Working Abroad for the First Time:  What You Need To Know

Working Abroad for the First Time: What You Need To Know

Working abroad could be for your own career advancement and growth, for greater opportunities or for some, like me, a necessity.  You passed the interview, you paid your placement fee, you’ve undergone training and attended seminars, your luggage are packed, you’re excited because it is your first time to go abroad, your ticket is booked, and your body is ready but are your mind and soul ready?  The prospect of working abroad is reassuring, as stated on my previous post, The Advantages of Working Abroad, but we also have to know some things that are actually happening on people working overseas and the realities so that we could better equip ourselves with defenses and be ready, really be ready, mentally.  I list down the things that first time overseas workers ought to know not to discourage them from leaving but rather to make them prepared.

Things to Know Before Working Abroad

 1.  There is no easy job.

Whether it is a white-collar job or blue-collar job, nothing is easy.  It doesn’t matter what position you are in, whether you are the boss or a regular employee you have responsibilities and tasks that you need to accomplish, sometimes with a deadline, and that could be tiresome.

2.  You have to swallow your pride sometimes.

They say that you find a job that you love and you’ll never work again, that is true, but I’m afraid working abroad doesn’t give you that privilege.  There may be some people working abroad who get to choose the job they really like but that is only a fraction, most people accepted jobs offered to them even if that means not using the education you had in college or not doing the things or jobs you are passionate about.  I know a lot of people who graduated from good universities that are doing jobs that some may call menial but honorable jobs, which could be frustrating but thinking about their families back home, they just have to shrug the thoughts off.

3.  Being friendly and accommodating is a must.

You are away from your family and it is important that you have others to call whenever you need and to ask help from.  You should never close your doors to some people who would like to be friends with you because one day you might need them.  But it goes without saying that we have to be wary of friends sometimes, choose who are genuinely concern for you.

4.  Competition can be tough.

There is a lot of competition in your work.  You are not to compete only with people of your same nationality but also of other people from other nationality and most especially with the local people.  It is hypocrisy to say that you do not want career advancement, everyone can benefit from it but you have to earn it and work hard for it, competition is healthy, it will inspire you to work harder, to do the best that you can but it can really be tough.

5.  You don’t get to be rich very quickly.

Okay, stop right there, not because getting higher compensation will get you rich very quickly.  You are here working because you have to pay or help your parents to pay for your debts back in your country, or you have to send your siblings to school or you want to give your parents house and lot.  The higher your salary the higher the cost of living, couldn’t be any truer.

6.  You can be really lonely sometimes.

You buried yourself at work, you’re doing overtime and you go out with friends but you go home and you can’t sleep, it really gets lonely.  Even after the advent of modern communications, there will still be times that you’ll just feel alone and you wanted to come home.  You have to be tough and always remember that it is common and that it happens to the best of us.

7.  You’ll have to say “No” sometimes even if it hurts.

All you ever wanted is to give your family a better future and give them everything they want, so when the time comes that they ask you for money because there is something they want to buy or there is an excursion in school they want to participate or your mother sees a new dress and you really don’t have spare money, saying no will surely break your heart.

8.  Determination is the key.

Following your dreams can be a great motivator, and the determination to do it is your key on achieving it.  There is really nothing you can’t do if you are determined and driven.

9.  Pay all your obligations.

We do not want to be indebted with other people, that’s why it is important that from the moment you earn your salary you pay them even partially.  Working abroad would let you share apartments with other people, make sure that you pay your share of the rent, utility bills and other miscellaneous bills on time for you not to be inconvenience to others.

10.  Respect other people’s belief.

You don’t know what kind of people you are going to share your life in abroad with, you came from different background with different cultures and beliefs and the key with living harmoniously with them is to respect their beliefs the way you would like your beliefs be respected.

11.  Respect other people’s time.

This is true not only for people working abroad but also for everyone.  If you have meetings, show up on time to not cause any delay, going home late would mean a wasted time, they could have used that time to talk to their families back home.

12.  People will get angry at you if you cannot lend or give them money.

People back home think that you have lots of money for working abroad and they will come to you to borrow some money or some favors.  If you cannot do that, they will think you’re selfish and that you’ve changed, what they do not know is that you really do not have spare to lend for them and that you have obligations too.

13.  You will lose in touch with old friends.

This should not be a big problem now because of social media sites, but it is still happening.  You may be friends in facebook or you follow them on twitter or instagram and they follow you back, but if you seldom communicate, after 3 or 5 years you will be like just acquaintances.  This is sad but true.

14.  It is expensive to send one full “Balikbayan” (coming home gifts) box.

There is great joy in sending “balikbayan” box for our families at home but it is quite costly.  You just cannot fill it up in one month, it takes even a year to fill it up, depending on your budget but the joy you see from your family when they open the box is priceless.

15.  Save from the very start.

The problem with some overseas workers after they finish their contracts is that they do not have enough money to start a business at home and not to come back working abroad.  We could prevent this from happening if we save from the very start, even just 5% of your monthly salary.  So before packing your bags, go to the bank and open a savings account and promise to save as much as you can.

16.  There will be lots of temptations.

Gambling addiction, alcohol addiction, and extra marital affairs are common hard truths for some people working abroad.  What you see in movies may be a little bit exaggerated but it doesn’t mean it is not true.  It is important that you surround yourself with people with good intentions and good influence to you.  You do not want this problem to ruin your family, after all you are here because of them and for them.

17.  Living beyond your means is a big no-no.

Earning additional income doesn’t mean buying ridiculously expensive things just for the show.  It is not a sin to reward yourself sometimes, but in rewarding your self it should not make you hungry for a month or should not be the reason for not sending money to your family.

18.  Bar hopping often is a thing of the past.

If you are ultra social and like to go bar hopping always back then, you might wanna slow down a bit.  Going to the bars every weekend can be too costly and sometimes it is better to just stay at home and rest after a week-long of hard work.  Don’t worry about social life you can still have this even without going to the bar.

19.  You will feel frustrated…

Doing things you do not want to do can be very frustrating.  You feel like you cannot maximize your potential, thus making you feel depress and dishearten.  This will affect your work and can potentially harm your career.

20.  Then you’ll feel guilty.

After being frustrated for your job, you’ll feel guilty for being frustrated.  Sometimes you are only tired, that’s why you feel frustrated and you forget that you are lucky to have a job abroad and that so many people are unemployed, thus making you feel guilty about it.

But as they say, experience is the best teacher, you learn from your mistakes but it is not bad to be reminded of the things we need to know to be ready and to prevent ourselves from making the same mistakes many people had done.

Written by

Carlo has started working in Macau in 2007 and two years after, he met his destined-to-be wife, Lorna and they started exploring the world. Together.


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