Working Abroad

Making the Most of an Overseas Placement

It takes time to adjust.

© iStockphoto/LDF

Despite the march of globalization, corporate culture is far from uniform across the globe. From Bangladesh to Bermuda, cultural identities remain strong and effect how people work and interact. If you're about to embark on an overseas placement with your organization, it's advisable to prepare well for what could otherwise be a sharp culture shock.

Companies still see huge benefits in sending people to do a stint in their offices abroad. Maybe you've been particularly successful in your field, and your company wants you to replicate that success in one of its international branches. Perhaps your organization values its staff getting a fresh perspective from time to time. Or it could be that you've requested a transfer, keen to sample a new culture and experience a different lifestyle, or simply to escape the weather back home!

Whatever the reasons for your move, changing countries or continents throws up all manner of challenges. In this article, we highlight the main issues you need to consider as you begin your time overseas, and offer some practical tips that should help smooth your way, both in the workplace and outside it.

The advice here applies to extended periods – six months or more – spent working abroad, which involve setting up home in a new country. For more about making the most of shorter trips, see our article on Surviving Business Travel  .

What to Expect

Some people find moving to a new country with a different culture and language much easier than others, but it generally takes three to six months to feel at home in a new location. At the start of your stay it is not unusual to experience feelings of frustration, confusion, and loneliness; and to doubt whether you've done the right thing. You may get frequent waves of nostalgia about how things are back home. And, of course, all these feelings will also apply to your family if you are taking a partner and children with you.

Before You Go

Do Your Research

You can reduce the potential stress, headaches and embarrassment that come with a move to a new culture by spending time researching the norms and traditions of your next location before you set off.

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