If you just landed a job in a foreign country or are being transferred there by your current employer, you’re likely to be excited at the thought of the adventure that’s lying in store. At the same time, you’re well aware that it’s a big step. While you might be tempted to pack your toothbrush and hope for the best, a little preparation can go a long way towards an easy transition.
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Here are the things you should do
1. Get Your Finances in Order
Thinking about contingencies and getting your financial life in order before you leave is arguably the most important thing to do before you set out. Talk to your bank about your plans, expected arrival date, and the duration of your projected stay. Set up automated payments if you have financial commitments that you usually handle on an ad hoc basis and check on international access to your bank accounts.
Neglecting this step could leave you in dire straits. That counts even if your company has promised to cover all costs and provide a comfortable living allowance. Glitches like unscannable credit cards or your employers’ accounts department miscalculating the currency conversion could leave you high and dry.
Make sure you’ll always have access to extra funds. If you can loosen up a cushion from investments, do so. You may not be planning to use those savings, but if you find yourself in need of them, having quick access to a contingency fund could save you a lot of stress.
You also need to think about international insurance. That includes travel insurance and medical insurance. Of course, you’re going to do your best to avoid worst-case-scenarios, but it’s always wise to plan for the worst while still expecting the best.
2. Study up on Your Destination
You might think that you already know a thing or two about the country you’re headed for, but if you haven’t visited it yourself yet, a little extra research is in order. Try to absorb as much information as you can on the local culture, dos and don’ts, and how everyday people deal with basics like transport.
For example, if you’re headed to Singapore, the superb rail network will be your top choice for transportation and knowing a little about it before you leave could save you last-minute panics or the need for summoning one of Singapore’s good but notoriously expensive taxi services.
No matter how high-level you are, you are going to other people’s countries to work, and a little courtesy goes a long way. While you might think your manners are good enough to pass muster anywhere in the world, you might be surprised at some of the things you need to do, or avoid doing, to prevent yourself looking boorish and ill-mannered in a foreign country.
Since some of the locals you’ll be dealing with are clients and colleagues, getting up to speed with local norms could save you from alienating people you really need on your side. You’ll also make friends more easily. Taking the trouble to learn how to greet and thank people, for example, is a special touch they can’t help noticing. It shows respect, and they’ll respect you for it.
3. Cover Your Family’s Needs
If you’re going offshore with your whole family in tow, leaving “details” like which schools to send your kids to for the last minute could be a huge mistake. Many of the best international schools around the world have long waiting lists. Start making arrangements for your family’s daily needs and routines as soon as you know for sure you’ll be working abroad.
Expat networks are accessible online, and many of them have great question and answer forums. Make new friends and get valuable information at the same time. Find out about the neighborhood where you will be living and what it will take to reach commercial districts, schools, medical centers, and leisure facilities. Since expats tend to stick together, it’s quite possible that some of the people you meet through expat networks will be willing to help with your orientation in person. That’s worth gold, so jump at the chance if it comes your way.
No matter how exciting the thought of working abroad may be, the move will be stressful for your whole family. Minimize meltdowns and create realistic expectations to make the transition easier for your loved ones. The more you all know before you set out, the easier it will be for all concerned.
4. Travel Light, but Not too Light
Even if you’re planning to pack your entire household into a shipping container, less is more. Aside from getting rid of or storing things that will cost more to transport than to buy new on the other side, you also need to decide what’s going into your luggage. Prepare all your most important documents including your international drivers’ licence and plan your wardrobe with weather contingencies in mind.
And although you won’t be traveling with the kitchen sink, the things that you do want to ship can take a long time to arrive. Consider getting your shipping container dispatched in good time for it to arrive just after you do – that could mean up to six weeks before your departure date.
Working abroad is an adventure, but it begins before you even leave. Plan carefully, and your arrival can be a “happy landing.” You will need positivity, patience and your preparations should ensure that you’ve covered all the bases. These tips should help you to get that right. Moving abroad is no small task, but getting over rough ground smoothly is just a matter of planning.