Want to grow professionally and personally? Working abroad may be just what you need.
‘It’s been almost five years since I moved for work to England from France. And as much as I love it, it’s time to shed some truth on the challenges you could face working abroad.’
So before you start your job hunt in a new country, read all about the challenges faced by our resident French businesswoman in the UK.
Depending on your first language and the country you would move to, you might have to face the language barrier.
I am French and although I have lived five years in England, one year in Scotland and one year in America, there are still words I am not familiar with. Thinking about it, there are words in French I don’t know and it’s my native language, so it is no surprise that sometimes I have to go online to translate an English word.
I learned English through university and my experiences abroad. But working in England has definitely taken my English to another level.
It has become the language I speak most and now I actually forget words in French!
I used to be quite ashamed of my French accent, especially when someone did not understand me but I have managed to rise above and think to myself “this is not your first language, you can hold a conversation and do your job in a different language. Don’t worry about the accent”.
Although easier said than done when you feel like sometimes people don’t take you seriously at work because of your accent. So, it is important to keep your confidence up and remind yourself that working abroad is not easy.
The fact that you are doing so is a great achievement in itself! Go girl.
Each country is different and has its own culture – which is what makes our world so beautiful, diverse and exciting!
Depending on the country you move to, you could be immersed in a culture which is completely different than yours and you will have to adjust and fit in.
Being French and living in England you would think that it is not a great culture shock, but actually there are so many differences between both countries. Professionally wise, I have realised that the French system is very rigid, hierarchical and bureaucratic. It can be a positive thing as everything is really structured and organised but it can also be quite complicated when it comes to administrative matters.
In France, we have a difference in our language so if we speak to someone we have never met before, someone you work for or anyone you would have a formal conversation with, you would not use “you” to speak to them but a different subject pronoun which is supposed to be more respectful.
In my opinion, this straight away puts a wall up between people and I really don’t miss this part of the French culture.
I also realised that we, French people, are much more direct so I had to adapt and tone down my “directness” to find the right balance of being ‘British’ whilst still being me.
You’ll pick this up as soon as you start working for a company. Each office is different so just observe how people interact with each other to get a good idea of the company’s culture.
Do some research on where you are going and look for the key cultural differences so you don’t end up in an awkward or embarrassing situation.
A word of warning: It will happen, but it is part of the experience and you will laugh about it afterwards!
As part of the culture difference, you will also find that the professional dress code can be different.
In England, it is quite formal – Where I work, we are not allowed to wear jeans excepted on Friday.
As a girl, it is definitely easier to find clothes to wear for work and I still manage to bring my little ‘Parisienne’ style in my outfits.
Hours and holidays
Some counties will also have a different perspective on punctuality.
Always wear a watch! From experience, I know that American, German and English people are quite punctual but other places I have been to – Africa, Spain and Italy – are bit more “tolerant” and less on the clock.
Some countries, such as France and Spain also place more importance on lunch time. Most companies in France, especially banks and administrations have at least 1h 30 breaks during lunch time.
Holidays are also something you might want to check before moving abroad. For me, I’ve had to accept the idea of coping with half the amount of annual leave than I could have if I was working in France. And I love to travel but use most of my holidays to go back home…
Working abroad = living abroad and being away from home.
One of the hardest parts of working abroad? Moving to a new country on your own.
You don’t realise how important your circle of friends and family is until you’re in a different country. Alone.
Although, it will push you to meet new people and get out of your comfort zone.
If you stay in the city where you’ve always lived, you probably won’t try to make new friends as you already have your own old friends. If you live abroad, it’s a different ball game. You have to meet new people otherwise it is just you. (And that experience could be quite hard on your mental health.)
You can meet people through work but I really recommend that you also get a circle of friends who are in the same boat as you.
The website MEETUP is great to meet people who share the same interests – I joined the “international group”. The app organises events in various locations near you, where you get the chance to connect with so many people like you.
WARNING: In reality, I do often feel homesick as all my family is back in France. I have a nephew who is 3 years old and I know I miss key moments.
But at the same time, I am building my career up and living this amazing experience.
Who knows what can happen in a year time so it is important to live this kind of experiences now and have no regrets.
My home-sick remedy? I go back home every two months and the time I spend with my friends and family back home is high quality as we know we don’t see each other for a while.
My perspective on life has completely changed since I moved abroad and when I go back home, I will have such a different outlook on my country, my hometown, my culture, my heritage. I really appreciate things in a different way and I have definitely grown personally.
If you take one thing away from this article – aside from the challenge of working abroad – take the chance to get out of your comfort zone and thrive within the unknown. Because it will be a life-changing experience.
By Sabrina Boukhiba, She Biz writer and blogger at Chiccie Cherie.