Maybe you’re working overseas to send money back home. Or, maybe you found your dream job in a foreign country. Whatever motivated you to work abroad – dreams of a better future, a gap year before college, or an overseas assignment – chances are there are challenges and obstacles you didn’t anticipate.
Navigating a new language, a new culture, and a new working environment comes with a learning curve that can be demoralizing at first. If you’re feeling stressed due to this transition, these tips are for you. Here’s how to maintain a positive attitude while working abroad.
Your home away from home is often the people who make you feel most welcome. Find a way to meet people with similar interests to yours. Building a community can give you a welcome support system, or even distraction if you’re feeling a little homesick. “By volunteering, you’ll have something else to do, you’ll make a positive difference, and you’ll also meet like-minded people. Plus, who knows where these new friendships will lead?” writes one expert.
How can you find your community? Use sites like Meetup and Facebook Events to workshops, happy hours, volunteer opportunities, and more. Join a club, a sports team, or a professional organization. Make it a priority to show up each week and connect with familiar faces – this can help you build your network and find the people who are going to help you stay positive.
When you’re just starting up in a new job and a new country, things seem hard at first. Learning where to shop, how to communicate, and what unspoken customs your workplace expects sometimes come with a steep learning curve. Day-to-day life can feel overwhelming as you get your feet under you and learn how your new home works.
As a result, it’s important to keep morale up by celebrating small wins. As the writers at GoAbroad say, “Something as simple as knowing your way to the grocery store or ordering a drink in the local language can be an accomplishment. If you redefine what success working abroad looks like for you, you’ll be able to celebrate these seemingly small (but actually kind of huge) accomplishments.”
There’s a healthy balance between immersing yourself in your new life and staying in touch with your friends and family back home. On one hand, you want to commit to joining a community and forming friendships with your coworkers and neighbors. On the other hand, you don’t want to disappear completely from your loved ones in your home country. Many workers overseas find it helpful to have a dedicated weekly Skype session where they can be assured of a time to catch up with their friends and family. Others create a blog or a weekly email where they can keep in touch with the goings on in everyone’s life. Do what works best for you to keep in touch with your loved ones without missing out on all the new experiences your new job has to offer.
It can be shopping for your favorite breakfast cereal, listening to your local radio station from home through the internet, or just making your favorite recipe from Grandma. Take a little time to do something meaningful that you miss from your home country. If you’re near an embassy, check to see what events they put on for the public. Many embassies offer programming for expats, which can be a great way to meet other people and celebrate the things you love about your home culture.
Sometimes, half the battle of staying positive is knowing what to expect. If you understand some of the key differences between your culture and your new home, it’s easier to integrate with your professional environment as well as your new community. Learn some basic vocabulary words, as well as customs around dining, greeting, and being on time. By showing that you’ve made an effort, your new coworkers can see your willingness to learn and help you adapt more quickly. Likewise, it saves you from potentially demoralizing embarrassing situations. As one expert on Monster.com advises, “Avoid being an expat casualty.”
Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans