The Look-See Trip – Part One
Our next article is the first in a three part look at Look-See trips, their value, and what they are. Later articles will look into how to prepare, and what you can hope to accomplish.
What is a Look-See Trip?
Before an employee decides to accept an overseas assignment, they may take a Look-See trip. A look-see trip is the industry jargon for a visit to the host country, before the employee has decided to accept the assignment, sometimes called a Pre-Decision Trip, or once the assignment has been accepted, but before the relocation takes place.
If taken before the assignment has been accepted, the trip allows the employee, their spouse, and sometimes also their children, to get a better feel for the host country and city, and decide whether they want to live there.
Taken after the assignment has been accepted, the look-see trip lets the employee and their family research housing options, schools, and make more concrete arrangements.
Is A Look-See Trip Always Provided?
Not all employers provide for a look-see trip. If a look-see trip is offered, the spouse can usually accompany the employee. Some companies will also pay for accompanying children, but not all.
If the employer does not offer a look-see trip, the employee can decide to travel at their own expense. Despite the personal cost, it can still be a valuable experience. If the family were to end the assignment early because they did not settle in the host country, the costs to the employee could outweigh those of a self funded look-see visit that led to the same conclusion.
Is a Look-See Trip Necessary?
Many expats have relocated to a new country without ever having visited before. There are those who shun look-see trips, and other expats who wouldn’t dream of relocating before taking one. It is a personal decision.
A look-see trip may offer greater value when the host country has a very different culture and way of life. Whilst residents of Rome and Barcelona might argue otherwise, there are probably more similarities between them than there are differences. A family moving from Melbourne to Xi’an could experience a bigger culture shock, for which a look-see visit may provide a valuable opportunity to determine whether the assignment should be accepted or not.
What a Look-See Trip Is Not
A Look-See trip is not a sightseeing trip. A tourist is very different from a resident, and in the brief time that is available, it is important to gather as much information about what it will be like to live, not visit, there.
If you consider how well you know your current city and how long it took to develop that knowledge, it is unrealistic to expect to understand how the many different parts of the city are connected, which areas are best avoided, which streets are rat runs, and which are the most congested over the course of a brief visit.
Try and discover as much as you can, but be realistic about what you can expect to learn in the snapshot of a week or less.
Should Your Children Come Too?
This is a difficult question and comes down to personal choice, where the children’s age may be the deciding factor. If you have younger children, consider how a normal shopping trip unfolds. It is unlikely they will allow you the time and flexibility to perform all the tasks that you want and need to complete in the time available.
For older children, the impact of the relocation is likely to be greater and their input can be more valuable. Taking them along so they can see where they may live and go to school can ease their stress and concerns. It is first and foremost a financial decision. Then decide whether taking children will be a help or a hinderance.