Working overseas isn’t always a bed of roses. A bad day can be pretty rough (and you won’t necessarily have Marmite and Eastenders to look forward to at the end of it). A stoic mindset and not taking things too seriously can help make life a lot easier. You’ve made it further than most (literally), so cut yourself a bit of slack.
A recent report into expat behaviour by cut-e confirmed that a sense of humour, among other factors, can make the difference between sinking and swimming.
The study of 35 returning expats, as well as their managers, peers and subordinates, looked to see if personal characteristics could predict success abroad. Feedback was collected on each expat’s performance, their personal success, their communication ability and how well they integrated into the local culture.
And the results showed the following character traits:
- emotional stability
- openness to change
- cross-cultural awareness and sensitivity
- an ability to adjust to different customs
- perspectives and business practices
- strong interpersonal skills
- respect for diverse viewpoints
- a high level of autonomy and
- a sense of humour.
Based on experience and observations, I’d say that cross-cultural awareness and sensitivity are critically important. Get these wrong and the repercussions can be far-reaching, as evident here and here. While a new culture can be a bit of a minefield, publicly slagging off your hosts is an obviously bad idea.
Some digital nomads, who naturally choose their location, are acutely aware of this and make efforts to connect meaningfully with the local community. Steve Munroe of Hubud in Bali described this as “co-giving“. Similarly, entrepreneur Stuart Jones revealed how Coworkation was working with Bali Children’s Project to provide tangible assistance to those needing it most.
But not all foreign workers are digital nomads, and cut-e recommends that international assignees at least take a personality questionnaire covering values, motives and interests in advance.
Better still, in my opinion, would be to get out to the destination in question and take a few weeks to interact with the culture – you will have an inkling soon enough if it’s right for you (trust your gut), and perhaps avoid this fate: