How to Prepare Yourself for These 5 Challenges of Working Abroad

When I decided to move to Dubai for a new work assignment after my promotion last year, I wondered how I would be able to adjust in a completely new Emirati city. What would the work culture be like? It was unthinkable for me to leave my home in New Delhi, India, so I wanted to prepare as best I could.

To begin, I started researching about the seven emirates and how it is for working women. I discovered that Emirati women feel safe and happy in the UAE, and over 91 percent of women surveyed were satisfied with their quality of life.

Like I did, many women seek to work abroad to improve their career prospects. However, there are several factors we need to keep in mind. Here are five common challenges you may encounter if you move to work in another country, and some tips from my own experience.


Safety Issues

  • When traveling alone, avoid hiring any unlicensed taxi and inquire about the other safe public transport options.
  • Avoid walking alone at night.
  • Initially carry a map to ensure that you are moving in the right direction if you are in a cab or walking alone.
  • Try to adapt to the local dress code.

Physical Well-Being

  • Ensure that your sponsor or your employer has arranged for a suitable medical insurance to help you in the case of any illness or injury while you are abroad.
  • Know in advance, what the medical policy covers.
  • Keep 24/7 emergency hotline numbers handy.

Workplace culture

  • Success or failure largely depends on you! Spend time to understand your new work culture.
  • Research the company where you are going. Research the country and its labor laws.
  • Seek answers to questions such as: How is the job market for women in the country? What are the important social norms to be aware of? What are the public sentiments or your company’s view of a woman in your new workplace?

I made a couple of mistakes that in my new workplace in Dubai because of my lack of knowledge about the culture. For example, I did not know that in Arab culture, women usually do not shake hands with men. Because of this, I faced an awkward situation during my first day of work when I boldly greeted my colleagues with a handshake; this obviously raised eyebrows!

Fighting Homesickness

  • The best way to overcome homesickness is to think about the positive reasons you are going to be away. Focus on your good job, career growth, global exposure and lot more.
  • Stay connected with your friends and family through video chats, phone calls, and social networking sites.

Gender Bias

  • You can’t control someone else’s perspectives or gender bias, but you can work to meet and exceed the expectations of those you work with. Learn the style of the working people around you, and adopt what they do. For instance, while working in Dubai, I learned the right way to live and work in a Muslim city, such as dressing modestly, speaking to others with respect, or greeting people in the expected ways.

If working abroad is what can take you to your dream job, don’t let your fears stop you. If you acknowledge you apprehensions, and prepare as much as possible, you will be ready to face and overcome the challenges!

Good luck!

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