Learnings from working abroad

Last Updated : 15 September 2021, 08:03 IST

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With 1.8 crore people, the Indian diaspora is among the largest in the world. The United Arab Emirates, United States of America and Saudi Arabia host the maximum number of Indians, as per a UN report. Once the Covid-19 restrictions on travel are eased, this number will likely see an uptick.

But before one embarks on a voyage to a foreign country and starts working there, knowing certain things can come handy.

According to Poonacha N H, who works in Saudi Arabia, respecting the local culture is very important irrespective of where one is working.

“I had friends in Saudi. So, I first enquired about the local lifestyle, and ways to adapt,” says Poonacha.

He says before going to any new place, it is better to have local currency to meet at least a day’s expenses. Also, downloading Google Map for offline use is helpful just in case one cannot access the internet.

Local language

Another useful tip before travelling to a new place is learning the local language, at least a few basic words and ways to greet each other.

Sachin Ganapathy learnt German before going to Germany. He also acquired basic information about their culture, their political system etc.

“One has to be careful of what the local people are sensitive about. Germans don’t like the usage of certain words and get offended by certain actions,” says Sachin. “Germans are helpful but not very friendly, but that is Germans being Germans. One shouldn’t mind such things.”

In the initial days, he would simply take bus rides and go to shopping malls to get a feel of how things worked there.

“Apart from language, it is useful to know the modes of payment and transportation, where food suitable for Indians is available,” he says.

Play by the rules

Knowing the rules, regulations and system in place is crucial.

Mohammed Aftab Ahmed, a Civil Engineer, working in Abu Dhabi, UAE says there is a lot of difference in terms of work culture between India and UAE.

“Here, everyone abides by the rules. We are expected to strictly abide by the standard procedures and comply with all the specifications. Things are more systematic in the UAE,” says Aftab.

“Before taking up a job, one has to take note of whether the company will provide insurance, accommodation, transportation service and if it will sponsor Visa etc. If not, then one has to calculate how much will all these incur and compare with the salary being offered. Only then one has to take a call on accepting the job offer,” he adds.

Communication and professionalism

Chinmayee B N works in the US, where she says companies value dynamism as the market is quite competitive. Also, there is a lot of focus on proper communication.

“People here are open to suggestions. One should freely communicate with managers, be it about any personal or professional problems, or desire for change in job role. Communication is the key,” says Chinmayee.

She says though colleagues maintain friendly terms, one should be professional. “Friendship does not dilute accountability.”

While she goes by ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’, she feels it is equally important to uphold one’s own culture. “Some people are inclined to acculturation, some are afraid of change. But it is ideal to strike a balance: retain and adopt positive traits of the two cultures.”

Several benefits

According to Spoorthy Raman, a science communicator currently based in Canada, working in a situation that is out of one’s comfort zone, like a foreign country where the culture, language or the society is different from where one grew up, is definitely not without challenges.

Yet, it has its share of benefits. “It gives a window into the culture of the land and a glimpse of what daily life looks like — something one would have to adjust to
as well. There is also an opportunity to learn a new language, pick a new hobby or a skill, or explore the city/country,” she says.

Often, these learnings will bring in new and different perspectives of how people around the world view their lives and what matters the most to them.

“Having lived in three countries myself, and visited a few more where I was more than just a “tourist”, I really found experiences in each of them rewarding. They added to my knowledge of the world, of cultures and of the rich history each of them hold. Being in the workforce, in any capacity, would add the colours of the ups and downs in daily life and the challenges one faces,” Spoorthy says.

Published 15 September 2021, 06:25 IST

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