Gina, please tell us a bit about yourself. How did you come to work at International AutoSource, and what does your day-to-day work entail?
I was introduced to “life as an Expat” from a friend of mine who spent many years abroad. As an American Expat living in the United Kingdom and France, she experienced different cultures and overcame many obstacles to assimilate.When the opportunity presented itself to join the International AutoSource (IAS) team back in 2011, I was excited to learn more about this niche community. My years working for IAS have truly been a rewarding experience, making a difference and helping Expats with their relocation challenges.
IAS provides Expats and repatriating Americans the ability to lease, finance or purchase a vehicle without a local credit history. Most Expats are typically unaware of these challenges when they relocate. As Senior Field Marketing Representative for IAS, I handle the day-to-day planning and execution of our marketing campaigns and initiatives. I work with different departments to generate awareness so Expats can find the help they need.
Earlier this year, I helped spearhead the launch of RelocateUSA, a new resource website for Expats. RelocateUSA partners with industry experts in all facets of the relocation process to provide a comprehensive resource of relocation solutions all in one place. This experience has allowed me to broaden my knowledge and understanding of the global mobility industry beyond transportation. Relocating is not an easy task, and it was very exciting to work with partners in the industry. Our website connects Expats to the services they need for a seamless transition.
IAS has recently released a study of expats around the world. Could you tell us a bit about the study?
The idea of “The Expat Review, Volume 1” came from a team brainstorming session about testimonials and feedback we had received from our customers. We decided to dive deeper into the Expat relocation experience and find out from the customer perspective, what goes on during the journey. A group of recent IAS customers were randomly selected for the survey and asked four open-ended questions about the challenges faced, major cultural differences, and advice for future Expats relocating to the United States. From all the responses we received, we started to identify commonalities and trends between each Expat’s relocation experiences. In addition to the questions, we collected demographic information to define our sample. We also included some U.S. transportation statistics and information on credit to supplement the study.
We were able to provide the global mobility community and other Expats with a source of unbiased information straight from fellow Expats. We wanted to be able to educate them on what to expect and provide advice from other Expats on how to overcome these challenges. As a result of the study, we confirmed some of the challenges that we were already aware of, such as credit, and shed light on new surprising statistics such as income. We discovered the average Expat income is 147-percent higher than the median household average in America, as recorded by the 2013 U.S. Census Bureau.
What would you say are the main challenges facing expats today?
Expats around the world face many of the same challenges as Expats moving to the United States. Upon relocation to the United States, most people face obstacles like finding a place to live, moving household goods, lack of credit history, transferring currency and finding a school for their children.
Documentation is another challenge faced, and specifically in the United States, obtaining a Social Security Card. Forty-three percent of the Expats surveyed cited documentation as their biggest challenge. For most Expats, English is not their first language and getting documentation such as a driver’s license and bank accounts, can be a struggle. Plus there is the added stress of translating every conversation and document into their native tongue.
The Expat Review focuses on people who have moved to the USA – how can they overcome some of the challenges faced?
Credit was cited in “The Expat Review, Volume 1” as a main challenge since many people do not realize that their credit history does not transfer from country-to-country. A credit score is based off a person’s history with lenders and determines eligibility for things such as credit cards, car loans, mortgages, etc. Ninety percent of lenders such as banks use credit scores to evaluate the potential risk posed by lending money to consumers. Expats can overcome these challenges by obtaining services through providers that have specific programs and services that cater to the Expat community.
Transportation is another challenge that is often overlooked before relocation and becomes one of the top priorities after relocation. Over eighty-seven percent of people in the U.S. commute to work by driving. Due to the poor U.S. infrastructure obtaining a vehicle a necessity. However, Expats struggle to finance or lease a vehicle without a U.S. credit history. We help Expats overcome this challenge. Obtaining an auto loan is a great way to start building a credit score in the United States.
One of the main concerns people have about moving to a new country is how to make relocation easier on their families. Do you have any advice for expat parents?
Families tend to have a hard time assimilating to life in a new country and family issues are frequently cited as a key reason for an Expat’s assignment to fail. Eighty-four percent of the Expats surveyed in our study moved with their family. It is best to plan ahead and prepare your family for the challenges they may face during the transition. This includes creating a plan for how your family will start over well in advance of their relocation. Keep your family’s needs in mind when selecting the neighborhood where you will live in, and the schools the children will attend.
There are also many resources and services available to help the family transition and acclimate to a new country and environment. Partner/spousal support and cultural and language training are all great services to consider.
The study is entitled 'Expat Review – Volume 1' – can we expect a Volume 2? Are there plans for follow-up research, and what will this focus on?
Yes, we are currently in development of the Expat Review, Volume 2 which we are looking to release in early 2016. Without giving away too much, the next edition of The Expat Review will expand on some of the notable discoveries made in volume 1 while taking a more in-depth look. We are investigating how Expats prepared for their relocation in advance and the outcomes associated.
Finally, what do you do in your spare time?
I am an avid traveler and always love exploring new places and experiencing different cultures. Perhaps that’s why I love my job so much! When I am not traveling, I live in Brooklyn, New York and enjoy staying active, participating in triathlons and exploring life in one of the biggest cities in the world. New York is home to many Expats, which allows me to interact with the Expat community both at work and in my day-to-day life.
International AutoSource is a US-based company catering to the personal transportation needs of expats. You can download your free copy of The Expat Review: Volume 1 here.