Working overseas is more than an opportunity to get paid while you vacation. It’s a chance to get a much deeper travel experience, to know another way of life, and to meet a whole cast of characters that can enrich your life.
However, it’s not as easy as some might imagine it to be. It can turn into an unmitigated disaster for the ill-prepared. Let’s take the time to figure out what you need to know and do before you take the plunge.
Finding the opportunity
First of all, you need to look at what kind of work you’re willing to do and where you can do it. There are volunteering efforts all over the world, for instance, that can help you do some real good while covering many of the costs of your stay.
A particularly popular option is teaching English overseas. However, as popular as it is, that also means that it can be quite competitive. If you have other skills to teach or offer, you can greatly improve your chances of getting the spot.
If you know more than one language, your options can open up even further. Plenty of international companies look for fluent linguists to help their offices operate.
Be ready for the costs
As you might imagine, working overseas will cover a lot of the costs of accommodation, commuting and feeding yourself. However, in order to take the leap in the first place, you’re going to need to put some savings together for those initial costs.
Some of the costs of working abroad include the travel, shipping furniture, purchasing white goods on arrival, and you might have to pay for the visa process.
Depending on what companies or programs you join, you might have some of these essentials prepared for you or you may at least get some help with the costs. However, it’s best to prepare as if you’re going to be handling them all yourself so make sure you take plenty of time to prepare your savings.
Make paperwork a priority
Working overseas also means moving to live overseas. Even if temporary, this can be a long and convoluted process. Make sure you do your research on how to get a visa for the country you want to work in.
The employer or program offering the job may have some resources to help with this. Otherwise, you need to ensure that you have all the documents you need on hand for the journey. This includes your passport, driver’s license, marriage or divorce certificates, if applicable, health insurance cards and more.
If you get a form of ID specifically for living and working overseas, carry it on you at all times. In some countries, you can be temporarily detained for simply lacking the ID you’re provided with since it’s your only proof you’re living there legally.
Avoiding culture shock
One of the biggest problems with any kind of long-term travel plans is that if you don’t know about the country or region in advance, the culture shock can be so immense that the rest of your stay there becomes miserable. The single best way to avoid that shock is to find the opportunity for a shorter vacation there in advance.
If that’s simply not practical, then it’s all about reading up. Talk to expatriates or others who have worked there online, find bloggers who are currently living there, having grown up elsewhere. Learn from the experience of others who are making exactly the same move that you are.
Know the property market
In some cases, you may have a rental property picked out for you in advance by whomever you are working with. In other cases, you need to find your own place. Make sure you scan the property news to find suitable long-term rental accommodation and pair up with a real estate agent that knows both the area and what your needs are.
Location in relation to your new place of work is the most important thing but being close to tourist-oriented areas in certain countries may mean that you could be surrounded by more people who speak your language. You also need to make sure you have access to grocery stores, transport links, and other essentials.
Find some friends over there
It’s easier if you have the opportunity to visit ahead of the move, but even if you don’t, there are plenty of ways to start building connections with others who are already living and working abroad. For instance, there are social media apps specifically for expatriates. Finding people to talk to in the months leading up the departure can mean that you have people ready and willing to help you grow acclimated to your new surroundings. Just remember to exercise plenty of precaution when meeting people for the first time in a foreign country. Stick to public places and make sure that whoever you have at home is kept updated on who you’re meeting and where you’re going.
Answer living expense questions in advance
Many of the jobs available overseas, such as teaching English, do not offer the most glamorous lifestyles and impressive paychecks. You’re going to need to know how to budget for your everyday living expenses in advance to know what kind of lifestyle you can afford based on the wage you’re getting paid.
There are websites outlining the cost of living in cities and countries all over the world. Do your research and you can dig a little deeper, finding the average cost of utilities, groceries, transport, and much more. Whatever figures you find online are subject to change depending on the particular area you end up staying in but it can at least help prepare you somewhat.
It takes a lot of preparation and more than a little research, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth it. Working overseas can be an eye-opening experience, great for building your career, and can introduce you to some of the most important people you might meet in your life. It’s worth more than a half-effort.
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