Traveling or moving to another country are two extremely different ways of experiencing a new place. Living in a different part of the world needs extraordinary organizational skills, such as bureaucratic overcoming barriers or banal challenges such as paying an electric bill or understanding the political climate of the country.
Becoming an expat, is truly a once in a lifetime experience and gives most, who are willing to face up to the challenge, a way to take that next step in life. Oftentimes, the opportunity to move to another country are rare though and are only given to skilled and highly-educated employees who are willing to face the day to day challenges living in another country may bring. Becoming an expatriate comes with numerous benefits and advantages that local work or your home country often can’t provide. From housing to free education for your kids, there’s no denying that being given the opportunity to work abroad for your company is definitely something to strive for.
While it can be a hefty addition to your long list of accomplishments, the idea of becoming an expatriate is worlds away from actually being one. Although benefits are plentiful, numerous overseas workers often quickly regret taking on the challenge of working away from home.
If you’ve been handed the opportunity to become an expatriate but you aren’t sure about whether or not you should take on the role, find out what it really means to be an overseas worker with these pointers.
The Challenges of Being an Expatriate
- Differences in Language – One of the biggest difficulties expatriates face is the difference of language which is particularly true if you’re traveling to a place that doesn’t speak English as a secondary language at the very least or it’s considered rude to not try to speak at least the native language. Once you walk into your new office, you will quickly realize that not everyone will understand what you’re saying and this could spell big trouble for the projects, programs, and responsibilities you have to accomplish. Oftentimes, your company might not even give you the appropriate training and courses to help you learn the new language, so striving to understand the people around you will have to be your own effort. Another issue here is that because you’re performing duties for your company, there is not very much time for you to spare for learning. While we are at it, there are also numerous free online language resources that help in becoming acquainted with the language.
To address this problem, get in touch with your company to see whether they have anything to offer you to bridge the language gap before you take on the job. By discussing your concerns with them, you put yourself in a better position to learn the language before you set foot on foreign soil. Most companies do offer the opportunity for extra training and are glad that you’re taking the initiative. Learning a language can also be fun, as both similarities and differences can be found over time:
- Cultural Differences– Maybe where you’re from, a simple handshake would suffice as a greeting, but now that you’re working abroad, that may no longer be applicable. Some cultures find it rude when you don’t bow down during a meeting, others find it disrespectful when you fail to perform a certain gesture during a conversation. While this might not seem like such a big problem right from the start, you will start to realize just how important this is once you begin meeting with other industry leaders where you’re working. The last thing you want to hear is that you were declined for a project because you were rude. Understanding and realizing cultural differences are an integral part of becoming part of a larger community and being accepted.
To make sure that you don’t accidentally disrespect or offend anyone where you are, ask a local to give you a crash course on the do’s and don’ts of their society. Usually, your company will hire a guide for you at the beginning of your stay. See to it that you make the most of your time with this local and ask them any all questions about local culture.
- Educational Disparity – Back in your home country, education was structured like this, and curriculum was set up like this. But now that you’re in a foreign land, that all seems irrelevant. They will most probably have a completely different educational structure which might put you at a loss especially when business discussions start getting in-depth. It’s important to keep in mind that information might not be the same everywhere all over the globe. Countries located in Asia, for example, use different references and bodies of knowledge in sciences as compared to western countries. This could become the root of many different debates and disagreements.
Another thing about education is the kind that is granted for your children. There are expats that are given the opportunity to take their families with them, and this means you will have to enroll your children in a school that’s in the country you’re working. If you don’t intend to have them stay there for life, they could be at a disadvantage when you finally return home.
The best solution to this problem would be to enroll them in an international school. If you were in Paris, for example, you should choose to avail of education at the American school of Paris where standards of education are the same as what’s available in other areas of the globe.
- Daily Challenges – Where exactly is the nearest grocery store? Who do you call when this happens in your home? How much do things normally cost? Some of the other problems expats face have little to do with work and actually greatly affect their personal lives. The daily tasks of everyday life as an expat can be made unbelievably challenging if and when you toss in the difference in culture, language, and social norms. Many expats find themselves having to pay more for local products because many locals know that they probably don’t have an idea as to how much these items actually cost.
If you want to steer clear of these issues, you would be much better off buying your products and goods at local grocery stores where prices are fixed and cash registers exist. Try not to engage in haggling until you truly understand the ropes of the culture to save yourself from spending more than you should. Remember, even though you’re probably spending allowance, it’s always a good idea to stay away from frauds, bogus sellers, and phonies just hoping to make an extra buck off of an unsuspecting foreigner.
Lastly, because you might not be familiar with the roads and inner streets just yet, make sure you always have a map with you, yes a physical map, as the internet might not always be readily available. It would also help to have a map application on your phone (obvious choice) so that you always have an idea as to where you are. It’s hard enough to navigate a place that’s hardly familiar – it turns quickly into danger however when you get lost.