As the world economy continues to expand, individuals in the workplace will see many more opportunities to work abroad. You might be thinking: Oh great, a relocation that will take me from the comforts of my stable life and people I love. However, as an ex-expat’s daughter, I can tell you this is not the case. Sure, the transition is hard, but the cultural experience you gain from it is priceless.
Moving to a foreign country expands your boundaries, and creates a strong international network of people you can turn to for advice. Companies also benefit from these repatriates who gain a stronger understanding of international client challenges. Employees of the same company could have completely different mindsets in other countries, and these expatriates return with a fresh perspective which can be a valuable asset to the company. In order to ensure an enriching experience, here are 5 tips to keep in mind when you’re abroad!
1. Be open-minded
When you first arrive, you might experience culture shock, and be uncomfortable in this new environment. Remember that you’re not alone. When starting a new life in a foreign country, this type of reaction is expected. Although you may feel isolated in the beginning, you will eventually start to familiarize yourself, and be able to pick up on social norms. Try the local food, go to events, meet new people, and try not to let stereotypes get in the way. You want the full experience, and stereotypes may detract from that.
2. Study the country before arriving
Read through rules and customs that these countries may have. A lot of eLearning sites provide courses about etiquette in foreign countries, which can possibly save you from offending someone. What may be normal in one country may be extremely offensive in another, and it’s better to know ahead of time rather than embarrassing yourself upon arrival.
3. Try to learn the local language
Don’t assume that everyone can speak English. You might get by just fine in tourist areas, but in the local areas, some people are only capable of rudimentary English. In order to effectively communicate, the best thing to do is to overcome the language barrier that generally is the reason for misunderstandings in the workplace. No one expects you to become fluent in the native language right away, but they will appreciate the effort. Language and culture are not separate—embracing another culture means to make an attempt to learn the language as well. The last thing you want is for people to think that you are trapped in a monolingual mindset.
4. Don’t constantly compare the new place with your homeland
You will see a lot of differences between your own country and the new country you live in, but don’t be rude about it. Noticing the similarities and differences shows that you are observant and attentive, but if you’re making remarks about what is superior about your country, that can be perceived as rude. Don’t be the stuck-up foreigner who makes snide comments. It’s not a competition.
5. Understand the law and know your rights
Stay out of trouble in a foreign country. Stay out of trouble in general, but it’s especially difficult to deal with in a foreign country, where you may not have protection from your government. If you ever get stuck in some sort of legal business abroad, you will want to know what rights you have, and what procedures you should follow in order to fix the situation. We should always know about the laws that govern our lives, whether or not it is a temporary stay. You never know when issues could arise with work visas, insurance, or any type of document that could be an impediment to your stay.
Working as an expatriate is a great opportunity to spread new ideas, and to learn from individuals and companies that see the world in a different perspective than your own. Have you ever worked in a foreign country? What were some experiences you had, and do you have any tips for future expatriates? We would love to hear from you in the comments below!