A Home For Your Home: Reducing The Pain Of International Relocation

By    November 8, 2012

If you’ve seen Toy Story, or any variation of a moving away story made by Disney/Pixar/Nickelodeon/etc. – yes, Homeward Bound counts – then you know that inevitably, you always leave something behind when you move away. When you’re young, your Buzz Lightyears and Mr. Potatoheads are the most important things in the world (alternatively, maybe you had a Chance or Sassy that you loved more than life). You simply couldn’t imagine a future without them. “Mom, did you check to make sure we packed my Barbie and my Beanie Baby?”

Now flash-forward several years, and you can’t seem to remember the name of your Beanie Baby. Was it Tracker or Roary or just Stan? Hot Wheels aren’t nearly as exciting as the Porsche 911 Carrera you see driving downtown every morning. The stake you place in your possessions may be the same, but the possessions themselves have changed.

Instead, there’s the nightstand your grandparents passed onto you, the well-worn and well-loved La-Z-Boy you bought with your first paycheck, and the indistinguishable painting your college roommate made you that you can’t get rid of for some reason. All of these things mean home. Your home.

But what happens when your company wants you to relocate, and not just to Houston or New York or Seattle? What happens when your boss calls you in, slaps you on the back, and asks how you feel about moving to Russia? Your nightstand won’t grow a personality and try to follow you across the ocean. Your La-Z-Boy can’t brave the seas. That funny painting definitely won’t make it past customs without some raised eyebrows.

According to Cartus Corporation’s 2012 Trends in Global Relocation Survey, relocations are on the rise.
Of the 122 companies surveyed, 57% expected an increase in international assignee populations between 2012 and 2013. And here’s the kicker: Unlike previous years, when the US, China, and the UK represented 77% of the top destinations combined, this year’s report showed them only representing 44%, which means that companies are expanding and diversifying now more than ever.

India, Russia, and Brazil now join China as the top destinations for relocations. These destinations also happen to rank as the most difficult locations for expatriates. Those relocating from the US may find challenges in adapting to the profoundly different culture, infrastructure, and customs of these quickly booming countries.

The Spanish have a beautiful concept known as querencia. As Barry Lopez explained in The Rediscovery of North America, “la querencia refers to a place on the ground where one feels secure, a place from which one’s strength of character is drawn…In Spain, querencia is most often used to describe the spot in a bullring where a wounded bull goes to gather himself…It is unfortunate that the word is compromised in this way, for the idea itself is quite beautiful— a place in which we know exactly who we are. The place from which we speak our deepest beliefs.”

One small but important step companies can take is to reassure their employees that their querencias will remain safe, untouched, and unchanged. This is where self-storage comes into play. Giving employees the best options for self-storage facilities can make all the difference, especially when the employee may have a deep attachment to the things that help make their home, home. Many self-storage facilities now allow online storage unit management and payment, making it even easier for those who relocate internationally to take care of their homey possessions, even if home is so very far away.

While relocation trends and practices are changing – companies have begun reducing the length of assignments to several months, nixing long-term assignments for those who relocate internationally – it’s still an impossibly difficult process for someone to leave his or her family, friends, and possessions, if even for a few months.

What’s most important for companies that relocate their employees is to focus on easing the transition not just abroad, but also at home. Sometimes, knowing that your querencia is still there waiting for you in a safe storage unit can make all the difference. Don’t worry— no one will sit in your La-Z-Boy while you’re gone.

Jenny is part of the marketing team at SpareFoot. She currently lives in Austin, TX and likes sushi, Faulkner and Asian horror movies.

  • Kate Dunkin

    Very informative post! I have a friend who is going through a international relocation, I’m definitely going to show him this article. Thank you for sharing this with us, it was very helpful.

  • Lauren Biddle

    Very informative post! I have a friend who is going through a
    international relocation, I’m definitely going to show him this article.
    Thank you for sharing this with us, it was very helpful.

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