Smart Moves: Going on line with the ex pats

An internet service has been set up to help employees and their families cope with the trauma caused by relocation. By Rachelle Thackray

PREPARE to be brought back to earth with a bump when you break the news to your partner that you finally managed to wangle that two-year placement to Singapore. For many couples and families, moving to a different part of the world - an increasingly common occurrence in a globalised economy - is more of a trauma than a tonic. Finding schools, medical services, social circles and a good hairdresser is challenge enough in a new part of the UK, let alone the Far East.

A new internet service designed by Arthur Andersen, in conjunction with the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and business travel information firm Craigshead Publications, called CountryNet, aims to provide up-to- the-minute information on 84 countries, covering all aspects useful to expatriate workers from cultural and lifestyle advice to economic, tax and immigration information.

The site has proved so popular in the two weeks since its launch that its pioneer, Andersen partner Mark Williams, claims: "We are receiving an e-mail every ten minutes. We have 250 trial sites, and because of the publicity we've had, particularly in North America, people have been phoning all day long."

Months of research went into the project. Mr Williams says: "We brought out a disc-based product called The Essential Expatriate 18 months ago, and the initial reaction was great, but we are talking yesterday's medium.With this service, all the pieces of information are in one place."

Expatriates need to consider fiscal security, cost of living, and family needs. The on-line service provides suggestions for schooling, along with articles on coping with change and country specific recommendations on using electronic appliances. "There has been phenomenal growth in global expatriate assignments. Small companies which five years ago wouldn't have moved someone across borders are now having to move people across continents," says Mr Williams.

A recent survey by ECA International found that nearly ten per cent of employees returning from overseas left their companies within two years, at an estimated cost of pounds 1.2bn annually. "Reverse culture shock and the disorientation that can follow return to the home country and a change in job status are not widely acknowledged," says a spokesman.

Mr Williams adds: "In the UK you might be a small fish in a big pond, then abroad you become a big fish in a small pond. Coming back and being just another cog in the wheel is difficult, and it's hard to meet people's expectations."

Arthur Andersen has adjusted to this change, he says, by offering employees a 'vertical' chain of command rather than a regional area. "The emphasis is away from where you belong in the UK to where you are in a particular service area, and where you want to move to next." In less Westernised locations staff in some companies are flown in for a month, and then flown out to a more congenial venue for rest and recuperation.

CountryNet operates by use of passwords ($7,000 for one individual; far cheaper to buy in bulk), but has yet to incorporate an individual on-line advice service, although there are plans to develop a comprehensive news service. Those who feel the need to call home can participate in a 'chat- board' instead. Says Mr Williams: "Individuals can put up their own experiences, although we will be doing a little bit of checking to make sure it's positive."

For more information about CountryNet, contact Mark Williams at Arthur Andersen on 0118 950 8141 or e-mail your enquiry to ECA International produces a 'Returning Home' questionnaire to help expatriates adjust, along with a guide Planning to Work Abroad? Contact Emily Tuite on 0171 351 5000.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Guru Careers: Management Accountant

£27 - 35k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Management Accountant is needed ...

Guru Careers: Project Manager / Business Analyst

£40-50k + Benefits.: Guru Careers: A Project Manager / Business Analyst is nee...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'