Anyone who has ever worked abroad knows that it can be a daunting experience: A new language (the basics of which you might know), new culture (handshake, or double-cheek kiss?), and a change of lifestyle (you’re an employee all of a sudden, when last week you were a carefree student).
A guidebook and map can only get you so far when you need to buy coffee or find a metro station, but the workplace? That’s a whole different environment that’s laden with potential pitfalls.
However, here’s how you can ensure your appearance and overall body language doesn’t say the wrong things, even when you’re lost for words when trying to work out your new surroundings.
Good behaviour goes a long way in helping new people warm to you. Try and pin down the basics of your new workplace language, wherever you might be in the world. At the very least your new colleagues will recognise your politeness and appreciate you putting in some effort to speak the local language.
Other basics of good manners apply: Be punctual and don’t talk with your mouth full – basically pretend your mother is watching you the entire time.
That’s what you do when in Rome. So when you find yourself in the surroundings of another country and culture, make a mental note of all the normal things that the locals do. It will help you fit in and feel at home in next to no time, and help you avoid making any embarrassing faux pas. Like nodding your head in agreement in Bulgaria (where nodding actually means 'no'), or seating yourself down in Japan – a country where protocol rules, meaning you should wait to be told where to sit. And once you're seated, whatever you do, do not cross your legs, especially if in the presence of your boss.
Taste and class transcend language. If you want to give off the impression that you’re a professional who is ready to learn and engage yourself in the workplace, then look like it. Fix your hair, tuck your shirt in and remove any nasty scuffs or blemishes from your shoes – all these little things go a long way to helping you give off the right impression.
You can add to your professional demeanour by investing in a few considered accessories. It’s the small effects like your choice in stationary, jewellery, or watches that say a lot about you. Listen to professional advice, like this handy guide to which wristwatch suits you best, and you'll start gaining the confidence of your workmates on your first impression.
Last but not least: Show off your pearly whites. A smile is universally understood and positively appreciated. That means that a big grin is an easy way of letting others know that you're approachable and happy to be in their company. It's contagious too, so one smile from you will help spread the feel-good vibe to your colleagues. The upsides of smiling go beyond helping you in the workplace; it can have a host of benefits to your well-being too.
Working abroad can be a life-changing (for the better) experience. Look this way for a practical run down of what working abroad can mean for you.