It could be argued that taking on a new post abroad with an existing employer or moving out to another country with a job already in place gives you that much needed feeling of comfort. Of course, removing that element of uncertainty from your mind can do wonders for a smooth transition. However, a country’s culture will inevitably spread to its workplace so how do you prepare for the daily grind when you don’t know what it might entail?
The findings of our 2012 Expat Explorer survey revealed some of the best places to work around the world taking into account five of the main factors of a happy working life:
- Local work culture
- Work / life balance
- Feeling welcome at work
- Working environment
As you can see from the chart below there were some obvious all round winners. Number one being the Cayman Islands which, according to expats living there, provided the best working climate with friendly colleagues, a great work life balance and an easy commute. Similarly, Spain scored particularly well on the work life balance front, helping to rank it a close second.
If it’s a good local work culture you’re after then Switzerland may just be the place for you. Coupled with an easy commute it projects a laid-back atmosphere, ideal for finding your feet.
Source: Expat Explorer 2012
All that aside, some countries have very specific work routines or cultures that it’s good to understand before you get your feet under the desk. Here are a few of our favourites.
Tea rounds – UK
If you know the UK then you will know that tea is taken very seriously. We mean VERY seriously. During the day, workers consume 3.5 cups a day on average. It’s likely your new work mates will take their tea differently so learn quickly if it’s milky with one sugar or ‘builder’s tea’ (nice and strong) and win them over with a nice brew.
Shorter work week - France
If you’re used to burning the midnight oil and working all hours that are given then a move to France will give you the chance to take your foot off the pedal. In France the average working week is 35 hours long, much shorter than the 40-45 hours that customary in most of the western world.
Bonding time – Sweden
It’s customary for Swedes to get away from their desks for a quick cup of coffee and chat up to three times a day; this is called a ‘fika’. However, it’s not an excuse for an extra-long lunch break! Punctuality is of high importance in Swedish work culture so make sure to team up with a work buddy to help you get a feel for when to take your breaks and how long for.
Indian Standard Time (IST) - India
In India, a meeting at 3pm or a dinner party at 7.30pm inevitably ends up being at least 30 minutes late – sometimes even hours. Owing to the hectic traffic and time to get from A to B, this particular cultural quirk is simply unique to India and the locals are used to working on IST. Just don’t forget to clarify what time they actually mean when organising a meet up – and be patient if you turn up to a meeting and no one has arrived yet!
Wednesday’s the new Friday – Middle East
Don’t be surprised if you’re expected to turn up to work on a Sunday. In the Middle East, the working week tends to begin on a Sunday and end on a Thursday. However in some countries, it begins on a Saturday and ends on a Wednesday. Check with your employer so you can plan your weekends accordingly.