How to handle a challenging move
International relocation isn’t always a case of swapping your comfortable life at home for another equally easy life abroad. Whether by choice or otherwise, you may find yourself whisked halfway around the world to take up a position somewhere most people wouldn’t dream of going.
But it’s not all stress and hassle. By keeping a few key tips in mind, you can overcome even the most jarring change and adapt quickly to life and work in your new country.
Meet Janice Diaz of Beacon Global Group. At Beacon, she’s Vice President for Marketing and Business Development, developing and maintaining relationships with clients worldwide.
Personally, she learned how to adapt to change in work and out when she left her native America for Israel ten years ago.
Now she’s comfortable anywhere in the world, and we got in touch with her to find out her top tips for expats facing challenging assignments. Who knows, you might never come home.
Research, research, research before you leave. There’s a wealth of information out there for any soon-to-be expat. But be careful what information you take in as fact.
“You always have to balance any information you come across,” Janice told us. “We all know the internet if full of negative information, but also full of happy, feel-good articles. It’s up to you to balance the two.”
“Especially as a woman, it’s very easy to become afraid. I was recently in Berlin for a month and reading online, there was one specific area that I was afraid of based on what I read. But when I went in there I realized it wasn’t even close to what I was reading about.”
It’s worth noting that cities are always in transition, and an area that your ten year-old guidebook may tell you to avoid might have completely transformed since the guide was published.
Get smart to cultural rules
Understand and respect your country’s social, cultural, and religious rules. “Every country is different. No matter how modern they are,” Janice said.
“People behave a certain way, and you have to be sure to behave the same way. Understand where you’re going and understand the religious practices. Whether you’re in Italy, France, or the Middle East, people behave differently.
Reach out and communicate with other expats, either online or in person, and learn as many of these practices as you can before you leave.
Generally, stay away from central tourist areas once you arrive. These areas won’t give you a genuine impression of a city.
“I try to find out where the locals eat and hang out, and just walk around and mingle in these areas. That’s how I start to connect to a place,” said Janice. “If I was new to New York I wouldn’t hang around Times Square. I’d head into Brooklyn or Queens. It’s the same anywhere.”
Expect the differences
You might find yourself somewhere non-western, and living standards might not be what you’re used to. Even the smallest differences can be jarring when you’re many miles away from home.
“When I got to Israel and rented an apartment, I walked in and said ‘where’s the refrigerator and stove?’ Janice recalled. “Then my husband told me that things aren’t done like that here. You have to go and buy everything yourself, and there’s certain days you can go do certain things.”
“Because of that, I go into a country with the expectation that things will be done differently. I learned after Israel not to look at everything through my American eyes, and adjust to the conveniences you may or may not find.”
Accept too that no matter how far or how often you travel, certain things will always pop up and shock you.
“I’ve been so many places that I don’t usually experience ‘culture shock,” said Janice. “But when I went to Frankfurt and saw the red light district, and how open it was and how in-your-face it was compared to the financial district, that was really shocking and uncomfortable.”
Janice’s top tip
“Never feel like you’ve lost a connection with your home country or your family and friends. For me that means I watch the news and use social media to stay in touch.”
“So just stay in touch and encourage people to visit you in whatever foreign land you’re in. Keep up the relationships and don’t isolate yourself.”
As Vice President for Marketing and Business Development, Janice Diaz is a digital marketing strategist, content marketer, idea generator, branding expert and transition specialist. She’s been maintaining relationships with clients in the United States and abroad for eight years with Beacon and is an expert on all things international.
Beacon Global Group and Beacon Financial Education do not provide tax or legal advice. None of the information on this site should be considered tax or legal advice. You should consult your tax or legal advisors for information concerning your own specific tax/legal situation.