4 things I’ve learned working abroad as a UX Designer

Working abroad is an incredible professional and personal experience that completely changes the rest of your life.

But it’s better to be prepared for it so you can anticipate what you might experience, refine your expectations and build this rich experience.

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1. ADAPT

Adapt to the culture and codes understanding how hard people work, if they have any specific ceremonies or habits you don’t have (weekly pub lunch, casual Fridays…) to be socially integrated and fit the company’s culture.

You must stay flexible as “rules” you have in your native country are not necessarily applied there. Or vice versa.
For example: perhaps in your country you can have a casual chat with your big boss, but it’s not something people usually do in the country you visit .

If possible, find someone from your country who can “brief” you explaining how codes, habits, and local rules are different.

Adapt to the people behaviours adjusting yours accordingly.
For example: if in your country people usually complain a lot (it’s my case, I’m French :) ) but not in the country you visit, try not to apply your native country behaviour otherwise people might see you as someone who’s never happy or positive. If you don’t behave accordingly to the people’s way, there will be a mismatch between you all. And the collaboration can become very tricky. Adapt your clothes style too as local people can have different style codes. Again, follow the crowd and avoid being seen as a guy not like the others.

Adapt to the working methods as the way people work might be different. Have a look, observe, see how it’s different, how the method you know could be useful and how the other could improve your way of working and thinking. It may even change the vision of your job. At the end, take the best of everything and create your own working method (if you have this possibility of course).

You are the guy who arrives from another country. You have to adapt the way you think and behave accordingly to the company, people, and local culture.

2. STAY HUMBLE AND OPEN MINDED

Do not think people you will work with have always been waiting for you. As the superman coming from overseas.

Especially in countries where people come from everywhere (UK, Australia…), you will probably be a foreign guy among many others. You will receive the same treatment as a normal employee.

Especially if the level of expertise or expectation is lower than in your homeland, do not show people how they are not as good as people you’ve been used to work with. Instead, see how your expertise can smartly improve their way of working and their vision. And see how their approach can improve yours.

As we said before, a new way of working might challenge yours. Embrace and try it instead of rejecting it.

3. SPEAK THE LANGUAGE

Speaking the language is a requirement. At least having the basics is necessary. From my experience, a basic English might be enough to get hired as long as you improve quickly afterwards.

Always try to improve your language, ask questions, write down new words, hang out with colleagues and friends to get used to the language and be more comfortable speaking it. Discover the formal and casual speakings (some drinks are often helpful!). Accept challenges and push your boundaries (conferences, meetings, present your work to a large team …).

Improve on your own. Try to have conversations on the phone, video call, face to face. Meet people with different accents in order to train your brain to be flexible, such as a gymnastic. Read local newspapers (could become a useful topic to start a conversation), watch original version movies, listen to podcasts, have local friends to be socially integrated and discover new cultures. Go to international meetups and catch up with people coming from everywhere using this second-language such as you.

Get some rest, sleep well. Speaking and listening another language is often exhausting especially at the beginning because you have to be much more focused.

4. WORK HARDER

Unless you are bilingual or already fluent, the foreign language won’t be your main asset. So emphasize your other skills to balance this weakness.

I strongly advise moving to another country once you have enough experience and an expertise as a valuable asset. So you can focus more on the language than on the technical skills. If your skill set isn’t strong enough and you are not fluent, you will probably struggle a lot and for sure you will work very very hard.

CONCLUSION: Observe, analyse and learn

The reason why you move to another country is probably that you want to discover something different. And because it’s different, prepare yourself to see things that you’ve never thought about from your native country.

Observe and analyse how people behave, talk and collaborate. How the social life and the culture are different. Discover how people do the same things as you… but in a different way.

Learn how you must behave to be socially and professionally integrated.

Working abroad gives you many opportunities to open your mind, so embrace them! It’s the best chance to share experiences with people who have different backgrounds and different personal and professional stories.

Now, you know what to expect. Just do it! :)

Written by

Lead Designer in Lyon - previously Paris & Sydney

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