We are ruled by the internet. This vast digital space we created in the 1970s has expanded exponentially since its conception, gradually creeping into virtually every aspect of our lives, from utility bills to hotel reservations. A vast range of devices have now integrated it into their operating systems, including smart fridges which can access Twitter and toothbrushes which upload brushing data to a website for analysis. We are now dependent on this conceptual community in such diverse ways that it now finds itself in the same sentence as heating, electricity, water and other basic human rights. It offers us a place to connect with other people, a space to work and an endless digital library to learn new things.
Naturally, there are many people who lament the meteoric rise that the internet has experienced. They worry about the extent to which we are dependent on it, the implications this might have on our political sphere, and its potential to be harnessed by unsavoury powers.
While these fears are not ungrounded, the internet, on the flip side, has also provided a constantly growing source of opportunity for creatives, entrepreneurs and anyone willing to think outside the box. A whole new range of digital jobs have sprung up, allowing us to work anywhere in the world without ever having to go near an office. This has given rise to a new generation of so-called ‘digital nomads’, who are able to work and travel the world simultaneously. If this lifestyle appeals to you, it might be time to pack your bags and move abroad to work. But it can be hard to adjust to a new country, especially when you are working by yourself. You will have to get to grips with new tax laws and meeting people is more difficult without a physical office so you might be left feeling isolated and overwhelmed.
Fear not! This is what virtually all of us go through when settling in abroad. Here are some tips to help get you through.
One of the most important factors when you move abroad to work is one you must consider before even stepping on the plane. If you plan to move to a new country for longer than a short stay you will need to be aware of different rules and regulations that you will need to adhere to. This might include requirements to pay for healthcare, restrictions on renting properties and limits on the number of hours you can work each week. Fortunately, there are specialist nomad insurance packages available to help ensure your continued access to healthcare and other basic services. These will vary depending where you are staying and for how long so make sure the policy you choose is the right one before setting off.
Know your rights
Each country sets its own tax regulations which are nearly always different for those with temporary visas. Whether you are working as a taxed employee of a company (referred to as PAYE in the UK) or a freelancer who is responsible for arranging your own tax payments will be important to bear in mind since countries often have different rules for each. Nothing will ingratiate you less with your new host government than a failure to tie up your tax arrangements so it is important that you read up effectively beforehand to know what you need to fill out and where to send the relevant forms.
(Try to) Pick up the language
One of the most appealing aspects of working in a new country is immersing yourself in its culture and making meaningful connections with local people. The two are often interlinked. The best way to do this is by attempting to pick up some of the language, at least enough to hold a basic conversation. Since English speakers are notoriously reluctant to do so, learning the rudimentaries of the local language will make a great first impression with the people who live there, opening up a wealth of opportunities which would be otherwise closed off. This will help you break away from superficial ‘touristy’ activities and places, giving you a more genuine experience of your new country. Do not be afraid to make mistakes, even if you make a pig’s ear of your sentences at first.
From my experience, easily the hardest thing to cope with when working for an extended period abroad are the feelings of isolation and homesickness. We do not always make close friends with our colleagues and most digital nomads will be working solo anyway so it can be hard to find friends. These anxieties are entirely natural and unfortunately there is no quickfire solution. While we all dream of sitting alone at a bar and chatting up a random stranger, it rarely pans out like this. In fact, your best strategy is persistence. Trawl social media to find local groups offering activities open to all, such as sports teams, dance lessons, history tours and the like. You will be surprised at how many like minded travellers you encounter if you overcome any initial awkwardness and put yourself out there.
Moving abroad to work is easier said than done but if you put these ideas into practice you will feel like a native in no time.