How To Survive As An Expat Entrepreneur Abroad

With opportunities for business in every corner of the world, many entrepreneurs travel far and wide in search of success.

Photo: Heather Darby; Credit: Momentous Relocation

In our hyper-connected world, it makes more sense than ever to make your entrepreneurial talents accessible around the globe. With opportunities for business in every corner of the world, many entrepreneurs travel far and wide in search of success.

Relocating to follow your entrepreneurial dreams, however, can be difficult. Despite that drive to succeed, we are all susceptible to things like culture shock, becoming homesick, communication difficulties and other adjustment issues.

No matter how long you plan on chasing your dreams overseas, here are some expert survival tips to help you keep your head above the water.


1. Invest in personal acclimatization

You are moving for business, so business should be your primary focus, right?

Not quite! Before you delve into the world of startups, investment opportunities or whatever else has prompted you to dust off your passport, take the time to adjust to your new surroundings on a personal level.


Photo Credit: Clarisse Meyer

In order to be effective in your entrepreneurial goals, you need to have your mind in the right place. External stressors like culture shock can wreak havoc on your psychological welfare and productivity.

Settle into your surroundings before you go full force into business beast mode. This means finding accommodations for the duration of your time overseas, sorting menial things like insurance, healthcare and phone service, while also taking the time to get to know the local area and taking part in daily activities (e.g., grocery shopping, recreational events and hobbies).


2. Don’t assume smooth sailing is the norm

Entrepreneurship requires guts, self-determination and an internal drive to succeed. Entrepreneurs that travel overseas in search of success will need these traits by the bucketloads.


The ABCs of Starting a Business Overseas
Photo: © nenetus, YFS Magazine

If you have the confidence to make big changes and difficult choices, you’re less inclined to believe you will be affected by pesky issues like culture shock. However, even the strongest individuals can face challenges when moving abroad.

Assuming you’ll be able to conquer the market and culture abroad is a sure-fire way to be hit hard by adjustment problems. Remember you are human; just because your mind works differently than the status quo, doesn’t mean you can’t be affected by similar “human” issues.

Accepting the potential for problems makes it easier to prepare for and manage them.


3. Pre-move prep is essential

Having a lightbulb moment, jumping on a plane and winging your way to the top sounds pretty exciting, but it isn’t a reality.

It takes time to understand the area you are moving to, both working out how the culture works and where the business opportunities are. If you leave without doing your homework, you’ll most likely find yourself way out of your depth.


Photo: © Alliance, YFS Magazine

Invest time in pre-move preparation. This includes research not only into how to find the best business opportunities, but how life in general will change. Research local customs, learn the language if it is different, and identify any major differences in national law.


4. Respect local business customs

The world might be more interconnected than ever before, but national business culture is still totally unique.

Everywhere you go will have slight or large variations on how they do business. To be successful and survive your time as an entrepreneur abroad, it is vital that you absorb these customs into your strategy.

For example, building a business in China is famously slow and based on interpersonal relationships. Other differences from what you are probably used to include a focus on body language, which speaks volumes in Chinese business culture. Making the wrong gestures could prove catastrophic.


Photo: YFS Magazine

If you don’t know about the culture, you can’t make sure you remain on the right side of it. If you get things wrong, you could seriously harm your potential entrepreneurial opportunities.

Educating yourself on business culture is the first step to success. Ensuring you keep up the practices and don’t slip into old habits is the clincher.


5. Perseverance is key

Chasing your entrepreneurial dreams overseas is more than likely going to throw you a few curveballs and dilemmas.


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However, to make it big in the business world, you have to be prepared to fail. Most of the big guns in business struck out on more than one occasion. While abroad it is tempting to chalk this up to your surroundings and head for home, you could be missing out on the greatest prize of your career.

Face your problems head on, understand that attempting to become a success abroad will almost certainly be tougher than back home, and you’ll reap the rewards later.


This article has been edited.

Heather Darby, of international moving company Momentous Relocation, has worked with countless people moving abroad to chase their career dreams. Connect with @momentousrelo on Twitter.


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