You are a promising "talent" and it is obvious that you have not reached the end of your career path, yet.

Someone thinks that a few years abroad will be great for your development (and great for your company, of course). And you might be expected to jump at this fantastic "opportunity".

But what if you are not as excited as your bosses? Can you say 'no' to an expat assignment if you don't want to work abroad? 

Your boss has already outlined the amazing advantages to you (like a higher compensation, a bright career outlook, personal growth etc.) Moreover, refusing an expat assignment may harm your career as discussed in the article below.

But apart from the shiny future, has anyone also talked to you honestly about the risks that come with an expat assignment?

Having lived abroad for over 13 years, let me play the devil's advocate and outline what people usually don't tell you about expat life:

  • Rarely will you be guaranteed a specific position after your return. Things are moving fast, and no one knows what the organization will look like in a year or two. In fact, many expat assignments turn out to be one-way tickets.
  • Working in a different cultural environment can be more difficult than most people think. If you were successful at home, that does guarantee that you will be successful abroad.
  • If you are relocating with family or a spouse, be aware that an expat assignment can put tremendous tension on family life. (What will your spouse do all day whilst you are expected to work even longer hours than at home?)
  • The longer and the further you are away, the harder it is to keep relationships with family and friends at home. At the same time, it can be challenging to find new friends abroad.
  • Repatriation can be more challenging than you might expect. Once used to a different lifestyle, many expats have severe difficulties adjusting to working back "at home". In fact, quite a number of expats do not return to their home countries for good.


This list is not meant to scare you. It is meant to help  you see the bigger picture and make the right decision for you and your family, not the decision that others want you to make.

An expat assignment can be a wonderful, life-changing experience for you and your family. It can be heaven. At times it can be hell though, too.