Working for international projects is exciting and rewarding. At the same time moving abroad is a challenging and overwhelming experience.
The good news: "Good preparation is half the battle."
Here my 4 challenges.
Challenge #1: Language barrier
When you move to a country whose language you don't speak, it's difficult to settle in. I have always found it helpful to acquire some foreign language skills before leaving. It speeds up the process of settling in and making initial contacts. You will be surprised how great the willingness to help and provide information is, if the locals consciously perceive that you are open to the new culture and environment. Arabic: min fadlik (please), shukran (thank you), marhaban (hello) and when you go to the supermarket, do not forget šūkūlāta (chocolate), because you can buy this sweet delight anywhere in the world. 😊
Challenge #2: Social integration
Expatriates often arrive in a new country without family because it is not always possible to find a job for both partners, or the project assignment is only planned for a few months. Also, parents think twice before separating their children from their friends and school. People who have a large circle of friends at home often have the feeling of loneliness. My tip here is to quickly make friends with new colleagues and locals, and to keep in regular contact with your family back home. Consider starting a routine where you plan for video calls when you’ve got some downtime. The key is ensuring that your relationships remain active from afar. You need to find a balance, because constant connection with home is also not good and might actually prevent you from making meaningful connections with people in your new environment. I am currently living in a compound in Saudi Arabia, where people from all over the world live, but also people with permanent work permits. And although freedom of movement outside the camp is limited, I have already made many new contacts here – in the compound and at work. 😊
Challenge #3: Administration
When moving abroad administrative burden was always great. In the era of COVID-19, the preparation has become even more elaborate: registering, proving immune status, learning about local COVID-19 prevention requirements. Future employers, clients, the Chamber of Commerce, the Department of State and expat service agencies can help shed light on the administrative jungle.
Challenge #4: Healthcare
I know from experience that you will sleep much better if you have adequate global health insurance, as often the local health insurance plans in the host country do not meet your needs. This will save you stress and money in case of an emergency. It’s good for me to be able to rely on my private health insurance.
What are your challenges and how did you successfully overcome them?
PM&C: Competence for your project!