Gina Tonic

Dear Gina,

As many of you may know, there are some countries where expats can go and there are reciprocal agreements on recognising driving licences. Then, there are some where there is no such agreement, but tests can be taken in English. And then, naturally, there are other countries where there is no reciprocal agreement and the test cannot be taken in English. How dare they, right?! At least, that’s the thought of some expats I dealt with in that third scenario. Not only would they refuse to learn the local language in a country where it’s actually quite tough to try and get by only in English, but one of them actually said these words: “they should be grateful we are here”. Can you imagine how well that comment did not go down?

Expat Academy Gina Tonic

To set the scene of the meeting where this ridiculous comment was said, we – the Global Mobility team – had travelled to the host country to specifically meet as many of a large group of expats there as possible, and to hear about anything relating to their relocation experience. One of the items we knew would come up (as we’d heard it before) was the driving licence issue. To summarise, no, we do not have the influence within a host country government to change their laws, regardless of how useful the work being done is.

But Global Mobility are enablers, not no-can-doers. So, some suggestions included: funded language lessons with a tutor specifically teaching ‘driving’ language; we researched a translator being able to sit in the back of the car (that’s not allowed); travelling to a ‘reciprocal’ country where the test can be in English and passing a test there followed by returning to the host country (not an option, they have to be resident in that third country); and a fourth option that would involve completely re-negotiating the entire contract on which the expats were in this host country. The fifth option not explicitly concluded after the previous four, but pretty obvious with a raised-eyebrow-hard-stare, was: learn the language.

Jump ahead a couple of years where this issue drowns out and resurfaces again periodically, and there’s knowledge that employees are driving around in the host country illegally because they haven’t learned the language, haven’t passed the test, but need to get around. That’s bad, but what more can Global Mobility do? There is a point where everything has been researched, everything has been suggested, and individuals need to take responsibility too – it’s not all one way. For example, wouldn’t it be terrible if – inevitably after a while – someone gets into a road traffic accident…uninsured due to their illegal driving. Well…it was terrible because it did happen. Miraculously though, no one was seriously injured and by some very unusual circumstance, the other person involved took all blame! Nevertheless, even in such circumstances, police take details, don’t they? And here’s where the miracles continue: rather than prosecute, the police – noticing the illegal status of our driver – tell him to go back home; and by ‘home’ I mean the country. Words to the effect of: “get out fast, or we’ll take this further”.

Often, Global Mobility seem to need horror stories to get the attention of the business to act more compliantly. Now that got the business leaders’ attention.

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