The location. My assignment was in Japan. On the surface, this location seems like one of the less desirable ones since it is so far away. As it turns out, I think it is one of the best. Colleagues who had done assignments in Europe and Latin America, also thought Japan was their top choice. While an expensive country, Japan was very accommodating to foreigners and it was a very safe country. We enjoyed the Japanese culture.
The work experience. I had responsibility for the product development organization the region. In the U.S., my company is a big gorilla in the business. In Japan, we were a chimp, at best. Operating as a chimp is much different than operating as a gorilla, especially when the competitor companies are the gorillas. :-)
It was a promotion. The assignment accelerated my promotion by at least 3 years. In fact, I may never have been offered a promotion without the assignment, given restructuring and downsizing that subsequently occurred.
The compensation was good. My base compensation increased because it was a promotion. In addition, the new level had short term bonuses and long term deferred bonuses. And as discussed in a previous post, the adjustments for being an expat were generous, in most cases.
It was a great experience for our family. Living outside of the U.S. taught us a lot about our culture and other country's culture. I have now greater respect for cultures, businesses, and challenges outside the U.S. Our family also grew stronger as we faced our challenges of living abroad.
To note, I have seen an opposite effect on some families (about 10%), where the issues become more exaggerated by living overseas. This is a caution area if one is considering an expat assignment - current issues may become worse.
Of course, each person needs to assess their own person situation before accepting an expat assignment. There are many more factors than the one's I highlighted above. However, these were the top five reasons for why the experience was a good one for us.
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