Overcoming the cultural barrier

Career Advice

How to overcome the cultural barrier when applying abroad?

When you decided to move abroad, you will face some obstacles that you planned for, and you will encounter some that will catch you by surprise. While this is normal, we as human beings tend to prepare as much as possible to minimize the chance of failure. Planning ahead might be working in some areas of our life, but it is especially hard when moving abroad. The reason for that is simple: you don’t know yet what to expect. You might be familiar with your new home through movies, research, and even vacations at that destination but at the end of the day living somewhere else way is something entirely different.

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While Expats face cultural challenges at work, they are already in the comfortable position to have a job abroad which provides them with a network and a certain structure. The Expat Partner however mostly has to start from scratch and find a job on her/his own. Statistically, this is a tough thing to do! Only 20% of Expat Partners are working during the time abroad, and 70% of Expat Partners rate the job hunt as hard, challenging and lengthy.


Cultural difference in the work environment and job application process is only one of the many obstacles Expat Partners face. However, it’s a great obstacle to overcome as you work on it straight away.  

Here are my Top 3 tips regarding cultural barriers at the workplace. You will find more information in my comprehensive Expat Partner Career Guide which you will find here:

Tip 1: Make yourself visible:

No matter where you are going you will most likely do not know many people and hardly anyone will know you. Try to make yourself as much visible as possible by signing up to as many job portals and networking events as possible. Put yourself out there and try a different version of presenting yourself and your skills to get a feeling how your own culture differs from your host culture and how to adopt.

Tip 2: Make the most out of your internationality

The fact that you are coming from a specific country adds a new skill to your CV. You are fluent in that language and have a deep understanding of the culture and communication tactics as it’s your home country. Some Expat Partners don’t stress where they are coming from, but there is a particular strength in owning it and put it as a skill on your CV.

Tip 3: Get a feeling for the foreign job market

Nothing is as devastating as applying for hours and hours just to not hear back at all. Gather some information on the internet about the labor market situation and some industry insights. Most of all, try to speak with people that are actually working in the area you want to apply for and learn how they did it. In some cultures, networking is more important than others. Also, have a piece of knowledge about how hard it is for locals to land a job will give you some peace of mind to start with!

Overcoming the cultural barrier is a HUGE topic, and there are many different approaches to tackle it. If you want to find out more about this, check out my career guide for Expat Partners to prepare yourself for that great adventure of living and working abroad. 

Thanks for stopping by and sharing the love

Kate from Share the Love, expat, expat wife, expat life

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3 thoughts on “Overcoming the cultural barrier”

  • Hi Kate!
    Very useful post, as always!
    May I ask where did you find the statistics about that 20% jobless expat partners?

    I also write on a blog (in spanish) about living abroad and I was searching that kind of data. Unfortunately I couldn’t find it. It would be very interesting if you could provide me some source.

    Thank you and schöne Grüße! 😉

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