There are a lot of factors surrounding the decision to work abroad. Most of the time, it’s done to explore the proverbial greener pastures. Whatever the reason, certain realities dawn on many people when they start working abroad. These may not be shared by every single person that chooses this life, but they all experience at least one of these.
Language and Culture Gap
The most obvious and readily apparent issue one encounters when beginning their career in a foreign country is the language difference. Not only does it prevent them from communicating, but it’s also a constant reminder that they’re in a place that’s not home. That can also make the most trivial tasks, like ordering food and accessing public transportation, incredibly daunting.
Working in a country with a similar language or studying a foreign language beforehand can help, but it’s essential to understand how language is a manifestation of culture. It’s a product of centuries of shared experiences. Even if a person can speak the language well, bridging the culture gap will still require time and consistent, conscious effort.
There’s no place like home, regardless of how much better this foreign country seems to be compared to one’s native soil. Even when people travel with their whole families, there are still things that they inherently miss from their own country. From certain types of food to how people tell jokes, from government policies to business practices – these are all things that people notice and miss, even more so the longer time they spend abroad.
The familiarity that people miss is more than nostalgia. According to Psychology Today, familiarity is something that can keep negative emotions at bay and even cause happiness.
People can eventually gain new experiences and build new connections with another country.
Although communication technology has come a long way, especially with the surge in popularity of the internet and social media in recent years, there is still no substitute for firsthand experiences. No matter how certain apps and software can make people feel like they’re “there,” it’s still worlds apart from actually being present. That is enforced by the fact that only two of the five senses are being activated.
According to King University, the knowledge that one is missing out can cause feelings of social exclusion, isolation, and even anxiety. It has become especially prevalent now because of social media.
Those who leave their families behind have the added difficulty of not being readily available to participate in milestones and help in crises. There’s also the struggle of loosening the grip on finances. That is one of the reasons many choose to save and invest in things like insurance plans for OFWs.
The Curated Life
Speaking of social media, those who work abroad, particularly those that don’t have their families with them, tend to post only curated excerpts of their experiences. They tend to want to share only the high points of their new life. There may be more to this than just ‘showing off.’
Behind these filtered stories, there may be people who concede that the distance between themselves and their support group back home is enough to cut said support. They may believe they’re forced to face challenges by themselves.
But, of course, not all experiences are bad. On the contrary, people choose to work abroad with the promise of a better life for themselves and their loved ones. For every one of these challenges, some opportunities can make the experience worthwhile.