Going on assignment in a foreign country, although stressful, can be exciting and professionally rewarding. For first-timers, it can mean having to learn a lot of new information very quickly. Unlike a relaxing vacation, where you’d have time to learn about the new country at your own pace, those on assignment often have to learn a new culture while fulfilling all of their job responsibilities. To make that transition a little easier, here are four tips to help first time expats land on their feet:
1. Do your research
Before you accept an assignment, do your own research about the country of destination. Learn as much as you can about the culture, rules of polite society and how business is conducted. If you find yourself reading with a growing excitement, that’s a good sign. On the other hand, if the more you read, the more doubts you get, it could be a red flag. Not only should you research the country, you should ask plenty of questions about what your living and working situation will be like and what will be paid for by the government. Ask for a letter of assignment and read it carefully. While an LOA isn’t a contract, it’ll give you a good idea of what to expect.
2. Don’t treat your assignment like a vacation
When working abroad, it’s important to remember that you’re moving to a new country to work as a representative of your company. Eventually you will have the free time to explore your new surroundings and relax, but you when first arrive, it’s better to focus on the work at hand. Once you’ve settled into your new living arrangement, make a solid effort to build relationships with your new coworkers and learn everything you can about your new responsibilities. Julia Bryan, an expat living in the Czech Republic, speaking with Expat Yourself, reported that you should strive to treat your new country with respect – doing so will not only open you up to new experiences, it will make it easier to accept major cultural differences.
3. Make a plan to learn the language
Even if you’re moving to a country where many of the locals speak English, you should still make a concerted effort to learn the native language. It could help you in business situations, make you seem more affable, and you never know when you’ll hail a taxi with a non-English speaking driver. The Huffington Post recommended finding a structured way to learn the language to help you stay on task. That could mean enrolling in classes at a local school or even using an app on your smartphone. Learning even a few key phrases can help you with daily tasks, so start learning before you make the journey.
4. Be humble
Living in a foreign country, you will find yourself relying on others much more than you did in the U.S. The sooner you can accept this, the easier your trip will become. Be grateful whenever someone helps you out, and look for opportunities to pass on that kindness.
Was there a time that a complete stranger helped you out in a foreign country? Tell us the story by tweeting @MSIGTS.