Working Abroad Tips: The Ultimate Checklist

Woman pinning pins on map

Working abroad can be a great opportunity to experience a different way of living and a different culture, as well as benefit your career by helping you expand your skill set and become an expert in your field. But the truth is not everything is easy when you find yourself in a new country. In fact, there are many things you’ll struggle with which is why I’d suggest that you take some measures to ensure that your adjustment period is as smooth as possible.

To help you make this transition smoother, we’ve put together a list of the top 10 tips for working abroad.

1. Pick a Destination Based on Your Character and Professional Aspirations

Countries like the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are popular relocation destinations. But the key to selecting a destination is to decide based on your personal preferences.

So think of your career goals, as well as your character. Are you the sort of person who aspires to become a leading financial consultant on Wall Street? Would you be happy living in the city chaos of New York?

2. Secure a Job before You Start Packing

Living in the moment and being spontaneous is great, but it’s not always very smart for your career. So, unless you’re taking a gap year, I urge you to secure a job before you pack your bags and move to a new country.

Most countries are not willing to extend a work visa unless you already have a job and your employer is willing to sponsor you. So, searching for a job after you get to your destination could hurt your chances with the authorities.

Besides, many companies across the world offer relocation packages which do not only take care of the visa process but also offer accommodation, etc. So, why not go this route? Start going through job boards and company websites and – who knows? – you just might find a very lucrative opportunity.

3. Start Saving Up

Ah, money – never a fun topic to discuss but if we’re being realistic, it’s what’s most important to talk about when moving abroad. Relocation costs a lot. Even if you’re moving to a country that’s relatively cheap to live in, you still need to have some money set aside.

Most landlords will need you to pay a deposit, and you’ll also need money to purchase things you wouldn’t even think about, so having a safety net is crucial.

My recommendation is to try and get a job back home, before you move, for three to six months for example, and save everything you can. If you already have a job, consider getting a second job for the evenings or so. It will be difficult, but remember that it’s only for the short while and it’s something that could make your life much easier in the long run. 

4. Research Your Destination

It’s important that you take the time to research the country you’re planning to relocate to. This includes reading about the local culture, its history, its people and their traditions. This will help you avoid cultural shock which is a common issue expats need to deal with, while it will also help you be better prepared to deal with the challenges that lie ahead.

Even if you think you know everything you need to know about your destination, because you have done a lot of research, it’s important to go deeper than the surface. Often learning the history of a place helps you understand its people and the way they think.

5. Embrace Cultural Differences

A lot of people move abroad and never really embrace the local culture. They continue doing the same things as back home, hanging out with other expats exclusively and going through the motions as they would back home.

But the true working abroad experience lies within embracing cultural differences. That doesn’t just mean eating in local restaurants every now and then, but it also means fully immersing yourself in the local culture.

Embracing cultural differences starts before you even get on the plane, so the first thing you need to do is to come into contact with people who either live in your chosen destination or who have lived there previously. Ask them about the local way of living and keep an open mind.

6. Learn About Employment Rights

It’s important to know your rights as an employee whether you’re working abroad or back home, but as working abroad comes with significant challenges, it’s crucial that you learn what you’re entitled to as an employee and what you can do if and when an employer oversteps their legal boundaries.

7. Learn the Language

If your mother tongue is English and have never seen the point of learning another language, it may be time now to readjust your belief system and consider learning the local language.

Learning the local language will help make the adjustment period much smoother as you’ll be able to join in conversations with locals and you won’t be forced to limit yourself to places and people where English is spoken.

Learning the language can also be an important addition to your CV in the long run, so seize the opportunity to expand your skill set and make new friends.

8. Figure out Your Routes

This may seem a bit extreme, especially if you’re considering arriving to your destination a few weeks before you need to start work, figuring out the routes will not only help you when you’re completely lost in the city and don’t know where to go but also help you make smarter choices in terms of transportation and renting.

Will you need a car to get around? Are the distances massive? Or is the transportation system poor? Understanding what route you’ll need to take to get to work will help you pick a house that’s more convenient and it will also help you save on other expenses.

9. Visit as a Tourist

If you can afford it, travel to your destination as a tourist before you move there. This will allow you to get a better feel of the country which can be extremely beneficial if the local culture is very diverse.

Visiting as a tourist will also allow you to do some interviews which can increase your chances of actually securing a job. It will also help you figure out which areas to target for getting a house, and you might also make a few friends.

10. Settle Everything You Can From Back Home

Another piece of advice that could make working abroad easier for you, especially at the beginning, is to try and settle everything before you get to your destination. This includes getting a house and a car, and other details like getting a phone contract, etc. Doing so will help make the move less stressful and it will also help you get better deals as you’ll have more time to research.

The golden rule of moving and working abroad is to prepare ahead of time to avoid any drama when you finally get there.

Do you have any other working abroad tips you’d like to share with us? Let me know in the comments section below.

This article was originally published in November 2016.