Comfort zones are for losers

Let’s begin by agreeing that nothing truly productive can ever be done from your comfort zone. The same familiar people and places, the same routine every day make up a closed universe where you’re more likely to resemble a character from the Sims than a free individual.

Since you’re reading this article, you’re obviously not satisfied with where you’re at right now and you’re flirting with the idea of making a career abroad. The incentive is a start but you need a mind-set that will actually take you there and this is where you hit gridlock. Think about what’s anchoring you down – is it your family, your friends or is it just you? Chances are that the third option is the right one.


At the moment the thought of working in another country sounds as enticing to you as owning a private jet or lying on a beach in Hawaii. But ask yourself, is the thought palpable? Do you have it figured out and ready to be acted on? If not then that’s what’s holding you back. As Schopenhauer put it, we are all made out of pure will, so if you really wanted something, you’d be expected to go in way over your head to attain it.

The reason you’re still chilling at square one is because you’re mentally unprepared to leave it, which is courtesy of either laziness or cowardice working its magic on you. This article will systematically guide you in overcoming the fear of working abroad.

Find or make a friend who already lives there

A lot of people leaving their country for work will choose their destination based on where their friends are. While this is a valid life hack, it shouldn’t narrow down your options. If you want to start a career in China and don’t know anyone there, then put on your social networking hat and start building some connections.

The person you’re looking for is bound to be a friend of a friend or a 3rd degree contact on LinkedIn, so don’t hesitate to dig a little deeper because, once you get in touch, you’ll have access to first-hand information that doesn’t come up on Google. Be certain of what you want ask them and dare to go beyond questions on public transportation and prices.


You need real insight on what it’s like to live in that foreign country, so take this opportunity to find out about people’s mentalities, their social habits, openness and attitude toward foreigners. Show that you’re generally curious and show your interest in setting up a meeting with your new friend when you arrive there. People generally loved being asked for help and their opinion, but don’t overdo it by being too annoying with the questions – this relationship if helpful only as long as they like you.

Brush up your language skills

One of the greatest insecurities you’d encounter when thinking to work abroad is overcoming the language barrier. The degree to which you cope with this issue will decide how well you’ll integrate in the new society, the connections you’ll establish and the amount of nights you’ll spend missing home.


Before anything, you’ll need to speak the language well enough to conquer the bureaucracy headache covered in the next paragraph. Some countries, like the ones in Eastern Europe, don’t even have their road signs in English, let alone the employment forms and websites you’ll have to deal with.

Unless you plan on working in Germany, which would require about a year of language classes to be able find your way to the bathroom, every other case will settle for a maximum of 6 months of dedication. Also, it would be great if you allowed yourself two weeks to just roam around the country and practice your language skills in advance, before you hit the office.  This will  make your first days on the job a lot less intimidating because you’ll be comfortable with making conversation and you will have already picked up on the tweaks in social courtesy, that are bound to differ from one country to another.

Learn to master the bureaucracy

For the sake of social norms, we’ll assume that you plan on working abroad legally. As neat as it sounds, this can be a major challenge in itself, depending on the bureaucratic machinery of the country you’re considering. On a first glance, the workload required to get your papers in order is an instant discouragement, because the systems are often blunt and user hostile, asking for dozens of approvals and additional documents in small font at the bottom of the page.


If you don’t have the one friend already working there to hold your hand through the process, then keep calm and carry on digesting the information until you come to make sense of it – it will eventually stick but patience is key. You have to take the time to figure out whether you need a work permit, how you’ll get it and what other paperwork you need to fill in to have a smooth stay over there.

Employers may or may not be willing to help you out, so you’ll have to be prepared to face the procedures by yourself. Since (according to Captain Obvious) working abroad also involves living abroad, be sure to also look into the country’s immigrant, tenancy and healthcare policies long in advance of your departure. If you leave no room for improvisation, you’ll be left with nothing to worry about.