Going Overseas: The Right AttitudeiStockphoto
An honest self-assessment before going overseas is strongly recommended.
Going overseas is not for the faint of heart. Be honest with yourself:
- Do you crave routine, order and stability?
- Are you an introvert who finds networking exhausting and doesn’t make new friends easily?
- Do unfamiliar surroundings upset rather than energize you?
- Do you easily give up upon encountering difficulties instead of soldiering on?
If you have answered yes to more than one of these questions, you should rethink your plans for going overseas. Maybe you can muster the courage and determination to plunge into the unknown after all, but you should know that it may be a bumpy ride. All hard-nosed realism notwithstanding, the excitement and anticipation should always outweigh your fears and doubts when thinking of going overseas.
A Spouse or Family That Will Put Up With It
Unless you are single and without close family ties, your decision for going overseas will affect your partner, spouse, or family just as much as it affects you. You should never make the step of going overseas without including them.
If your spouse or family is not able or willing to accompany you when going overseas, you will have to find a compromise. In about 2/3 of the cases in studies of “classical” expat assignments, the spouse’s dissatisfaction is cited as the reason for returning home prematurely.
In case your spouse does decide to go along with your plans of going overseas, don’t forget to take their concerns seriously, and offer them your emotional support. Going overseas should be a positive challenge for your life as a couple, not an obstacle.
In your new country of residence, a lot of things may be handled differently than what you are used to, and more often than not, life goes at a different pace. You will have to be flexible enough to adjust your plan accordingly whenever necessary.
Be prepared to get used to a new environment with different rules, instead of trying to bend people to your will. Remember, it is you who are going overseas and will be living in their culture! And in the end, you may even find that you wouldn’t want to miss a siesta nap or an extended business lunch!
The Right Attitude
Without the right attitude, even the best plan of going overseas is worth nothing. You need to remain calm and focused when planning on going overseas and try not to let the stress get the better of you. If you have the right attitude, your new life will be a success in the long run. It’s also essential to handle culture shock well and not to fluctuate erratically between the tourist viewpoint of finding everything exciting and charming, and the cynical exhaustion of someone adrift in a foreign country.
Before going overseas, an intercultural seminar or guidebook is a wise investment. Managing life abroad does not only mean knowing the correct table manners for your company’s welcome dinner in Beijing. It also means questioning many things you hold to be self-evident about verbal and non-verbal communication, social hierarchy, and interpersonal relationships. Above all, being as agreeable and non-judgmental as possible will help you settle down and make new friends.
In the end, the success of your time as an expatriate will mostly come down to three things. An honest evaluation of your practical and psychological assets before going overseas, well-organized preparations, and the necessary soft skills for emotionally supporting your family and adjusting to a new environment, are all essential. Under these conditions, going overseas will still be a demanding experience, but also an extremely rewarding one.