Working abroad: 10 tips from well-travelled contractors
If you are thinking of working abroad, but not sure what to expect or how to survive those first few days, read the tips from the experts, well-travelled contractors who have done it all before.
Be collected from the airport
It’s not easy arriving at a foreign destination in the middle of the night. Make sure your client sends someone to collect you. It can be difficult to find a taxi at some airports and you’ll be disorientated anyway. You need to get to your accommodation as soon as possible – you may be working the very next day.
Carry $100 dollar bill in your passport
If you’re travelling to places where it’s well known officials expect a cut, a $100 bill can help you through customs and red tape. If asked what the note is for, never admit it’s a bribe – you may end up in the clink. Instead say it’s there in case you had to pay extra to get your documentation sorted out or needed cash in the airport to sort out transport.
Use Facebook events
These are great for making contacts with local business people and colleagues ahead of your arrival and let you make friends in advance. One of the experts posted up information about a training seminar they were running on social networking and found people to organise the event and do the catering.
Case the neighbourhood
Book into a hotel for the first few days where you’ll feel safe and looked after. You’ll want to find your own accommodation soon - it’s safer to drive than walk around an unknown city, and ask work colleagues for recommendation, too. Always look for somewhere on the border of student and middle-class land where it’s decent and where there are likely to be shorter term lets.
Barter for accommodation
If your stay is shorter, weeks rather than months, a serviced apartment may make more sense. Some place are prepared to discount if you block-book for a couple months. In Luxor, Egypt, Colette Mason negotiated a 50% discount on her apartment, which worked out at a very reasonable $20 a night.
Use a local SIM card
One of the experts took their iPhone and planned to use the Vodafone service. However they found it incredibly expensive for each megabyte of data and it took them a while to get data roaming sorted out. If you buy a local Sim card instead, it will work out much cheaper. But remember to unlock your phone in advance.
Allow three days for red tape
Even if you’re contracting within the EU, there are more forms to fill in and places to register than you can shake a stick at. In Germany, most of this is centralised at the Bezirksamt –district office - while in France, for example, the process is more convoluted. Another aggravating factor is that many of these offices are closed over lunchtime. Best thing is to bite the bullet and allow a few days to get all the paperwork done and stamped.
Get paid in a convertible currency
Make sure the currency you are paid in is convertible. US dollars are a good fallback, as is Sterling and the Euro. However, if you travel to parts of Central America say, or Central Asia, the local currency may not be willingly converted by a money exchanges.
Eat local food straight away
For many Brits working in exotic destinations, ‘Delhi belly’ is an issue. It’s probably nothing to do with bad food or bacteria, more likely that our stomach is not acclimatised to the local flora and fauna. Best thing is to chow down at local eateries and adjust to the local food.
Best thing about contracting abroad
“You can get things done. After three months you can actually turn around and say I built a really good thing.”
“It’s an opportunity to have a change of scene, see how other cultures approach problem solving, and to acquire new skills and perspectives.”
With thanks to:
Colette Mason, IT contractor in social networking and usability
Preterlex : Contractor in corporate governance
PCG The voice of UK freelancers
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