When you begin the relocation process for a spouse’s overseas work assignment or your own, you’re inundated with industry buzzwords. Origin services. Destination services. Workforce mobility. Accommodation finding. Look-see visits. Settling-in assistance. Lumped onto the innumerable logistical details involved in an international move, it’s easy to get caught up in all the jargon, yet it is extremely valuable to learn the meaning of the different services offered in the relocation process and design a program that will best meet your needs and those of your families. A look-see visit can be useful in preparing your family for your relocation. Today, we’ll give a broad overview of a look-see visit and share some of the key benefits of incorporating one into your relocation plan.
First things first. What is a look-see visit, and what does it entail? Also known as an exploratory visit or a pre-location visit, a look-see is a opportunity to spend a brief period of time in your potential new home. In addition to giving you the chance to look at housing options and local schools in person, the look-see visit is designed to help alleviate culture shock upon moving.
On a look-see visit, you can:
- Visit available houses, apartments, and condos to determine the best living situation for your family.
- Tour local public and private schools and meet with school administrators.
- Meet colleagues from your new office or work assignment.
- “Test drive” your commute and begin to master the public transportation system.
- Get a sense for local style, habits, and etiquette.
As you can see, a look-see visit can be a useful asset in securing the logistical details of your relocation, but it can also be a tool to help you feel more comfortable in your future home environment. Getting to meet colleagues in person before your first day in a new office will help lessen your nerves, and knowing where you’ll be living and where your kids will attend school beyond what you can see online or from pictures can eliminate some stress from the process. But the last bullet point is equally important: observing local habits, the way people greet and interact with one another, and even the way they dress, can help guide your packing, your expectations, and your social understanding of the area.
However, it is important to keep in mind that organization and preparation are key to ensuring a successful and productive look-see visit. Keep these tips in mind when working with your destination services manager to create an itinerary for your exploratory visit:
- Account for jet-lag. If you’re only setting aside a couple days for your look-see visit and you’ll spend most of that time jet-lagged, it’s likely you won’t have the energy — or the positive mindset — necessary to make the most out of the opportunity to begin acclimating. When possible, allot more than just a weekend to your look-see visit; it is often particularly advisable that your visit include at least one weekday so that you may visit schools while they are in session and get a feel for the local atmosphere during the workweek.
- Locate the essentials. In addition to housing and schools, take some time to scope out the grocery store, pharmacy, medical offices, and banks in your neighborhood of choice. Your pre-relocation visit is an ideal time to establish a bank account or arrange daycare services and check items off your to-do list.
- Build in free time to explore. While much of your look-see visit may be filled with meetings and appointments, be sure to set aside time to simply explore the area. Taking the time before your move to find the places that will make this new city your “home” is important for your well-being and peace of mind, so seek out nice cafes, bookstores, parks, or even local establishments that sell foods and specialty items from your home country. As much as a look-see visit is a time to settle the details of your move, it is also an opportunity for you to begin to create a home and build a network in your new town.
Expats, have you or your family taken a look-see visit? Was it useful — and if not, what advice would you give to soon-to-be expatriate families? Share your experiences in the comments!