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Moving Abroad For Your Career: How To Make It A Success?

As a global search firm, whether a tax professional chooses to relocate to (or from) the US, Europe, the Middle East, or Asia Pacific, we are here to support them. Our advice expands from the first introduction with our clients to negotiating and bringing the best offer on the table and the final stage of the process – relocation to a different jurisdiction.

We discussed before the benefits of working abroad in terms of career acceleration in Expert Guides and on our blog. In this article, we decided to approach the topic of moving abroad for your new role through a different angle. Interculturality is the secret behind a successful career move across different jurisdictions, cultures, and languages. We explore the topic of cultural shock and its relevance in a career move in other jurisdictions. We also discuss the resources behind preventing and overcoming the difficulties of cultural adjustments.

The 3 Stages of Cultural Adjustment

We asked several tax & TP partners we work with what it means for them to relocate to a different jurisdiction. When describing moving abroad, how it impacted their careers and how they made it a success, they described similar patterns of adjustments, which we choose to summarise below in three stages.

The Honeymoon – the first few days – up to a month

Most of what you see in the first few days is fresh and exciting. Exploring new locations, cuisines, and meeting new people can be energising. At this time, the benefits of being an expat will usually outweigh any disadvantages.

The Realization & Cultural Shock

In this stage, the honeymoon ends, and a more realistic vision of the rest of your new lifestyle and working arrangements begins. Now you begin to understand that working abroad means removing the ‘tourist’ hat and adapting to a different climate, culture, beliefs, and customs. This means an extra effort on your side, that may seem at first more demanding than expected.

Each experience that is brought by cultural differences teaches you about the need to prepare and adjust. After multiple adjustments to variations, one experiences the reality of cultural shock. That is, how different norms, values, and social arrangements can impact your life from working style and family life to your deepest personal needs and wants.

This phase usually requires commitment and a strong desire to succeed. It represents a crucial moment in your growth as a person. Overcoming it lays the groundwork for a future based on acceptance, openness to change, and respect to other worlds and cultures.

The Awakening 

The reality is that the first few months might be difficult, and it is important to understand yourself and if you think this is the right place for you indeed. The tax professionals we interviewed, often once settled in, eased into enjoying their host countries to their fullest extent, with all the cultural differences and similarities attached that become valued and truly enriching.

New local friends and other expats often guided them through the most attractive experiences the country has to offer and growing their social network made the place feel ‘homey’ at last. In fact, most of the tax partners we spoke to highlighted that they found in their new host country what they were missing at home – fantastic weather, amazing local fauna and flora, unusual foods, and beautiful traditions, not to mention the excellent career progression choice the tax professional opted in for! This is the time when the career move confirms as it delivered a resounding success.

What is Cultural Shock?

People tend to be afraid of change – and that’s why some of the tax professionals we interviewed said they would choose moving abroad for their career but not ‘too far’ – they would prefer to move to a country where there are no massive differences when compared to their home country. They assumed that the cultural shock will not be as bad as in other locations, thinking they would be able to learn about the culture quickly and overcome any differences relatively easily.

The effect of transitioning from one culture to another is referred to as “culture shock”. It’s a feeling defined by people who have worked, lived, or studied abroad; this is a familiar feeling that can even be felt to some degree while on vacation. Part of it means acclimating to a new world, meeting a large number of new people, and learning the customs of a new nation. It also involves the healthy reaction of being homesick due to being separated from important people in your life, such as family, friends, co-workers. The following are some contributing factors to cultural shock: values, ‘rules’ of behaviour, social rules, climate, food, language, and dress.

Professional culture shock can also be part of relocating to a new jurisdiction. Moving abroad for your career entails different working arrangements, procedures, or longer or shorter hours. All these ask you to promptly adapt to new ways of the ‘unknown’.


How to Prevent Cultural Shock – By Developing Our Interculturality Skills

The reality is that our interculturality skills have been already nourished by our surroundings and globalisation. To put it simply, interculturality refers to any situation in which people from various cultural backgrounds come together.

Interculturality is in all of us. It refers to the awareness and celebration of different cultures. Professionally, this can mean different perspectives, ways of doing business, approaches to problem-solving, to managing people. Practicing it is a matter of mutual respect and understanding, which will ultimately lead to authentic and strong relationships.

Improving intercultural skills is linked to your emotional intelligence. For example, it will be very difficult for an individual to overcome cultural shock if generally, they are unwilling to consider the opinions of others, if they cannot practice active listening and they do practice biased judgment that directs them into making snap decisions.

Emotional intelligence connects here to social skills such as respect and courtesy. The importance of communication, versatility, and humility, cannot be stressed enough in preventing cultural shock. Language skills can be important indeed when moving abroad, yet these fade in comparison to these ‘basic’ human competencies.

Expectations management is key in the process of moving abroad for a successful career and preventing cultural shock. Here is where the experience of our team at Mason Rak comes into play. Our powerful global network allows us to learn about the practical realities and local working styles in each jurisdiction. That is how we are able to share with you valuable insights when considering the best role fit for you. We make sure you settle in your new host country. We usually connect you with expats in the region, helping you build your initial social network.

With our help, cultural shock does not sound so scary after all, does it?

To summarise, moving abroad for your career will provide invaluable experience if you know how to manage your expectations and are able to practice interculturality skills. You must be aware of the emotions that will arise as a result of the excitement, cultural shock, and acceptance of what you will encounter. The most critical factor from a tax professional standpoint is to honour each other’s culture and learn how mutual respect and understanding ultimately lead to success in your career and personal life abroad.