pitfalls by being aware of your points of vigilance
  • Identify the key people in expatriation
  • Nurture your self-confidence by mobilising all your resources


Whatever the destination, expatriation is a challenge which, if sufficiently well prepared, becomes a fabulous opportunity for personal development.

But before doing so, it is essential to be aware of the different emotional cycles punctuated by euphoria, exaltation, doubts and sometimes even discouragement (see diagram below) that expatriates may go through. This is known as "culture shock", a state of being that was first defined in 1960 by the Canadian anthropologist Kalervo Oberg.

McCormick and Chapman's Expatriation Life Cycle Curve


Whether you are a first-time expatriate or a long-time expatriate, McCormick and Chapman's Expatriation Life Cycle Curve allows you to measure how far you have come so far. Here is a description of the different stages:

  1. “Honeymoon" phase: the initial phase that plunges the expatriate into a euphoric state of mind, under the sign of discovery and wonder. It is a time of exploration of another culture, another lifestyle, and sometimes a different climate.
  2. Crisis" phase: This phase, which is also called "culture shock", is a feeling created by the anxiety and disorientation of an individual immersed in an environment different from that of his/her origins. This occurs in both the professional and private spheres.
  3. Adaptation/acclimatisation" phase: phase during which morale rises. The expatriate then tries to decipher the behaviours and attitudes of the foreign country in order to appropriate them. The expatriate's view of the environment will gradually change, his or her expectations will change, his or her discourse will change, leading to new motivations and desires, and ultimately to the development of new projects.
  4. Mastery/maturity" phase: during this last phase, the expatriate finds his bearings. They appreciate their new lifestyle and are fully at ease in their new environment. He/she is much more self-confident and increasingly positive about his/her new life. He knows how to function effectively in the new culture. Fulfilment and satisfaction are high. This phase is experienced positively.

Please note that the duration of each period depends mainly on the personality and the ability of the person to adapt to the new situation. In order to overcome the crisis and adaptation phases as well as possible, it is important to be well prepared by preparing one's logbook and analysing the key people in the expatriation.


Here are two tools you can use to help you succeed in your expatriation:

  • The "logbook " with the essentials and good reflexes.
  • Your stakeholders analysis expat grid which will help you identify the key people in your expatriation.

1. Logbook

Create your logbook (digital or paper, personalised...) and keep it alive throughout the 3 main stages of your mobility project:

  • Beforehand, to prepare yourself well
  • During, to enrich your experience
  • On your return, to take a step back and make a complete assessment of your experience

1.1 Before your expatriation

Prepare your mobility as a project, by trying to answer the questions proposed in the table, and by feeling free to add lines to this table.



  • How do I imagine my expatriation (my arrival, my stay, even my return) and what are my questions?
  • What is my level of motivation on a scale of 1 to 10? If my motivation is low, how can I boost it? What will I gain from this expatriation?
  • What do I know about the host culture (how to break the ice, how to interact in the workplace with colleagues and hierarchy, what are the topics of small talk, ...)? - What are my reference points, based on the information I have today?
  • What are my internal resources (previous experience abroad, my skills for this job, etc.)?
  • Does this project remind me of a previous experience? Was it a resourceful experience, or a difficult one? How are these two experiences similar, and how are they different? - What are my areas of vigilance (e.g. different culture, requiring a relationship that is not usually mine)?
  • Who are my allies: when I have questions or a problem, who can I call on? - What can I initiate or put in place right now (e.g.: find out about points that raise questions)?

1.2 During your expatriation

Add to your logbook at your own pace and according to your needs.


In what I am experiencing, what will be useful to me when I return?

... and any thoughts you may wish to add, as you go along

1.3 When you return from your expatriation

Take stock of your learning and life lessons between the time of departure and return. - What went well?

  • What could I have done differently?
  • What is the gap between what I imagined and what actually happened? - How can I use this for my return?

2. Analysis of the Stake Holder Expatriation Grid

2.1 Create and analyse your stake holder grid

  • List the stakeholders of your expatriation.
  • Then place them in the Influence/Benefit grid.
  • Then think about who among them could be the enablers of your success and the blockers. Think about the impact of your expatriation on their :
    • Short-term performance
    • Career
    • Salary and bonus
    • Colleagues/teams
    • Personal development
    • Private life, ...
  • For each activating or inhibiting stakeholder, what would be the extent and nature of their impact
    • If you upset them?
    • If you satisfied them?

2.2 Position these actors on your stakeholder grid

  • 2 questions to ask yourself before positioning your stakeholders on this matrix:
    • Influence of the other stakeholder on your expatriation / means to help you succeed
    • Benefits derived from your expatriation by the other stakeholder
  • ASSOCIATES: high influence and high benefits.

Associates have the ability to block or promote you during your expatriation.  Your success will also be their success. These are the levers you need to pull and the people you have a vested interest in satisfying.

  • VIP's: high influence, low benefits.

Although they are influential, VIP's have only a moderate interest in the success of your expatriation. Make sure they will help you, but do not ask for too much so as not to bother them. Try to make them partners.

  • ALLIES: low influence, high benefits.

Allies have a vested interest in your expatriation success but do not have much to help you. Establish a good relationship with them.

  • EXTERNALS: low influence, low benefits.

Externals are not involved enough to help you. Don't spend your energy with them but always keep a friendly and open attitude.

Associates and VIP's are the enablers or inhibitors of your success.

2.3 Now define your relationship strategy with the different stakeholders.