It’s May Day, so for those of you who could actually relate… Happy International Workers’ Day on the first of May! 😀
Anyway, I know some countries celebrate Labors’ Day on some other day, but in case you don’t know… May Day is dedicated to all workers. And it’s there to celebrate laborers and working class in general.
That’s why I initiated a collaboration with some fellow bloggers who are also workers with various backgrounds. With the world that is claimed as almost ‘borderless’ nowadays, so many workers have different stories about their job.
Some have to relocate and deal with culture shock for a bit. Some have to struggle with the art of commuting. Some probably have the luxury of working remotely with some different difficulties along the way too.
So, here I present you the stories of international workers on this very International Workers’ Day!
The Overview of Being International Workers
With globalization before our eyes, it’s relatively easy to seek for the career opportunity outside the country of your origin. There are many reasons why people decide to leave their home country to work elsewhere. And the variety of jobs available so much more. From domestic jobs to teaching English as a foreign language somewhere.
From the classic reason like gaining working experience to the ugly truth of low minimum wage in their home country, everyone is entitled to their right in order to live for their betterment.
The closest example to give is my home country Indonesia. While it is probably not as significant as our neighboring country the Philippines, the Indonesian migrant workers who work overseas contribute significantly to their family’s well-being in our home country, as well as to the Indonesian economy in general.
These days, the rising number of digital nomads who work outside their country of origins made some cities famous for their suitable working environment for those working remotely. To name a few, in Southeast Asia, Georgetown is known as a great place for digital nomads. So is Ubud.
International Workers Sharing Their Stories on International Workers’ Day
But hey, working overseas is not all sweet and glitters. Sometimes they’re prone to some other risks as well, from legal documentation to even adjusting to the local customs.
So if you just graduated and are thinking about what you want to do with your life, you might want to hear all these international workers sharing their stories. Maybe you want to relocate elsewhere, or maybe you seek for some opportunities to work remotely. There you go! 🙂
1. Ann Marie, a UN worker who had to overcome cockroach in Hanoi.
My name’s Ann Marie Murphy, I’m from Ireland but I’ve spent a bit of time living in different countries such as France and Korea.
I was really delighted when I was offered a position in Hanoi, Vietnam for a year working on sexual and reproductive health issues with the United Nations Population Fund in 2017. Although I had lived and worked abroad before I experienced new challenges in Hanoi, I definitely had a bit of a culture shock.
The city is really like nowhere I’d ever lived before – there’s so much traffic on the roads and the pollution levels are insane. I was often very sick and couldn’t go to work because my health was really affected by living there.
On the plus side, I liked many things about living in Hanoi. There was a great expat community especially in my work and I made some of my best friends while living in Hanoi. Saying that, there is another downside to living in such a changing expat community and although I built friendships quickly many of my friends left while I was there.
I loved having the opportunity to travel around the country while I was there and really loved my work as well as my colleagues – Vietnamese people are very friendly and welcoming. One thing that I found particularly challenging – you may laugh – was the cockroach situation!
I have a huge fear of cockroaches and was highly disturbed by the fact that even if you close your windows, keep your apartment clean and do everything in your power to keep them out of your apartment they still very well may enter!
2. Clare, the remote lawyer who’s more than happy to skip commuting on her daily basis.
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I run Epic Road Rides, the travel guidebook for road cyclists. Until recently I worked in a law firm in London as a lawyer and then in legal training. I started my website after my second maternity leave when I realized my previous lifestyle wasn’t going to work with two kids and I wanted more time at home.
My commute used to take around 1.5 hours so I would drop my child at nursery and then dash for the train. I only had a couple of minutes to spare, so if I was delayed by the nursery or traffic, I would miss my train.
On the way home, it was worse as I needed to leave my desk exactly on time and if the train was delayed, I would have to call friends to see if they collect my child from the nursery. It wasn’t ideal.
Now I work from home, life is easier as I’m not dependent on the train network and can better manage my time and deadlines. I thought I would miss having colleagues to chat with, but in fact, that’s not an issue as I love my new job and get enough adult conversation at the school gate and play dates with the kids.
Probably the biggest thing I miss is the IT backup – having someone else to take care of ensuring I have the right software/hardware, that the IT systems are working and someone who can help when IT glitches happen, as they inevitably do. That said, I wouldn’t trade places with my previous self; the advantages of working from home far outweigh the disadvantages!
3. Carol, a teacher who made a side income from being an extra in films in South Korea.
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I’m a luxury travel blogger at WanderingCarol.com. I went to Seoul, Korea, to do my masters degree and stayed to teach English at a university.
Before I went to Korea to study, I had no idea that teaching English was such a huge industry, and that there were so many jobs available. While I was still studying full time, I worked at a language institute at night, then became a full professor at a women’s university.
Strangely, one of the things I missed most about being an expat was access to an English-language library – sometimes it’s the little things that symbolize a larger issue of culture shock. On the plus side, there were always new crazy work opportunities falling in my path, such as being an extra in films, TV shows or ads.
While one of the biggest draws about working abroad is the chance to connect both with people from another culture and with other travelers – a major downside is being so far away from family.
Another issue I had when working abroad was the unspoken dress code. Sleeveless dresses were frowned upon, my skirts always seemed to be too short, and once I was turned down for a job because my outfit was ‘too sexy.’ It wasn’t!
4. Daisy, who has finally noticed that traveling and living abroad are two different things!
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I’m Daisy from Canada. I’ve relocated to India to work for an NGO and am currently living in Texas for a job in the tech sector.
I’ve traveled quite a bit before my move to Delhi. As such, I thought I’d get accustomed to the city right away. But living abroad and traveling are completely separate things! From understanding different cultural customs to adjusting to various social conducts, I learned a lot from my time abroad.
We didn’t have a strict start-time for work, and people would show up at various hours throughout the morning. On the first day, I got lost and ended up 3 hours late for a meeting. After arriving at the office, I was taken aback by how nonchalant my manager was about the situation!
Of course, this may not be the case for other offices and industries, but it was something very memorable to me throughout my time working in India.
As well, offices usually had workers specifically for running errands and everyday duties. It definitely took a long time to get used to others making my tea, heating up my lunch, and washing my cutleries. I still feel guilty about it, especially understanding the caste system in India and seeing the different treatment people received based on their backgrounds, despite working in an NGO.
My time in India taught me lots. People were very friendly and extremely generous. From sharing meals to showing me the city, everyone welcomed me with open arms. Of course, city living can become hectic. To escape its chaos, I often took weekend trips away from Delhi to see India’s beautiful nature and vast landscape. Traveling really helped with my adjusting to working in the country!
5. Wendy, a small town girl aiming for the world adventure which started in Disneyland.
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I grew up in Alabama, in the Deep South of the US, which is not an area that breeds many world travelers. Most of the people around me didn’t know or care much about the outside world, but I was always fascinated by faraway places.
After graduating from university I did an internship at Disney World in Florida, and while I was there I found out that they had a work exchange program with Disneyland Paris in France.
I saw this as my chance to travel and experience a different part of the world, so I immediately signed up and was accepted. While I was thrilled to be in Paris, I did find it to be a struggle at first. I spoke only basic French, so the language barrier was a challenge.
More than anything, I remember getting frustrated trying to accomplish simple daily tasks like shopping for groceries or doing laundry. Everything seemed so different from back home. I didn’t understand why I had to pay a deposit to use the shopping cart at the supermarket.
I bought what I thought was laundry detergent but was actually fabric softener, and I put it directly into the washing machine with my clothes instead of in the proper compartment. Everything was so confusing!
Eventually I adjusted, and now I laugh when I look back at my younger self. My time in Paris taught me a lot about other cultures and fed my wanderlust even more. That was 20 years ago, and I’ve been living and traveling in countries all over the world ever since.
6. Marya, a home-worker who’s had enough flying and working a 9-to-5 job.
I started my professional career in the aviation industry when I was 23. I initially worked as a guest service assistant for a leading budget airline in Southeast Asia, before I relocated to Saudi Arabia to work as a cabin crew based in Jeddah.
Working and living in a conservative country like Saudi Arabia was indeed a challenge for me. However, it was also a precious experience to work in such a multinational working culture. There were times when I had to get into an argument with some Arab coworker, not to mention that I got sexually harassed by a waiter one time during my layover in Riyadh.
After around 4 years of working in the industry, I decided to quit and came back home to Indonesia. That was when I decided to reroute my career and get my 9-to-5 job started. It wasn’t that difficult to adjust the working hours since I never had to deal with such routine in my previous job. However, it only took a while for me to realize that maybe I’m just not suitable for a corporate job.
It has been almost 3 years since I started working as a freelancer. I currently handle several clients, in which one of them is based in the USA. Despite the fact that I could work remotely, I prefer to work from home most of the time. And that only means that I have to adjust my timezone (GMT+7) and follow EST for some meeting calls with the client.
While it is not always easy, especially when most people around you are off to bed and you gotta deal with some meeting, so far I couldn’t be more thankful with the decision I’ve chosen.
Pros & Cons of Being International Workers
While being an international worker or relocating overseas for a job could be quite challenging, it’s always worth the experience. Not gonna lie to you, it really helps to create your own resume once you’ve got sufficient experience with coworkers or clients from different backgrounds.
Sure, it’s prone to some misunderstanding or even some kind of lost in translation situation. But guess what? Those things could happen anywhere with anyone, given the idea that there are many variables that could lead to the situation.
So, have you got any experience working as an international worker? What’s the biggest challenge that you’ve got to overcome? What are the rewards you’ve got throughout the experience?
Share your point of view on the comment below, Happy May Day! 😀