What you need to know for working abroad

Global Citizen By Kristie Kwok December 12, 2019

This article was created in partnership with Western Union.

For many professionals, it’s hard to think of an experience more rewarding than working abroad. Expanding your network, learning a foreign language, developing new skills and building lifelong memories — exciting opportunities await globetrotters who travel across borders for work and adventure.

If you’re about to embark on such a journey, it’s wise to start preparing now. After all, you want to make the most of your time in your host nation and ensure your transition goes as smoothly as possible.

Diverse destinations

As reported by Bloomberg, HSBC’s recent expat survey reveals just how far-reaching the global workplace has become.

Countries like Switzerland, Singapore, Canada and Australia have long been favourites for those working abroad. And now, a number of newer expat magnets, including Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam, have been added to the list of top 10 countries to move for work.

The diversity of this list reminds us that even if your host nation is accustomed to welcoming new faces to its shores, there are still language and cultural factors to keep in mind when you live and work in another country.

One word at a time

Language plays a key part in adjusting to a new country, given that mutual understanding allows you to get involved both socially and professionally.

Of course, for most of us, being able to speak conversationally in a foreign language takes time. But don’t worry — the bulk of your skills will come as you interact with the locals. That’s why it’s important to get daily practice in speaking and listening to the new lingo and conversations around you.

You can get a head start by learning basic niceties such as “hello,” “thank you” and “sorry.” Or, if possible, you can take a few language classes before arriving in your host country.

Get cultural

Another key to expat success is being genuinely interested in the local culture.

Finding out about popular foods, favourite pastimes, social etiquette and the local sense of humour can inspire amazing experiences and help you connect with others.

Professionally, understanding local values and attitudes toward work will enable you to thrive in the workplace. Familiarise yourself with things like assumed working hours, how to address managers and colleagues, hierarchy of organisations, and customs around verbal and non-verbal communication.

If you’re planning to apply for a job at your destination, it’s a good idea to be on top of cultural differences that could impact how you write your CV, go through interviews and negotiate salary.

Money moves

There are also cultural norms around money to consider. Whereas it can be a social faux pas to talk about your own wealth in some countries, in other places, it’s a common way to gain social acceptance.

When you take into account your host nation’s attitude toward saving and spending, and information on cost of living, you can be better prepared to live and pay for the local lifestyle. It also allows you to draw up a budget so you can start sending money back home sooner, either as gifts for loved ones or to build your savings.

Even payment decisions are influenced by cultural factors, so don’t be surprised if locals have different preferences and habits when it comes to sending and receiving money.

For example, although some countries embrace the convenience of mobile payments, others approach unfamiliar technology more cautiously. That’s why Western Union strives to build the an expansive money moving network by providing a range of options, like sending money virtually or in person, and receiving funds via bank account or cash pick-up. You can simply choose what you, or your recipient, believe to be the most reliable way to send and receive money.

There are many cultural factors to consider when you’re working abroad. But above all, remember: A positive attitude, an open mind and a sense of humour will go a long way toward making your destination feel like a second home. So, get out there and start your adventure — there will be nothing quite like it.