It goes without saying, but let’s say it anyway: one does not expatriate to Africa lightly! There are many examples of candidates who have made plans before rushing back to their point of departure, illusions lost and morale dented. Choosing to work in Africa cannot be improvised: before being a professional opportunity, it is above all a personal life project, even a family project that should be considered with the utmost seriousness, beyond the tourist postcard or the fantasy of a wild life, fed by years of wildlife reports or genre films… If there is no question of denying them, the financial attraction and the “career booster” effect cannot alone be the triggers of such a choice, under penalty of sometimes cruel disillusionment.
Must read: Africa EOR
So, before packing your bags and “living the adventure of a lifetime”, you need to structure all the components of your project… including your return! This is the only way to put all the chances on your side and make a success of the adventure.
1) Are you cut out for expatriation to Africa?
Once again, we don’t go to work “on the other side of the world” like we go on vacation. You leave for a long period of time, to live and work 100% in a country with a climate, seasons, habits, traditions, culture, way of life, food, sometimes religion and language, different from anything you may have known before. Purely technical skills are not the only prerequisite. You must ask yourself about your psychological, social and moral abilities to face this new and unknown world.
If your family must accompany you, you must also ask yourself the same questions for your partner and for the children when there are some. The living environment, the school, the leisure activities, the vacations, the health context are all questions to be taken into account and to be settled even before the departure. And if your family does not leave with you, will you be able to accept the situation and the distance?
2) The contract, the whole contract, nothing but the contract
Even more than a classic contract, the expatriation (or secondment) contract must take into account the future chronology of your career. In other words, while it must obviously indicate the factual elements that will border your expatriation itself (working conditions, hours, vacations, salaries, bonuses, benefits, relocation, local housing, return trips to the country of origin at least twice a year, etc.), it must also address the post-expatriation period, namely
the conditions under which you will return to your country of origin. This includes, first and foremost, the city where you will be posted and, if possible, your future position and job profile.
3) Long live the happy expatriation!
In order for your expatriation to be a success that you will remember with happiness for the rest of your life, you must avoid the two main traps into which the majority of expatriation candidates fall:
- Staying among “uprooted” expats, in a sort of luxury ghetto away from the local population (it is sometimes difficult to do otherwise, as the employer groups, for organizational and/or security reasons, all of its expatriate employees in a single area…).
- As is often the case, the best solution is the middle way: to blend in without dissolving… To immerse oneself in the host country to the point of adopting its rhythms and customs, while keeping one’s original cultural references (the return will be all the less traumatic). Become an actor without losing sight of the fact that the role will come to an end one day and that, in a few months or years, you will have to return to “your life before”.
4) To go back in your career or to go forward?
In most cases, the return is often problematic, because it is not a good experience. In order for the end of the expatriation not to be synonymous with a return to square one (the hierarchical promotion experienced as an expat is rarely ratified upon return to the country), or with defeat or depression, the return must, as we have seen, be anticipated even before the departure. In this way, expatriation will be understood as part of a controlled career sequence, and not as a parenthesis that will close one day with no future other than a “return to the past. The corollary of this is a situation of stress or depression and/or the desire to “go expat” in order to regain the paradise lost with all the related advantages: this is the professional expatriation syndrome.