The subtitle of Moving without Shaking by Yelena Parker says it very succinctly: The book is a “guide to expat life success from women to women.” As the author states in the introduction, it’s supposed to be a handbook, or at least a starting point, for the ordinary “woman next door” who’d like to live and work abroad.
Moving without Shaking is based partly on the author’s own experience, as well as interviews with about a dozen women boasting an international résumé. Ms. Parker herself left her native Ukraine for a graduate MBA degree in California in the 1990s and has lived in the US, the UK, and Switzerland in the course of her career.
A Comprehensive Guide to a Successful Relocation?
The premise of the book is highly appealing: After all, plenty of intelligent and resourceful woman are dreaming of starting over in another country, of exploring different cultures, or boosting their CV.
But, to paraphrase the guide, they aren’t necessarily CEOs, entrepreneurs turned millionaires, renowned authors and artists, or celebrities of any sort – in short: the kind of lucky person who can take a global lifestyle for granted. This doesn’t mean that realizing their dream is impossible.
The fundamental structure promises to explore a successful relocation in depth. The respective chapters cover all the factors, both practical and psychological ones, which will impact your personal plans for a future abroad: education, fear of settling, languages, cultural adaptation, career changes, relationships, networking, and attitude.
Unfortunately, the content doesn’t always live up to a promising start. Sometimes, the chapters do provide insightful discussions and helpful advice.
For instance, the section on cultural adaptation offers all expatriates-to-be some food for thought. It distinguishes between four kinds of mindset that most people have while living in a foreign country (tourist, student, expat, transplant), and then goes on to explain which one will help you the most in adjusting to your move.
Other chapters contain some excellent checklists that you might want to go through before starting a new job: For example, there’s an in-depth discussion of the benefits involved in expat compensation packages, as well as an extremely useful list of questions to ask regarding appropriate office behavior in various business cultures.
Practical Tips or Personal Stories?
I would have liked to see more sections like those mentioned above, or simply a more systematic approach to the topic in general.
At one point, the author says outright that she doesn’t believe in spoon-feeding people information. However, if you set out to write a guide for a particular group of people, spoon-feeding them some essential information is an intrinsic part of your task. Otherwise, your potential audience could just start googling without reading your book.
So, a few checklists more and some fewer personal anecdotes would probably benefit the book. Some of the stories about successful expat women vividly illustrate a point or showcase inspiring role models. At other times, though, they just obfuscate the main point of the chapter.
What Kind of Expat Women?
Lastly, I couldn’t help the impression that this isn’t a guide for expat women as such, but a guide for a clearly defined sub-group of expat women: those who move abroad for a degree course or for their first job in a corporate environment with competitive salaries.
But what happens if you’re 35, 40, 50, and are suddenly looking out for a life abroad? How do the conditions differ in academia or in the non-profit sector? What if you are in a long-term relationship or have children?
However, I appreciate that the author acknowledges the issue of having aging parents back home, as this is a question that even the footloose and fancy-free expat woman might have to grapple with.
All in all, Moving without Shaking makes some interesting points about the process of planning your move abroad. If it’s the book for you, though, depends rather heavily on your individual situation, as well as your personal preferences with regard to advice: If you’re the kind of person who loves crossing off items on to-do lists, rather than mulling over your problems in a chat with good friends, it might not be your cup of tea – or the other way round.
Thank you to Yelena Parker for the free review copy!
(Image credit: iStockphoto)