Making the Move Abroad

In the spring of 1992, I received some news that was music to my ears. My brother-in-law’s company was transferring him to Genoa, Italy, for three years. It was crushing for my parents as it meant their only daughter would be far from home. For me, it meant a place to crash while taking in the sights of Italy and enjoying summer days on the Italian Riviera. In August 1992, I made my first trip to visit with the new expatriate couple.

The directions my sister provided sounded easy enough. Take a flight from New York to Rome and then catch a connection to Genoa where she would meet me at the airport. Upon arrival, and much to my surprise, I was met by my sister driving my brother-in-law’s Honda Prelude, Florida license plates and all! The sight of this puzzled me as much as it puzzled the Italians, who would invariably point to the car and comment on the Florida license plates. Every trip in the Honda turned into a game of counting how many heads turned and fingers pointed at the sight of the little white Honda with Florida plates.

I was excited to be in Italy, but little did I know then that I was getting my first lesson in what it meant to be an expatriate. For my brother-in-law, this was his opportunity to show the top executives at his company his understanding of managing and growing an international business. For my sister, this meant packing up life as she knew it and taking it all on a great adventure. The logistics were daunting. Most of ...

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