7 Unexpected Challenges of Working Overseas

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If you’re constantly imagining the things you haven’t experienced, wondering what life is like somewhere else, and picturing exquisite landscapes from around the world, then securing a job abroad sounds like a dream come true. Not only will you be living in a new country and satisfying all of the aforementioned possibilities, but you’ll be getting paid to do it!

7 Unexpected Challenges of Working Overseas

With all the visa requirements, moving logistics, and endless paperwork, the details of the workplace are probably the last thing on your mind while researching life-changing job opportunities abroad, but working in a new culture can bring all kinds of pros, cons, and just quirky challenges of working overseas that you will have to get used to. Read on for a quick look at some surprising details on working in another country and the difficulties of living abroad.

1. How Much People Care (Or Don’t)

Depending on the new culture you are working in, it may be a complete surprise how interested people are in your life. For example, take a job in Peru and expect the office to throw you a party on the first day; however, get hired in Germany and you might start bumping into people on purpose to try and introduce yourself. Wherever you are in the world, don’t let newness into your list of challenges of working overseas, and automatically expect a difference in greetings, behaviors, and customs.

Cool international jobs: Independent Work Abroad in Germany with Cultural Vistas or Aupair in Germany with Geovisions

Woman reading a city map
Get lost in the best way possible – choose to work abroad!

2. Forced Naptime

Lunch breaks are a beautiful thing abroad. This one perhaps doesn’t always fall under the “difficulties of living abroad” checklist, but it can prove a formidable adjustment for those who like to power-through the work day. An average work day in Spain and other European countries means a few hours in the middle of the day to take a nap, eat lunch, and enjoy a glass of wine. 

It should come with no surprise that other locations (hint, hint, U.S.A.) will want you back at your desk in 30 minutes and speaking with a customer – even while a bit of lettuce from your sandwich is still hanging from your lip. This switch in the daily work routine can make for a good OR bad 180 degree flip.

Cool international jobs: Hospitality Management in Spain or Teach English to Children in Spain

Closeup of a computer screen with typing fingers
Happily leave your computer screen behind abroad

3. No Overtime?

Brace yourself, some countries actually don’t encourage — or even allow — overtime. Add this to the list of challenges of working overseas (or not!). The theory is, once the day is done, your work is left at the office. For people working in Australia, your job is done at the end of the scheduled work day whether the tasks are complete or not. However, in Japan, you are expected and required to put in large amounts of overtime to finish whatever is handed to you. Again, make sure you consider these options when applying for life-changing job opportunities abroad — don’t assume everywhere will have the same work arrangements!

Cool international jobs: Australia Au Pair or Working Holiday in Japan

Flowers on Mount Etna in Sicily, Italy
Get a fresh perspective on life working abroad

4. I’ll Get There When I Get There

The expectations for punctuality around the world cover both ends of the spectrum. On one hand, in India, if you get your work done, there isn’t a single negative action taken for tardiness. On the other hand, this may be a huge shocker to most Americans who have spreadsheets that tally people’s presence at work down to the minute.

Cool international jobs: Work in Engineering or Media in India or Work in Accounting or Administration in the U.S.A.

5. Many Bowls, One Spoon

In many Asian and South American countries, sharing food is deeply ingrained in the workplace. It doesn’t matter if the portion is small or if there is only one spoon or fork, the dish will be passed around for everyone to partake and enjoy. This is a great way to connect with the other people around you as it is a social offering, but good luck to all the germaphobes out there (this may prove to be one of the greatest challenges of working overseas for you)!

Cool international jobs: Teach English Abroad in Vietnam or Work Holiday in a Chilean Hostel

Bowl of noodles
Slurp and share your way through a job abroad

6. Taxes, Man.

In many European countries, tax rates will feel huge compared to the United States. In London, they have a tax for everything. Want to sit? That will up your income bracket, sir. Plus, one of the great challenges of working overseas is that public healthcare systems aren’t free and you’ll see it with every check.

Cool international jobs: Work in Healthcare in the U.K. or Work in Engineering in Birmingham

7. Banks = BLAH

Perhaps one of the most annoying difficulties of living abroad – banks. So, they deal mostly in money, but the money belongs to people, which seems to be an obvious fact commonly overlooked. In many countries, banking can feel like a much more complicated process than in your native country. Sometimes, they’ll have endless paperwork to work through and the hours can be more limited. It will feel like you are entering some top secret vault (sadly, not Gringott’s) just trying to get inside the doors.

Cool international jobs: Work at a winery in western Europe or Teach Abroad in Fiji

Two friends in front of Big Ben in England
Taxes in England may be as tall as Big Ben, but don’t let that stop you!

Working abroad is absolutely the experience of a lifetime. It may be exactly what your routine-tired mind is looking for, but you should also be aware of the profound differences that may present themselves as the challenges of working overseas. Keep an open mind, though! You probably wouldn’t be looking into cool international jobs if you didn’t. That being said, if you are ready for some incredible adventures, a brand new experience, and a little money to boot, look at life-changing job opportunities abroad!

Wanting to embrace a change in scenery? Create a MyGoAbroad Profile today to get started!

Topic:  Before You Go