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One my friend got a job offer from Germany which he accepted. He is married and hence decided to go with his wife, he went to office on the first day but unfortunately his wife became ill and he had to come back to his home country immediately. He told the employer about the incident and since the joining formalities were not complete the employer decided to postpone the joining date.

Now, the problem is his wife couldn't adjust to Berlin due to its culture and food or language since they are english speaker and she has decided to not to move there. Now, he is stuck as he has told the employer that he is coming in next 15days.

The employer has invested a considerable amount of time and money and same with him as he was idle for 3 months as he was waiting for visa process.

How should he convince employer that he cannot join without being harsh or looking stupid?

Update:

I had a chat with him yesterday and he told me that his wife is in a serious condition she will be operated next week. He left his job three months back waiting for visa formalities to be completed. I completely sympathise with him because it was none of his fault in fact he went to office first day, if it was his own country then he could have managed things differently. I really feel shame for some people who are commenting like he should leave his wife and all.

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    @JoeStrazzere most employers expect professionals to sort out family issues such as moving to a new country out themselves, before committing and accruing big expenses for the employer. Sickness is ok, deciding they don't like a country, culture and food after one day is very different. – Kilisi Sep 6 '17 at 0:14
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    Did she actually go to Germany? Even if she has, it doesn't sound like she could have been there for long. – cdkMoose Sep 6 '17 at 1:18
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    "culture and food or language since they are english speaker" that sounds unconvincing. The vast majority of (young) Berliners speak English, there are a lot of expats from the whole world, so mentioning this to your employer could sound like a lame excuse. – FooTheBar Sep 6 '17 at 6:20
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    @john doe: A co-worker of mine, who moved with his wife from China to Hamburg, spend a three weeks vacation with his wife in Hamburg before signing a contract with us. It was fine for us to wait until he checked with his family if moving was an option. Had he just signed with us and then bailed the contract, I don´t think he could have done anything to save his reputation with us! – Daniel Sep 6 '17 at 11:41
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    If I was your friend, I'd find a new wife. – DLS3141 Sep 7 '17 at 3:00
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I'd say there is no real need to convince the employer of anything. The employer cannot make him travel there and work for them. What he needs to do is tell them he will not be able to join.

There's no need to be harsh in the communication either. And given that this was not something anyone could have expected to happen, he won't be considered stupid for it, either.

But what he will need to do, if he is certain about not being able to go out, is be direct, and be honest with the employer.

A message explaining the situation, along with an apology for the circumstances could look like this:

Due to unforeseen family problems, I have decided that I am unable to emigrate at this time. This means I will be unable to join the company. I am very sorry for this turn of events as I was very much looking forward to the job.

There's not much the company can do at that point; they will have to cut their losses and start looking for a new person. Which is also he'd want to send this out sooner rather than later; dragging it on makes it look bad.

As for the next time your friend looks for a job, he should probably spend more time thinking over the ramifications of moving abroad. It's a big change, for him and his family and everyone should have their expectations aligned on what it's going to mean. Including making sure everyone moving will fit into the local culture and is willing to leave their local friends and family behind.

(Since this situation also involves visas, make sure to check those as well. I don't think there's a big problem with not making use of them, but I can't be sure. You might want to check with the embassy about that. You might have to officially cancel it or something.)

  • Since few people discussed about legal actions here, I am interested in knowing what could happen and how it would affect his future employment? – john doe Sep 6 '17 at 13:19
  • @johndoe that is more of a question for a lawyer I think, but you can try and ask it as a separate question. (I'm a bad judge of what'll be closed as legal advice and what can be answered..) – Erik Sep 6 '17 at 13:20
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How should he convince employer that he cannot join without being harsh or looking stupid?

Repay their investment might help, but realistically his best option is just to be blunt. These things happen, but it's very unprofessional and says little good about his wife in the employers eyes.

However they're thousands of miles away so probably can't hurt him except perhaps legal action of some sort if it's warranted.

One other option is to tell his wife to support his career rather than drag him down. It sounds harsh, but she is a problem here that could be addressed. Many expats wives in my country detest the place, but are here in support of their husbands. Some husbands as well who's wives work here.

  • What kind of legal action can be taken? – john doe Sep 6 '17 at 6:55
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    I know that, you just make it sound perfectly normal and natural for the woman to sacrifice her happiness for the career of her husband. You'd think this would be a discussion about priorities as a family, not a "tell her she's holding him down". – Erik Sep 6 '17 at 9:38
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    @Erik that sounds better I guess, but I don't mince words with my wife, coming straight out bluntly is more my style, and that's pretty much how I'd phrase it, although I might interpose a pillow between us at the time for protection. And it is normal and natural for both men and women to make sacrifices for their spouses.... in my culture anyway. – Kilisi Sep 6 '17 at 9:43
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    I'm also quite blunt, but this phrasing to me sounds less like being blunt with someone and more just like expecting the world to revolve around your wishes and your career. Which might be one common way to run a relationship, but still not something I'd like to see in a good answer. – Erik Sep 6 '17 at 9:46
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    @Kilisi you are mixing two things, we all the know that a job offer is not the end of the world, she should sacrifice if it was the only option, in my opinion I would prefer to make my wife happy instead of an employer in far away country who would not think twice before firing me. – john doe Sep 6 '17 at 13:16
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I don't really understand how this situation unfolded on either side.

The "friend" seems to have not considered even in the slightest the risks of agreeing to this position without ever even visiting the country - not only in terms of his wife's wishes, but even in terms of his own.

I don't understand how the wife arrived at this determination that she didn't want to live in Berlin if she has never even been there herself. It's very possible she has been telling him all along that she didn't want to leave her current home, as well. We only ever get one side of the story on these points, and in this case it's third hand no less. Honestly it sounds rather like a convenient excuse to blame everything on the wife, here.

But mostly, I really do not understand why a company would invest so much time and money in a candidate who clearly has not taken the steps necessary to make an informed decision about moving to a new country and culture to accept the position. That is simply stunning and IMO the employer is just as naive and culpable as the employee.

Anyway there is nothing to do but simply tell them he is backing out of the deal. No he will not look good. No the employer will not admit any partial responsibility for not vetting him better. And no, he doesn't need to "get a better wife" - he needs to grow up and work these things out with all the people who would be (seriously!) affected by his choices before accepting job offers in the future.

ETA: regarding what recourse the company may have against him, he needs to read his employment contract carefully to determine what he has agreed to. In German companies, the notice period is normally two weeks (on both sides) during the probation period (which usually lasts 6 months), but of course it depends on the contract he signed.

  • They reached Germany, stayed couple of days, went office for signing the contract, in the evening she got sick. They got worried and decided to return back maybe she had some prior issues I don't know. – john doe Sep 7 '17 at 12:22
  • Based on your edit/update it sounds like she is very sick indeed. This is a completely different angle, and I can assure you, even after living in Germany for more than 6 years I still get nervous when faced with thoughts of a major health problem. The healthcare here is excellent - that's not the issue - but it is precisely when you are most vulnerable that the language/culture differences hit home the most. What a terrible turn this took for them! I think simply telling the employer "sorry but she is gravely ill and we just can't do this now" would be more than understood. – user76573 Sep 7 '17 at 14:35

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