International Mobility Series 3/4: Expatriate assignment

International Mobility Series 3/4: Expatriate assignment

Because internationality is very important to PALFINGER, we promote international exchange among the locations of our PALFINGER Group. Through our mobility program, we hope to provide employees with opportunities for further professional as well as personal development, to strengthen respect and trust among the various cultures and individuals, to transfer know-how, and to build intercultural skills.

For these reasons, we offer our employees several options for going abroad:

  • Exchange program (1 – 6 months)
  • Flyer (6 months – 5 years)
  • Expatriate assignment (1 – 5 years)
  • Local+ (up to 5 years or longer)

We are going to talk about the Expatriate assignment in the third part of the international mobility series.

During an expatriate assignment, an employee relocates his residence and workplace abroad for 1-5 years. During this time, the expatriate takes on a new professional challenge and position in the host company, but still retains his/her contractual employment in the home company.

Through the international assignment, the expatriate is able to develop further professionally, strengthen his/her own intercultural skills, and gain a better understanding of other countries, markets, and cultures. Furthermore, knowledge (and not just professional know-how, but also processes and collective thinking and acting) is exchanged between both companies.

Many of our employees have sought the adventure in foreign countries and are working as expats. One of them is Herbert. He has been an Expat in China since 2015. In the following, Herbert tells us why he opted for international assignment and about the challenges that he faced and his experiences during his assignment abroad:

Why did you opt for an expatriate assignment? What do you find particularly exciting about international assignments?

There were several reasons why I chose an assignment abroad. First of all, I was more or less born to travel. My father worked in the construction of industrial facilities and went on assignments abroad ever since I can remember. As a result I started traveling the world at a very early age, accompanying or visiting my father on his assignments abroad (starting in 1979 in Syria, then Barbados, Sweden, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, and many more).

I have also always enjoyed learning new languages, including English, French, Italian, Dutch, and a little Spanish, to name a few. So, when the opportunity presented itself at PALFINGER to go to Italy on a first assignment abroad, I was immediately excited. Then came a longer stay in Brazil, which lasted more than 2 years altogether. After that I worked in Corporate Welding Technology and supervised the plants in Brazil, Argentina, China and France

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And when I got the offer about a year and half ago to work as Head of Quality and Service in China, I gladly accepted. For me an international assignment is exciting because you get to know the country and the people in a special way. Everywhere I’ve been so far, I’ve made good friends with whom I am still in regular contact. And in every country, I’ve learned something for my job: different solution approaches, totally different management approaches. No day is ever the same.

What challenges are you facing or did you face during your expatriate assignment?

The biggest challenge is the cultural difference: The different way of approaching problems and finding solutions, which at times just made us shake our heads at first.

You often face the fact that in many countries there are two prices, one for locals and another for foreigners. But with friendly yet firm words and with understanding for the culture, we often succeeded in keeping the difference to a minimum.

What was the best experience during your expatriate assignment?

Even for me it was a little odd when I came back to Rudong after a long business trip and stay in Europe and, as I closed the apartment door and lay down on the sofa, I thought to myself: “Home at last” … I then realized that I considered a small Chinese town 12,000 km away as “home”.

Obviously, professional success in the scope of an Expatriate Assignment is also a fantastic experience, for instance when I was able to solve a difficult problem together with my local colleagues, a customer was satisfied, or a project ended on a positive note.

What tips can you give colleagues who are also interested in an international assignment?

The most important thing is to be open to foreign cultures and to have a positive attitude. I have learned that you can have positive experiences all over the world, and that you can make friends and learn something new everywhere. At any rate, you should at least try to learn the local language à communication is everything.


Did you miss prior articles of the international mobility series? Read it here:

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