Common Challenges of Living and Working Abroad

London is a global city and living here sometimes means being presented with global opportunities. Professionals are increasingly being relocated to new offices in the continent and elsewhere abroad, often in emerging economies.

We previously discussed some of the finer points of finding somewhere to live in London. This time we want to hone in on some of the challenges facing those not moving to the City, but away. Sometimes far away.

Language barriers: Unless you’re being sent to a part of the Commonwealth or to the States then chances are an international relocation will involve learning a new language. It’s okay to fall short of fluency upon arrival, but don’t settle yourself into an isolated existence on account of never learning the native tongue. Getting out and about regularly is a great way to supplement the company-provided language learning software, but not exactly easy for full-time workers. Watching television helps – especially the news – and is more likely to fit into the daily routines of busy professionals.

Cultural differences: Nothing typically intimidates newly arrived expats as much as understanding and respecting the culture of their adopted home. Forget about planning for a completely smooth experience, it isn’t going to happen. Faux pas will occur and awkward interactions may ensue. It’s easy to feel like a vulnerable fish-out-water in these situations, but just remember how similar we all really are in the end. Humans are complex creatures and many centuries of living in distinctive, separated communities finds us living life a little differently here and there. But we all laugh, cry, and want ourselves and our loved ones to be happy. It’s the same everywhere. Forgetting to take your shoes off is really no big deal.

Moving logistics: The marvel of being able to travel to a far away land is nothing compared to the art and science of getting all your important possessions to your destination too. It’s a good opportunity to get organized and cut loose of unnecessary possessions. This will require long distance movers with the means to coordinate with partnering services across borders or oceans. More importantly, perhaps, is the need to find somewhere to live. Leading moving services can help with this too. Apartment or house hunting abroad is a good opportunity to not only get to learn the language better but also acquire some street smarts about your new city. 

What to do: Once arrived in a new city it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the opportunities for things to do. If you’re a busy professional the problem is complicated by limited amounts of free time. Museums, markets, landmarks, parks, restaurants, clubs, et cetera – what should be “taken care of” first? Do what you want, when you want. Don’t feel obligated to sight-see when you’d rather dance, or bar hop when you’d rather enter an art exhibit. Make an effort to get out there, but don’t make it agenda-oriented. Treat your new city like your old one – enjoy its many offerings as you please.

Where to meet people: Relocating abroad can be a lonely enterprise, especially when you’re making the move alone. Meeting people can seem like part of a cycle you can’t break into, wherein learning the language is key to contact, but learning the language requires contact with people. The best place to begin is at work. You’re likely to make a friend or two there at the very least, who can in turn help you better learn the language and local customs as well as introduce you to others.

The ever-increasing rate of globalization of service and industry means more and more professionals are being tasked with overseas assignments. The transition can seem like all struggle and little fun at first. But looking at these challenges as opportunities to learn and improve is key to successfully settling into a foreign city. If all goes well you’ll be dealing with the final challenge of never wanting to leave.


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