The following is a guest post.
The best thing about working abroad is that no two experiences are alike. There are, however, common mistakes that many workers make when their careers send them abroad, and those can be fixed before they have a chance to take a toll on your travel experience. Here’s a very basic guide for how to make your time working in another country a pleasant one.
Don’t expect to break the language barrier right away. If you’ve ever marveled at how Julia Roberts’ character in “Eat Pray Love” dominated the Italian language in just a few short months, you’re not alone. The truth is that becoming fluent in a new language takes much more time than that for most people. The best way to overcome this mistake is to commit to memory as many “survival phrases” as you can–such as how to introduce yourself, how to ask for directions and how to order food–and you’ll feel less pressure to memorise vocabulary and drill yourself with grammar practice. Because giving yourself room to learn a language by heart instead of by practice make the process a fun one.
Study the culture before arriving. Cultural norms can be precarious because it’s often the little gestures that we make that can make the biggest difference–such as giving money with your right hand in Korea or interchanging “United States” for “America” in South and Central America. You probably won’t be able to predict all the tiny ways in which you can offend the people in your new destination, so make sure to pick up a book about the culture there and then commit to memory how you should present yourself so that you can start off on the right foot.
Have a contingency plan for mishaps. In the excitement of preparing for a new adventure, it can be a real drag to have to make financial plans or to think about what you would do if you got sick or injured, but these steps are just as important as packing your suitcases. Above all, you should make sure that you have travel and health insurance; it also helps to contact a firm like Irwin Mitchell that can give you the rundown on what to do if you have an accident at work while your job sends you abroad.
Don’t mistake culture shock for a dislike of your new home. Everyone goes through it–culture shock. By definition, it won’t hit you until the honeymoon phase of your work stint abroad is over, but once it settles in, it hits hard. It’s important to be aware of culture shock so that you can identify your feelings instead of mistaking them for a permanent dread that will make you eager to pack up and leave. It also helps to avoid generalisations about your new home country or its population, which only tend to make your culture shock worse. Instead of focusing on how different everything is, try to appreciate the newness of working in another country.