Going overseas is not for the faint of heart. Be honest with yourself:
If you have answered yes to more than one of these questions, you should perhaps rethink your plans to relocate to a foreign country. Maybe you can muster up 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.
Unless you are single and without close family ties, your decision to make a new home 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 you go 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. Discovering a new foreign country together 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 you are used to, and more often than not, life moves at a different pace. You will have to be flexible enough to adjust your plans 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! It is important to take the time to really try to understand the other culture and learn from it. And in the end, you may even find that you can’t imagine doing without a siesta nap or an extended business lunch!
Without the right attitude, even the best laid plans for moving overseas won’t get you far. You need to remain calm and focused when you are making your preparations for 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 being someone adrift in a foreign country.
Before going overseas, it may be wise to invest in an intercultural seminar or guidebook. 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, living overseas will still be a demanding experience, but also an extremely rewarding one.