Micaela Gets Interviewed for Experts’ Publication
Gary Thomas, CEO of assist International Human Resources, interviewed Micaela Flores-Araoz for the book Interkulturelle Dialoge (Intercultural Dialogue).
Gary Thomas: Micaela, how did you become an expat trainer and coach?
Micaela Flores-Araoz: Being an expat spouse, I found it difficult to advance my initial career, moving constantly from country to country and having to reinvent myself each time. At the same time, I started to develop a special interest in different cultures and in ways to successfully interact with them. I saw many expat friends struggle to adapt to the expat journey and so I started to give them advice and recommendations on how to cope in their new host country. In time, it then became natural to me that I should use this expertise in helping other expat spouses and expat families with their international journey and that becoming an intercultural trainer and coach was the answer.
Gary Thomas: What are the challenges expats, their spouses and their families can face?
Micaela Flores-Araoz: Expats face multiple challenges when sent abroad. They range from daily difficulties like not finding the right ingredients in the supermarket or getting lost in a new and unfamiliar city to bigger frustrations such as struggling to get a solid support network like the one they would have at home (extended families and friends). Expats sometimes face language barriers and anxiety because they don’t understand the new culture or the locals’ behaviour. Each expat will be impacted differently when arriving at the new destination, but, in one way or in another, all expats and expat families will face substantial challenges when arriving at their new destination. The good news is that there are mechanisms to cope with those challenges.
Gary Thomas: What is the impact of these challenges?
Micaela Flores-Araoz: If not addressed correctly these challenges can be detrimental both for the expat family and for the expat assignee. Among other things, they can sometimes cause conflicts within the family, marital problems, depression, or school underperformance for the children. Many expat assignments are cut short because expat employees are frustrated when their spouses and families are unhappy in the host country and are constantly wanting to go back.
Gary Thomas: What are some ways your clients can find to cope with the expat challenge?
Micaela Flores-Araoz: Among other things, I advise expat families and spouses to look for a support group or expat/international network to make the expat journey more pleasant and to feel that they are not alone. I also think it is important to make the new destination your home as much as possible; trying to learn the language, to understand the host culture, to explore the new city/town, to create a routine, etc, or registering in specific expat cultural training or having one-on-one coaching is also recommended.
Gary Thomas: What initial advice would you have to a new expat, an expat spouse or family?
Micaela Flores-Araoz: My initial advice to new expats and their families is to try to get familiar with their new destination as fast as possible. That can be done by reading books, looking for information on the internet and, my favourite option, by contacting an expat that has lived or has experience in the same destination and who can share valuable insights.