10 Challenges to Working Internationally
Working in other countries is not mystifying. Good manners, good sense and a happy family are the key ingredients.
If everything else works and any member of your family hates the experience you’ll be moving home soon. if you can make them part of the advent, you and your family can become true internationalists.
A key is to remember all the things that go wrong in your home organisation. The same will happen when you shift jobs but without the cultural comfort of known surroundings you’re apt to become a grumpy complainer, poor-talking your new location.
So, your own attitude, your family, your collective sense of adventure can make working internationally an exciting component of your life.
But if you’re not comfortable with people from different cultures in your own country, in the name of all that’s holy, stay home and savage them. At least, you share citizenship.
So, are you still interested? Is the other side of the world still calling? Many have done it and they’ve survived.
Working internationally can be stimulating and exciting. You go beyond your comfort zone. Your skills to reach out to other cultures are tested.
You get a first hand experience of living and working with other cultures. Your mind and you imagination as well as your heart expand to accept things that are different, to make room for what is new.
The challenge can look enormous in the beginning but as you get deeper into the experience, you’ll discover the skills to go through it. For your family, it can be an experience that will shape their lives.
Here are a few of these challenges:
Many countries now have a good variety of accommodation. Many of these are now listed online so you’ll have an idea of what is available. You can look at pictures, amenities and ask your questions in the site, forum or from those you know who are already living in the country.
It might even be better to stay a week or two in a hotel or until such time when you are clear about the place you want to be in.
Do not immediately put a deposit on a place unless you are ready to stay there. It is hard to get your deposit back in cases when you change your mind. This just happened to friends of ours and there is no recourse unless you spend more for a lawyer whose fees will be more than the deposit you’re going to lose.
Many countries now have international schools with standards at par with those in your own country. The teachers often come from your own country or countries with comparable education standards.
However, these schools can be expensive so negotiate with your employer. It is easy to make an online search of these schools and the fees they charge depending on the level your kids are in. You can also home school them as some parents do.
3. Travel and Transport
Getting passports and visas as well as insurance and vaccinations when you have a family can be a stressful process.
Add to this, flights, hotels and ground transport when you arrive. Also, hiring transport for your family use or getting your license with permits to allow you to drive in the country you’re in.
In some countries, these are all easy to arrange but in others, this is a maze you don’t want to get into. Get your local office to do this for you. They often know how to go around this better than you do.
4. Phones and Internet
This can be tricky in some partner offices. Sometimes, they don’t work very well and the requirements to get a phone and internet connection can be a puzzle. Ask a local you trust in the hotel or in the office to do all these for you. Give them some money for the work they do.
Recently, when we arrived in our rented apartment in Phnom Penh, we immediately asked the receptionist that evening to get us a Sim card and some load for our phone. The next morning, he came, installed the Sim and our phones are up and going. No hassle for us at all.
When you have small children, this can be an issue. There are sites now to find out from other expats what you can get locally.
You can also bring enough if what your kids need are not available in your destination. I once mailed a box of WASA crackers from Canada to Phnom Penh. More and more now, many of these countries have most of the essentials you need.
6. Work Expectations and Requirements
Working with an international team has its own unique challenges. Many times, your think you’re understood but when nothing happens, you know that you missed something.
Get one in your office who speaks your language well and identify the person as your go to or ask the person to be present in meetings. This is even more beneficial when this person also has influence in the group and can easily approach the decision makers. This will make your life very easy and will eliminate delays and mistakes. Or, in some projects, there is a budget for a translator.
It is always useful to learn a few words before you get into a country although nowadays, many of the locals would prefer to practice their English with you if you are an English speaker, or their French or Japanese. However, learning the language when you can especially when you’re staying longer is a big help. The locals are often helpful in helping you say it correctly.
8. Work Team
Often your team come from different countries. They bring along with them their own culture as well as past experiences of working with an international team. Get to know and understand them. The work has to be done so go beyond personalities and focus on the results.
Many times, you will have local counterparts or consultants as part of your team. Also, your Boss is local and they have the full respect of their staff. What they say is important.
Make sure you include your local team in the meeting and consult them about local requirements. Also, refrain from criticising the country and the people during meetings. It is not good manners. Raise the problem, focus on the issue and ask the local help on how to handle these.
9. Health Needs
In most of the countries you will be going, there is always a topnotch hospital or clinic to serve expats. If not, an hour away by plane will give you this. Ask your embassy. They often have very good information being in the place or search online for expat blogs in the country of your assignment.
Make sure you have insurance not just for yourself but for your family. Read the fine print and purchase what you and your family need.
10. Meaningful Engagement for Spouse and Kids
It is difficult for spouses to get jobs in many destinations. Also for kids to easily find friends. This may not be work related but when these problems come, you know that they can affect your success at work.
Portable involvement for your spouse, volunteer activities and other families with kids same age as yours can be explored before your trip. Have family discussions on how you can handle these. Your kids and spouse will definitely have their own ideas.
Many of these challenges can easily be resolved. Nothing is insurmountable and there are lots of help.
Know that when you refrain from losing your temper and just take the steps, chances are these challenges will disappear.
Look at them as avenues for knowing more about the country and expanding your contacts.
Have I forgotten something? Please add in the Comments section.
If you are planning to work internationally, what is your most important concern?
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