Skills every expat should have

June 2022

Taking a leap to work abroad is an exciting prospect and thrilling adventure for most. However, living, working, socialising and really progressing in your career in another country requires a certain set of skills. Processing these skills and personality traits will give you a far better chance at expat success. 

Even if you will be speaking predominantly in your mother tongue on assignment it is advisable to learn the basics of the language spoken at your destination. Knowing phrases and how to ask questions and socialise with others will help you settle into your new home. In most business settings it is polite to be able to greet others in their language. 
One of the most important expat skills required is adaptability. Expats don’t just need to be able to adapt to situations at work - they need to be able to adapt to a new country, new culture, new way of working and a new way of living too. 
Pre-departure leadership training is of the utmost importance. The most successful expats know how to lead a team - wherever that team may be. Expats need to be aware of how teams and team leaders work in their destination to ensure a smooth process and success for the team.
When moving to a new country there are many steps expats will need to complete to organize healthcare, work permits, visas, utilities and more. All of these necessary appointments may take a long time and put your patience to the test. Your expat adventure will be worth the wait.
Every country has a unique way of doing things and expats should be willing to cope with the traditions of those around them. If the country you’re working in doesn’t value punctuality, be flexible if people are late to a meeting. If your destination prioritises items such as mid-morning breaks that you’re not used to, you must be flexible with your team so they can partake in their work culture. 
Being curious, interested in and excited about new cultures is a key quality for an expat. If you have an adventurous side, love meeting new people, and an insatiable curiosity to learn and see more of the world, you’re more likely to be happy living abroad on assignment.
Social skills are important for networking at the office, introducing yourself to colleagues and clients and for making friends in your new location. Whether you’re meeting new people in a professional setting or joining a local sports team you need to be sociable to combat feelings of loneliness that could lead to home sickness.
This skill is also needed on a personal and professional level. All employees need to be organised at work, but expats also need to keep on top of their tax details, visa paperwork and anything else that applies. Expats work between multiple tax systems and bureaucracies and need to keep on top of it all. 

If you want to be an expat, you should be able to read different social cues and non-verbal communication and assess how your own personality comes across to others. You should also know the best way to communicate in your destination, beginning with how to greet others, if small talk is required before discussing business and how to address people.

Believing in yourself that you can succeed in a new country, thrive in a new culture and progress your career will allow you to enjoy the best part of being an expat.  

If you are considering an assignment overseas, remember to review your skillset, undertake training for skills you might be missing and look after your health and wellbeing with international health insurance from Allianz Care.