For the adventurous worker the advantages of working abroad may seem self-evident. As someone who has spent most of his working life abroad commented, “I would not be here if it were not better to work here than back home.” However, for a family venturing away from home for the first time there may not have been too much choice in the decision to move. Often it is a career move that is vital for the survival of the family.
Once the decision has been made to move, do not dwell on the challenges you will face. Instead remind yourself and your family of the advantages and how all challenges can be overcome. They are simply an opportunity to grow personally and in your career. Some advantages for working abroad are:
Travelling. An opportunity to travel to other countries from your base is often made easier when you work abroad. If you have children, their education will often be improved by travelling.
New skills. Initial isolation experienced while adjusting to your new country may encourage you to develop new skills such as working online. Learning a new language will help you to fit in with your new life, and it will widen your social circle. It will also help you to understand the culture of the people of the country more.
Teaching. Depending on your job role, you may have the opportunity to teach your own language to local people. This can help to overcome cultural barriers.
Broadening Horizons. This involves leaving closed communities back home to embrace a wider experience of the human condition and this can only improve one’s vision and personal growth.
Culture enhancement. A good way to understand your own culture and customs better is often through learning how and why other people do things differently. For example, you will no longer think people who refuse to shake your hand as aloof and disrespectful when you understand the reason why they bow instead.
Improved Workplace Perspective. Adapting and conforming to new rules and regulations broadens your perspective and improves your ability to cooperate with workers or negotiate with management.
Tolerance. Often when communicating comfortably in our own language we tend to become lazy communicators, to the point of being incoherent. When trying to be understood whilst abroad, we are sometimes compelled to become more tolerant of the other person’s difficulty to communicate because of our own shortcoming in this regard, which forces us to be more articulate. Different accents can also take a while to be understood, so tolerance is required from both communicators.
Tax. In some countries one can work tax-free. Make sure you thoroughly understand tax laws.
Any challenges encountered are best seen as opportunities to become self-reliant and improve problem solving skills.
A few tips on how to overcome challenges:
Overcome subtle racism by showing the racist the similarities between different races.
Reduce isolation by keeping connected to family and friends regularly through the internet.
Start a blog on your challenges and your experience of living abroad.
Make a yearly visit home, so that your children get to know the family.
Get involved with your children’s school activities. The working spouse must constantly reaffirm stay-at-home partner by showing appreciation for their cooperation in the venture.
Find expatriate groups online to exchange stories about your challenges. Join a local expatriate group if one exists or start one if none exist.
Keep weekends free for your family and explore new surroundings as much as possible.
Accept invitations from local people to social events, not only for the entertainment value, but also as part of your learning.
Find work that can be done online to keep yourself occupied.