Today’s blog features a special guest who offers sound advice for any potential expats looking considering taking the plunge. Brittany Arthur is an International Business Strategist. Her job is to provide Business Development Support for companies in Australia, Germany and Japan. You can find out more about Brittany’s services on her webpage.
Having lived her life and developed her career abroad in each of the above countries, Brittany has a huge amount of valuable expertise in different languages, cultures, career building, travel and the different ways of working across the globe.
We spoke to Brittany about going abroad, getting prepared for the job search, networking and culture shock...
First, let’s set the scene: back in 2008, our guest received an academic merit scholarship from the Japanese Ministry of Education to study a double bachelor of International Business and Japanese Language. During that time, she also interned at the Australian Trade Commission in Osaka and after that, she had her first big working chance with two Fortune 100 companies in Japan. So she experienced the ups and downs of living abroad very soon in her career.
When we asked Brittany about the feeling she experienced on leaving her home country -Australia- for the first time, this is what she told us:
After 2 weeks of what felt like walking on Cloud Nine, or Cloud Seven if you’re German, I noticed myself thinking, “Hmm.. It’s just really different here,” “People aren’t like that back home” or “We would never do that where I am from.”
Now I know this was the early stages of Culture Shock, that me vs. them feeling. After some reflection I can say that this shock is not a shock of culture but a shock of the ego. It’s that feeling that you don’t know how to interact within a society. You don’t know the rules and you have no support system to help you learn them so the world seems distant or strange. You begin to feel frozen, confused and distant from yourself.
The first month, sometimes even longer, is an intense emotional journey. Be patient with yourself and know that finding a balance takes time. After all, you didn’t build you life back “home” overnight either. The way to get past the culture shock is to lay the foundation in building your own life in this new city. Make friends, find ways to fall in love with your new city and stop Skyping back home.
There’s no doubt networking is essential nowadays in the world of business. As Brittany explained to us, it’s often one of the first things to do when starting your career:
If you begin your job search the day after your graduate, you’re 4 years behind in building a thriving business network than where you could be. Instead, what you need to do is build your network and look for a job during your studies. My first job after I finished my studies was at a Fortune 500 Company in 2011 came from contacts I made through an internship at the Australian Consulate General which I did during my studies back in 2009. If you keep building a strong engaged network, you’ll never have to traditionally apply for a job again.
But things haven’t always been a smooth path in Brittany’s career. In 2011, the most devastating earthquake in Japan’s history shook the country and, after that, she was immediately relocated to Germany. There she had to start again and adapt to a completely different culture from the Japan one she got used to and a new language she didn’t speak at all. It wasn’t the best experience of her life, but she managed to finally fit in the new situation:
After 10 years living abroad I can assure you, communication and relationships are the key to living a connected and happy life. After coming from Japan where I spoke the language and had a reasonable understanding of society, how to make friends and how to behave, I felt like Germany was a plunge into deep, ice-cold water.
This is why, I can only speak from experience when I say, learn the language of your new home, and learn it fast. The best way to do this is by incorporate your language into your life as often as humanly possible. I could tell you write a new list of words each day, sign up for a class, subscribe to a daily newsletter etc. I won’t because it won’t work. You have to take your existing life & implement your new language into your routine in every possible way.
My best possible tip for improving, keeping up or even learning a new language is friendship.Nothing, absolutely nothing can motivate your language skills like friendship. Language is not a textbook. Language is the bridge to tell someone you love them, to travel to a new land, order soulful food, to argue and then to say sorry. Get a friend. I am officially putting myself out there as an English/Japanese/German friend if you don’t personally know someone.
Language is the path to exploring a part of yourself you’ve never known. Don’t let it sit inside of you dormant. It’s a part of you. Connect with it. Use it. Share it. Make friends in the process.
Brittany is someone who made a fresh start in Germany and knows what it is to relocate, readapt and succeed inside out. What would her advice be for people thinking about relocating to Germany – or anywhere else for that matter?
There’s no better place to be “new” in Europe than in Germany. As long as you understand things take time, Germany has the organisational and community support for you to make a smooth transition to Europe.
I hear you, "maybe that might work for marketing/sales/design but I want to a career in politics and be the Ambassador of Australia. And this world functions differently, I can’t get in contact with this community." Of course you can. The right story will open any door. This is why you need to move to tip two.
You could write a potential employers or client and say, “Hi, I’ve just moved from Australia to Berlin and I am looking for a job” or “Hi, I’ve just moved from Australia to Berlin and I’d love to use my international experience to solve a problem you’re dealing with in your business right now.” Feels different right?
Good things come from feeling good.