Moving within the same continent still has challenges
November 7, 2017
Ivonne Gutierrez, Country Manager for Crown Chile, relocated from Mexico City to Santiago, Chile. Her relocation to a location that speaks the same language as her home country highlights that even moves that may seem easier bring their own set of obstacles.
Why did you decide to move abroad?
It was a chance to grow professionally and personally. Within Crown there are many growth options available, and generally the best and fastest way to move up is to relocate abroad. I wanted to totally get out of my comfort zone and do different things, so that´s what I did.
What were the benefits you expected from your transfer?
I expected to learn new things, and I knew that simply by changing the culture I lived in everything would be different. There would be learning experiences in everything.
Did you have any reservations or worries before your move?
Yes, I had many worries actually. I was worried to leave my home, family, friends and loved ones; everyone and everything I knew. I was also unsure about things like my health care and my retirement fund. I was not sure how those things would carry over while working abroad, or how it all worked. Everything was really a big question mark.
Before your transfer, did you have any intercultural training or a preview trip to resolve some of those reservations?
Yes, thankfully I had the full support of the Relocations team at Crown, so I was able to benefit from intercultural training and took the time to take a preview trip. I was able to call or email when I had questions or doubts. That was so helpful. It really is so important to get all that help and information before an international move. The ability to arrive with a clear idea of where I was going to call home made all the difference to me.
Were you aware of cultural or social differences between Mexico and Chile before your move?
Before my move I had intercultural training from a Crown agent that had lived in Chile, and had done many international transfers. She guided me and prepared me for the things that would probably be a shock for me. So when I arrived I think I was fairly prepared. Even though I´ve been in Chile for three years now, there are always things that still surprise me about the people, culture, etc..
What are some of the things that have surprised you about living in Chile?
I remember when I told my family and friends where I was moving, they said: “it will be easier for you, since you speak the same language.” When I arrived here, I thought: “what are they saying?” I could barely understand people. Even answering the phone was a challenge because they speak very differently here; they pronounce words differently, speak very quickly and use a lot of slang, even at work.
I was also happily surprised by the safety here; I really enjoy that, especially as a woman. People here have a lot of respect and trust for the police, which, sadly, isn’t the case everywhere.
Has it been difficult to live so far from your family and loved ones? Has all the technology available to you to communicate made things easier?
It is always difficult to be far from your family and friends, but in my case, I have enjoyed the space. Mexican families are very tight knit, and Mexican mothers tend to be overprotective, so to have this space has been nice. I still very much miss everyone, but, yes, technology has been so useful in easing any homesickness. I think if I had moved at a time when none of these things were available, things would be totally different. I think that helps many people with their decision to take an international job transfer. Thanks to all the technology available, I am able to stay connected to my family. I see them, I see their homes, I can even see my mom´s dog through my screen.
Speaking of which, did you move with any pets or any unusual items?
I arrived in Chile with five suitcases, which basically contained my clothes and personal things. I brought a painting that was special to me, and really nothing else.
Finally, what advice would you give someone that is about to relocate, within their own continent or further abroad.
Well, if you are moving somewhere that is completely different from where you are, like from an Asian country to a Western country or vice versa, the cultural change is really strong. For me, moving within my own region to a country that speaks the same language still had its challenges, but a bigger change must be more intense. Regardless of how big your move is, I recommend getting all the help you can before your transfer; guidance is key.
I have many expat friends who have arrived in Chile with minimal guidance, and their experience has been so different from mine. I arrived ready to work at my job, already clear on where I would live, and planning travel to get to know the country. I had help getting my visas, so I did not need to fill in forms and do paper work over and over again. Since I had people guiding me, all my paper work was right the first time, and everything was efficient. Renting an apartment is the same thing; I don´t know how comfortable I would have been signing a contract if I had not had guidance.
My friends tell a different story. The ones who arrived alone had many questions that needed answers, and they were not sure who to go to or how to resolve the problems that arose. There are always little stones in your path, so help is always nice. I arrived alone here, with no friends or family, but I had the support of my team and the relocation specialist at Crown. That made all the difference for me; to be able to settle in smoothly and with less stress. Honestly, I don´t know if I would still be here if it were not for all the support I received before moving and after I arrived.