7 Tips to Make Working Overseas Less Painful
With more companies expanding beyond their home country's borders, a lot of employees at both startups and well-established businesses are needing to pack up their bags and relocate to completely new territories. While this kind of growth is good for business, it can be a daunting task for people, as they try to learn the ins and outs of unfamiliar territory.
Fortunately, there are a number of services, platforms and information centers to make life working overseas easier.
Here are seven tips I have found the most useful.
1. Learn about the local life before you leave. Whether heading to Singapore, with its reputation as the world’s digital growth hub, or other similar centers, such as TechCity in London, the Mitte district of Berlin or the Liberties area of Dublin, you’ll want to know how to get the most from your trip.
One place to start is with one of the many sites specializing in country briefings, such as Expat Arrivals, or country specific publications such as Expat Living in Singapore. These cover everything from jobs, property and healthcare to culture, sports, education – some will even help you get married or find a pet hotel.
2. Don’t make work any more taxing. The U.S. tax system is notoriously complex, in fact, according to CNBC, it could be one reason why every year a few thousand people renounce their U.S. citizenship.
However, for the six million Americans who work abroad but choose to keep their U.S. passport there is no escape from their tax filing obligations. Companies such as Greenback now offer online -- and in some cases app-based -- tax advisory and filing services.
3. Stay safe and healthy. Wherever you go, you’ll want to look after yourself. Before you embark on a new journey in a new country, research international health services that provide health and safety profiles of countries, cities, even specific districts as well as emergency phone numbers (such as for the best pharmacies and hospitals). Also arm yourself with a handy "drug translation" tool to help you find the local name of any household or prescription medicines while abroad. One company that I have seen do a pretty good job of providing these health and safety services for international travelers is Aetna.
4. Get plugged into a network. A healthy social network is as important as a strong business network, so make sure you start building yours before you arrive. Not only will it help you feel less isolated but also you can benefit from other travelers’ experiences. You probably don’t want to be confined to an ex-pat enclave (since you’ll get to know a place best by meeting the locals) but services such as Expat Network and InterNations can help you meet fellow citizens who understand the issues you’ll face as a new arrival. They also produce guides to specific locations and on various issues such as finance, insurance and cultural differences.
5. Plan your trips. Working overseas is extremely demanding and frequent trips between countries can be the most demanding part. That’s why online tools, such as Tripit Pro, that enable you to plan and manage your travel itinerary on the go (by email or app) could help relieve some of the stress. Not only can you link your flight, hotel and restaurant reservations, but you can also get alerts to travel delays and help finding alternative flights -- so there’s less chance of missing important appointments.
6. Keep up with the latest apps. Whether it’s local maps, maps of your airport terminal, maps of museums and coffee bars or mind maps, there’s an app or digital tool for it. Also there are a number of instant translation devices, such as TripLingo and Verbalizeit, to help you cope with the basics of life in most countries.
7. Use Uncle Sam’s services. The U.S. government provides a range of online tools to help you manage your affairs as a citizen abroad. These include help with your passport, electronic voting in Federal and State elections and advice on what to do in an emergency (such as a natural disaster or civil unrest). It also offers the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which provides you with a link to your local embassy or consulate and updates on security conditions in the country you are visiting.