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How to adjust to the new work mindset abroad?

Moving abroad usually means either having been offered an overseas placement or looking for a job in a new unknown market. Either way, you will have to face a new mindset, new codes, new way of interacting and networking. This can be especially tough when the culture of the locals you now depend on has very different codes from the ones you are used to. How to overcome these differences?

1. Find the right network

First and foremost, stay open! The way the locals interact may look inappropriate to you or even inefficient based on your own habits. Bear in mind that for them, being efficient may not have the same meaning and may not require the same actions.

For instance, when we go to a networking party in London, we all ‘pull out’ our stunning business card as soon as we utter the word, ‘Hi’! In Paris, that is the very last thing to do… First, you must have a gentle introductory talk, try to befriend the persons you talk to and if the connection is there, then you may finally hand out your business card. There are specific rules to abide by. The sooner you know them, the better you’ll feel. Of course, it does take time.

Finding the right network for you based on your role and field will help you navigate the challenges a new culture necessarily brings. There are different organisations you can ask to be a member of, for some you may need to pay a monthly or yearly fee. They are of great value since you will be able to get a better grasp on the locals’ codes, the job market as well as on the work mindset. Learning from the locals is the best and faster way to climb the ladder and navigate any potential storms.

2. Choose your battles

Yes, this may sound obvious but once you are in the new work environment and in your guts you know you are right but you have to deal with a rigid hierarchy with a big ego, believe me, you will have to swallow quite a lot. That’s also part of cultural differences.

So be wise and choose the battles that are meaningful to you, that can help you be understood and help you get the job done properly. Each and every time you feel a reaction, a response is not constructive enough or a clever move should be done straight away and it isn’t, think of the topic you want to address and if this will really make a difference to the team, your work, your role or the company performance. If it will, then find a way of approaching it that can be accepted by the CEO, managers or team, according to their codes.

3. Find the right job for you

A tricky one. Depending on the country, labour market opportunities can be drastically different. Think about it before the move. You could check whether there are opportunities in your field or your spouse’s field in the country you’d like to move to before taking the leap.

Remember that a move means that your spouse will also have to adjust to a new culture and work environment, that she/he will also need your help.

Regarding overseas placement, you will have no other choice but to adapt. Try to get as many details as you can before the move to prepare yourself and your family. Once in the host country, talk with colleagues, ask other locals how the job market is, get a better idea of the wages offered, the fields that keep hiring and why. It is always good to know where you stand and make any changes when needed.

And of course, you can always get the support of an expat living in the host country who thus understands the ups and downs you are experiencing and offers appropriate tips.

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