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From expat to global citizen

Phillip M Louis, an American living and working in Oslo, is
a regular contributor to Views and News from Norway.

When you define “expatriate,” you clearly find the following terms: One who has taken up residence in a foreign country. As for “global citizen,” it’s the concept of citizenship on a global level and with global involvement. This applies to many of our readers who live abroad, whether here in Norway or elsewhere.

The difference suddenly confronted me, when my status changed from being an employee of Citibank based in my home country, the US, to insurance company Gjensidige, based in Norway. The Oslo-based company bought up Citibank’s operations in Oslo.

It helps to realize that while working abroad, the very foundation that you know well may quickly change. In a sense, it moves you from expat status to global citizen.

I’d been working for one of the world’s largest financial services networks, spanning 140 countries with approximately 16,000 offices and 200 million customer accounts worldwide. It gave me the opportunity to learn and develop as a professional while seeing the world as an expat.

Now I’ll be working for one of the leading players in the Nordic general insurance market, which also offers online retail banking, pension and savings products. Not a bad operation to be part of in these turbulent times.

My years under the “Citi umbrella” will now fold and it’s time to embark on a different and new opportunity. Many of you may have also made this kind of transition abroad with various companies. The truth is, once you’ve crossed borders or seas or both, your options as an expat become much more concentrated. This applies to those of us within large companies and smaller business, and let’s not forget the entrepreneurial expats who made the decision not only to work abroad but also establish a business venture. Hats off to you, as this is not an easy task even in your own homeland.

As an expat with a major corporation, some think job security is a given. Yet many of us have faced cutbacks, setbacks and adjustments. Choices have presented themselves, forcing decisions on where or whether we’ll fit into today’s corporate society. Here are some helpful tips while abroad:

** Live smartly! No need to be excessively frugal but enjoy the life-work balance.
** Save frequently. Always have a nest egg to fall back on.
** Reconcile often. Know where that little nest egg stands.
** Enjoy your surroundings. Continue to immerse yourself in the local culture.
** Maximize the tools you already have with you, from your laptop to your bus pass.
** Set goals. Always have a road map for where you’d like to be next year, in three years, or five.
** Communicate effectively. Understand what you are asking for and be clear.
** Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Nothing worse than being away from home and ill.
** Keep your paperwork in order, like your passport, work visas, family documents.
** Have a “Plan B” and a “Plan C.”

With the recent personal transition from my parent company, I think I’m now a global citizen. Void of a homeland company, I’ll be working under the specific care of a foreign business entity. You need to be in it to win it. I think I’ve won an opportunity to continue developing, increase local language usage, become part of a major local corporation and expand horizons along the way.

You may have a similar story. Please share your experience.

Phillip Louis worked for Citibank International in Oslo and has been living in Norway since early 2008.

(Written November 2, 2009)
Views and News from Norway/Phillip Louis

Earlier “expatriate musings” by Mr. Louis:

Nature at its finest
Destinations to the world
The brow of a Norwegian

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