Know your who!



The key to retention is knowing your audience and their needs.


Photographs: iStock

Text: Kathy Borys Siddiqui

Who are your internationals employees and their Spouses/Partners?


They are all different, and although there may be common threads running through the international stories, no two people or their international journeys are the same.


Who is who in the international scheme of things

International Spouse/Partner is a general term. If we look a bit closer, we will see that spouses and partners fall into various sub-groups. The reason for relocating is often what differentiates them. Often the term Spouse/Partner is used as if it pertained to one type of person. Of course, there are similarities but no two people are the same. Their past, present, and future are also not identical. We need to start focusing on the individual, their needs and practice a human approach. To give you a general idea of the different International groups here are a few terms, according to business.internations.org


Foreign Assignees are usually sent abroad by their employers.

International hires often find a job on their own or are recruited internationally.

Relocating Spouses move abroad for their partner’s job.

Love-pats fall in love with someone who lives in a different country than their own and decide to move to be with them.

Re-pats return to their home country after having lived abroad.

The reasons for moving are different for each group, as are the challenges.


You can’t tell a book by its cover

An individual approach is what makes a difference, not cookie-cutter support. Each move, adjustment process, family, couple, is different. They may face similar challenges but not at the same time. Some people go through the cultural adjustment phases one by one, others skip certain phases. The motivation for relocation varies as do the challenge. For example, foreign assignees are usually motivated by career development and senior positions to make a move to a different country.


The relocating spouse is moving because of the family decisions that have been made due to professional opportunities for their husband or wife. For the spouse, professional networks, social networks, and spousal support are very important.


For some, easily available language classes are one of the most important support factors for others; it will be professional networks. Assumptions regarding what Internationals need basing on personal beliefs are not the best solution. To successfully work towards positive experiences for Internationals as well as locals, we need to engage in discussions, ask questions and most importantly, listen.


"No one wants to be summed up by one word. We are all guilty of doing that, I know I am. We label, and we assume."

To be seen and heard

No one wants to be summed up by one word. We are all guilty of doing that, I know I am. We label, and we assume. We believe we know what is good for others, what they need. But, often, if we do not see the desired outcomes, we may be heading down the path that is not most beneficial. I have often heard and also used (yes, shame on me) “The Expats…” or “The Expats need this…” In reality, we are speaking of diverse groups, with very different motivations for relocation, multitudes of cultural knowledge and experience, various ages, expertise, skills, mindsets, education. Each story is different, behind each story is a person. Although there are similarities, not a single story of someone’s relocation experience is the same. Therefore, we can not assume that the same solutions will work for all. Gaining the important knowledge and awareness supported by collaborative solutions can make a difference. The only way to make progress is to open our eyes and ears. See and listen to what the needs, wants and must-haves are of the Internationals coming to and living in Denmark.

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