Moving abroad? Prepare yourself!
Passport renewed, visa stamped, suitcase packed, guide book read… All checked! It feels like you are ready to go abroad and conquer the world. Are you ready for a new adventure? Maybe you are a bit anxious about how the new place will be? An essential part of succeeding in a foreign country is motivation, openness, and natural curiosity to face a different culture. Without it, I doubt that all further efforts will be effective. Passports, visas, suitcases or guide books will not suffice. It is fundamental to prepare yourself for any international assignment. Honestly answer the questions below to prepare yourself for your next move:
Knowing what you want to achieve during your stay abroad is crucial. It will help you set goals, work towards them, and stay focused. It should also motivate you to gain knowledge and skills needed to accomplish what you have planned.
Aside from the reason of your stay abroad, it would be very beneficial to understand the advantages you can gain e.g. meeting new friends, travelling to new places, learning about various cultures, broadening your horizons or more tangible – completing an important project and getting promoted. I am very sure there are many personal advantages relevant to you that you can think of.
How do you imagine your life abroad? Would you like to take up a new challenge and work effectively with people from a different culture, use that opportunity for your own development, increase your communication skills, empathy, and patience? Or maybe trying a new hobby, learning how to cook new exotic dishes, or pick up on a new language?
Identifying potential mistakes or problems will help you to prevent them. I remember talking to someone moving to a country he had very negative stereotypes on. Because of a work style and values opposite to what he believed in, he was afraid of plenty of clashes and disputes. Benefits this person identified at the very beginning helped him to make a huge effort and try to overcome the above challenges.
Is there anything you think may challenge creating your ideal life image? It can be anything like a language barrier, living standards, absence of close friends, or cultural differences. Even small things may ruin your rosy expectations. Did you imagine going to the beach every day after work and it happened that the closest beach is actually two hours away from your office? Ooops! Not living your dream anymore? How does that feel?
As you understand now what you want to achieve throughout that experience, what your dream life looks like and on the other side what the challenges may be, is there anything you should learn about to prevent or at least minimise such difficulties?
You must be very excited about the trip ahead. I am also sure you worry about the basics, such as where you will live, which clothes to wear, buying medicine, and the favourite food you should carry with you. Do you need a visa, other important documents for work, vaccines etc.? Or maybe you think you will learn everything when you are there? It is important to consider learning a bit about the country you are going to in order to minimise the culture shock and start strong and confident.
How will you know you are effective in a different cultural context?
What does success mean to you? I have worked with many people who define success as forcing their way, opinions, and ideas without considering others. At the end they were sent to a foreign branch to solve a problem. Is it really what long-term success is? Link your definition to your answers to the first three questions. Are you living your dream life? Are you gaining the advantages you hoped for? Is the reason for you being in a new place fulfilled?
Aside from learning about the country you are moving to or going to do business with, is there anything else you could do to prepare yourself better? Do you know anyone who has an experience of living in or working with people from your new destination? Is it worth talking to your colleagues and wider team prior to leaving and getting to know each other’s expectations? It definitely will not harm you.
Is there anyone or anything else that can be helpful? Today’s world offers plenty of resources you can use to increase your cultural intelligence – an ability to function effectively in various cultural contexts. Use it. Link it back to the amazing numerous advantages you can win by leaving or working cross-culturally. Your motivation to do it is a key. Without it you will close yourself in a little bubble and survive somehow that time clinging on to your… passport, visa, suitcase and a guide book… have fun!