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Thread: Working Abroad

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    Freaking Ratchet Rail Tracer's Avatar
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    Default Working Abroad

    For those who are working abroad and is living comfortably (or uncomfortably), how did you get a work visa over there? What route did you take to get there? Did you have prior language experience before setting to said country? Or was it a country you didn't really think about staying in, but ended up staying in anyways? Did your company push you to work in said country? Did you have someone from said country that helped you to keep a footing there (like living arrangements)?

    One of my life goals is to live in a completely different country (different language, different cultural framework, etc) for 2-4 years before coming back, and I still plan to sometime after I graduate.

    I am willing to accept anything from teaching kids English (though I prefer smaller towns over huge ones) to working odd jobs in another country, though I am not sure how common it is for other countries to accept work visas for work outside of English or a person with a degree. In about a year from now is when I expect to get most of the stuff at home settled before I want to find ways to get abroad.

    I want it mostly for the experience but also because if I had my way, I'd be living in another every few years.
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    Hmm maybe you could find some global chain company to work for that would allow you to transfer to new countries. Like ikea or w hotels or something??
    There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.
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    Undisciplined Starry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rail Tracer View Post
    For those who are working abroad and is living comfortably (or uncomfortably), how did you get a work visa over there? What route did you take to get there? Did you have prior language experience before setting to said country? Or was it a country you didn't really think about staying in, but ended up staying in anyways? Did your company push you to work in said country? Did you have someone from said country that helped you to keep a footing there (like living arrangements)?

    One of my life goals is to live in a completely different country (different language, different cultural framework, etc) for 2-4 years before coming back, and I still plan to sometime after I graduate.

    I am willing to accept anything from teaching kids English (though I prefer smaller towns over huge ones) to working odd jobs in another country, though I am not sure how common it is for other countries to accept work visas for work outside of English or a person with a degree. In about a year from now is when I expect to get most of the stuff at home settled before I want to find ways to get abroad.

    I want it mostly for the experience but also because if I had my way, I'd be living in another every few years.

    For what you are describing...I honestly feel it would be better for you to travel to the country of your choice as a visitor...and if it suits you then start thinking about employment. No one is going to sponsor someone from the US to come and work in their hostel or pub or tourist gift shop... If you are already there though they may in fact help you with the appropriate documentation. I have seen vacations turn into *stays* this way. More importantly though, you can't expect to hop off a plane and have what it takes to start working in a new cultural environment. No matter how much you read or research you never really 'get it' until you are there. I don't know how exotic you want to go but I've traveled to places where it took me a couple of months just to get over the culture shock alone so... had I immediately started employment I would not have faired well at all. For just your standard, 'unskilled' jobs... this would be the best way to go about it.

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    @Starry I forgot to mention that I was graduating soon if that makes any difference.

    I am in a field which is commonly known as political science. A few places that I REALLY want to go to for what I would consider valuable learning experience is Germany, Sweden, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan because all of these have either/both political conflicts and governments I find interesting, and painstakingly learning about the culture there would be a nice addition to my resume/portfolio/etc.

    I found some programs each has for people graduating with Bachelors and such, like JET for Japan, and EPIK for Korea, as for Germany and Sweden, I am unsure.

    I read that a big minority of expats end up not surviving being expats because of the culture shock one gets by going to said country, however.

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    Undisciplined Starry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rail Tracer View Post
    @Starry I forgot to mention that I was graduating soon if that makes any difference.

    I am in a field which is commonly known as political science. A few places that I REALLY want to go to for what I would consider valuable learning experience is Germany, Sweden, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan because all of these have either/both political conflicts and governments I find interesting, and painstakingly learning about the culture there would be a nice addition to my resume/portfolio/etc.

    I found some programs each has for people graduating with Bachelors and such, like JET for Japan, and EPIK for Korea, as for Germany and Sweden, I am unsure.

    I read that a big minority of expats end up not surviving being expats because of the culture shock one gets by going to said country, however.

    A mere 3 days did I take to find this...which basically means...I'm kickin some serious mention-butt. On this post. Only.

    It's difficult for me to put myself into the mindset of someone that is responsible haha. I mean, I understand that your main objective is the personal enrichment that accompanies an overseas experience of this magnitude. But if coming in a close second is actually having something more than postcards and passport stamps to show for it... then you truly should participate in one of those international programs (although many people do chronicle their less formal experiences abroad by including a short "lived and worked in <insert country>" paragraph on their resumes.) I just know I couldn't do it and so it is a difficult thing for me to even imagine it enough for another person so as to get to a place where I could 'get behind it.' But maybe for an IJ? I'm not familiar with these programs but are you saying these are 2-4 year commitments? Yah see I would never commit to a job for that long in my own country haha so you see where I'm coming from here.

    I have done short-term volunteer stints in other countries...and gone to school...and just so you know those 'orientations' and 'cultural tips' are basically useless [<-I should say I know this because I've also travelled as merely a traveller...so minus these orientations...and so discovered how much easier it is to absorb culture when you don't have a bunch of things you have to unlearn all you truly need to do in the beginning is be polite. People are pretty forgiving.] Absorb the information and put it into the back of your mind. But do not memorize them and strictly observe what you learned as it will end-up confusing you...and in many instances...it may be more offensive to screw-up some customary gesture, etc. than had you not made an attempt at all. It's kinda like...you don't learn culture you absorb it. For learning though, one of the best resources is Lonely Planet videos and online information. And if you are making a commitment to something...know yourself well. <-I mean, I know I don't have to tell you this...but if you are a small town guy...you may want to think twice about signing-up for some gig in Tokyo that will begin 3 days after you arrive. Or if you have lived in a large city your entire life...consider the demographical shock alone of going to teach English in some remote Mongolian village of 23 people that live without power or flushing toilets.

    Please keep me updated. And please...if at all possible...go at least 3-4 weeks prior to when your program commitment is to begin just to give yourself some time to be free to explore.

  6. #6
    Freaking Ratchet Rail Tracer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Starry View Post
    A mere 3 days did I take to find this...which basically means...I'm kickin some serious mention-butt. On this post. Only.

    It's difficult for me to put myself into the mindset of someone that is responsible haha. I mean, I understand that your main objective is the personal enrichment that accompanies an overseas experience of this magnitude. But if coming in a close second is actually having something more than postcards and passport stamps to show for it... then you truly should participate in one of those international programs (although many people do chronicle their less formal experiences abroad by including a short "lived and worked in <insert country>" paragraph on their resumes.) I just know I couldn't do it and so it is a difficult thing for me to even imagine it enough for another person so as to get to a place where I could 'get behind it.' But maybe for an IJ? I'm not familiar with these programs but are you saying these are 2-4 year commitments? Yah see I would never commit to a job for that long in my own country haha so you see where I'm coming from here.

    I have done short-term volunteer stints in other countries...and gone to school...and just so you know those 'orientations' and 'cultural tips' are basically useless [<-I should say I know this because I've also travelled as merely a traveller...so minus these orientations...and so discovered how much easier it is to absorb culture when you don't have a bunch of things you have to unlearn all you truly need to do in the beginning is be polite. People are pretty forgiving.] Absorb the information and put it into the back of your mind. But do not memorize them and strictly observe what you learned as it will end-up confusing you...and in many instances...it may be more offensive to screw-up some customary gesture, etc. than had you not made an attempt at all. It's kinda like...you don't learn culture you absorb it. For learning though, one of the best resources is Lonely Planet videos and online information. And if you are making a commitment to something...know yourself well. <-I mean, I know I don't have to tell you this...but if you are a small town guy...you may want to think twice about signing-up for some gig in Tokyo that will begin 3 days after you arrive. Or if you have lived in a large city your entire life...consider the demographical shock alone of going to teach English in some remote Mongolian village of 23 people that live without power or flushing toilets.

    Please keep me updated. And please...if at all possible...go at least 3-4 weeks prior to when your program commitment is to begin just to give yourself some time to be free to explore.
    Each country would be a 2 year commitment (hopefully,) with intervals in-between where I'll be back in the states for home. It all comes down to when school starts for said country. For example, most schools in Japan start in April and end somewhere along late winter. So Japan is already off the table for me until next year. If I wanted to stay in said country longer, with the connections I have made, possibly, I can see if they can provide me with a longer stint.

    These English teaching programs do allow you to choose which cities you want to go to to teach unless I choose to pursue a private English teaching program of said country. Unless I see a huge importance of being stationed in Tokyo or Berlin (as I am quite sure hundreds of other people are also having the idea of stationing there) I will probably choose the more obscure cities/towns around them.

    I honestly have wanted to travel and see different cultures since middle school, I just haven't found the right way to get about them without having strict work laws so even if I wanted to stay in the country, they wouldn't allow me to, but this is a perfect way for me to stay there long enough to adapt while I get to work, learn the culture, and create future contacts with people outside the states.

    It will take some time before I can actually update anything about working abroad, however. I still haven't graduated yet (by late May), and even then I still have some stuff to take care of, so it might take me a year from now to take the plunge (sorry if this take some of the energy away )

    I've known at least a few people who are either working abroad, have taught abroad, or have studied abroad that had mostly good things to say about them. Some places they went abroad for are Africa, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, and Japan. I also have a classmate that plan to travel to Germany sometime in the near future (he is my junior in college terms.) If he heads to Germany before I do, I'd probably ask him for some advice about the area and how did he find a way to stay there.

    I've contemplated on exploring while in both a huge city and a small town during free-time, I also contemplated just buying books in the native language to slowly read while over there. So whether the place is a big or small, I will find something to do.

  7. #7
    Freaking Ratchet Rail Tracer's Avatar
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    So I found someone who is willing to teach abroad along with me in one of the countries I plan to work abroad in, Japan. Since I can't do the sign ups until this coming fall, the signing up will have to wait. Until that time comes, I'll update.

    Considering how the JET program tries to keep your buddy in the same working area (to make living and working there more habitable,) I've been looking for various areas that I can work at. Even if the areas are not guaranteed, I have a possible shot at them since they aren't as popular as some places I am about to mention.

    I've been looking for:
    Similar population or/and density size: Anything close to or below 2000 persons per square kilometers is best
    Any place that isn't high impacted places: Tokyo, Yokohama, Kyoto, or Osaka...... going to San Francisco is already bad enough for us (even though we like SF.) We'd prefer some place that doesn't seem so hectic. Besides, I am quite sure the hundreds that want to work in those areas already have asked.
    Some place that has enough things going on: A little culture here and there, some things to do here and there, some places to visit here and there (a very rural place would have nice scenery, but that is just it... not too much unless it is known for something like hiking up mountains and such.)

    I've only come up with three places because the three are the places I am most interested in to begin with because of their location to other places while being interesting themselves.
    Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture, Shikoku Island: Place is pretty much across the straits from Osaka, but the population isn't as big as Osaka. The population size mirrors my own city, but the density is about 1/3 less than mines. Lots of interesting places to visit.
    Najou, Okinawa, Okinawa Islands When it comes to density, sort of like Oahu, certain places are packed to the bone while other areas are more scenic. This place is one of them. While Naha is like the anchor city of the Okinawa Islands, this place isn't too far from Naha. What can you say about a place that really does seem like an island like Hawaii?
    Kagoshima, Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu Similar population size and density as Matsuyama. There is a volcano near the area on the ocean, aquariums and ferris wheel, it is very scenic.

    When I was in High School at the time I learned about the JET program, I thought about Fukushima as a place that I might go to when I graduated college with a degree because of its relative distance from Tokyo. But since the Earthquake, I don't think there is a possibility of going there anymore.

    Anyhow, of the three places mentioned, the yearly sunlight is horrible. Even the sunlight in San Francisco, with its daily fog is better at keeping sunlight than the three I mentioned. Even when I visted around Honolulu, with its daily on-off clouds, has more sunlight than these three place mentioned.

    Anybody have any experience anywhere from Japan? Whether it is work, military, tourism, whatever?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rail Tracer View Post
    […] Anybody have any experience anywhere from Japan? Whether it is work, military, tourism, whatever?
    I spent 6 months at Torii Station (US Army base) in Okinawa, and then later another 6 months at Misawa Air Base (US Air Force/JASDF base) in northern Japan. That was back in the 1970s.

    As for Okinawa: I don't know the Najou region specifically, but I can offer some impressions of Okinawa generally. In the military, Okinawa was considered kind of a dreary posting. They called it "The Rock." The weather is gray more than in Hawaii (which you noted). Unlike Hawaii, you also won't find many beaches: The Hawaiian islands are volcanic, which is good for beaches, whereas Okinawa rests on a coral reef which makes for bad beaches. Then there's the fact that Okinawa is an island: Even Oahu feels small after you've been around it once or twice. That sense of smallness pertains all the moreso to Okinawa, since you will be in a foreign land and much of the island's activities will be difficult to access for an outsider. And Oki is pretty isolated out there by itself on the water; it's a long flight to mainland Japan.

    Another consideration: There used to be a huge US military presence in Okinawa in the 1970s. The numbers of US military people there have been reduced somewhat since then, but there is still a presence. I suppose that's good in that if you get homesick you can always go party with the US military at the bars around the bases. It's bad in that the Japanese and Okinawans don't like the US military much, and you'll probably spend a lot of time explaining that you're not with the military.

    Also, Japanese and Okinawans are different ethnicities, and the Japanese pretty much look down on the Okinawans (or used to, anyway). That's not really your problem; but to the extent that you become immersed in the local culture, it's something to be aware of. You will have to get used to dealing with two separate cultures and populations, not just one homogenous culture.

    All in all, Okinawa is kind of a mixed bag. There's a lot going on there, with a lot of ethnic and cultural diversity (US military, Japanese, Okinawan); but that can also create barriers and make it all the harder to really get to know the place.

    Japan is a simpler story: Ethnically homogenous, you can basically do the total immersion thing with the one big Japanese culture there. Also, Japan is a big, pretty land with lots to see and do. I was up north; you'll be down south. So I don't really have much to say in detail. But I thought Misawa was nice, and I enjoyed my travels to Tokyo and around the country.

    ETA: One more reminiscence about Okinawa. When I was in the military, the guys who most enjoyed being stationed at Oki were the ones who were into martial arts. There wasn't much to do in one's off-time, so those guys could take a lot of classes and really hone their skills. Also, Okinawa has its own fighting style and is known for its martial arts schools. So just in case you're into that (or want to get into it)…

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    Quote Originally Posted by FLD View Post
    I spent 6 months at Torii Station (US Army base) in Okinawa, and then later another 6 months at Misawa Air Base (US Air Force/JASDF base) in northern Japan. That was back in the 1970s.

    As for Okinawa: I don't know the Najou region specifically, but I can offer some impressions of Okinawa generally. In the military, Okinawa was considered kind of a dreary posting. They called it "The Rock." The weather is gray more than in Hawaii (which you noted). Unlike Hawaii, you also won't find many beaches: The Hawaiian islands are volcanic, which is good for beaches, whereas Okinawa rests on a coral reef which makes for bad beaches. Then there's the fact that Okinawa is an island: Even Oahu feels small after you've been around it once or twice. That sense of smallness pertains all the moreso to Okinawa, since you will be in a foreign land and much of the island's activities will be difficult to access for an outsider. And Oki is pretty isolated out there by itself on the water; it's a long flight to mainland Japan.

    Another consideration: There used to be a huge US military presence in Okinawa in the 1970s. The numbers of US military people there have been reduced somewhat since then, but there is still a presence. I suppose that's good in that if you get homesick you can always go party with the US military at the bars around the bases. It's bad in that the Japanese and Okinawans don't like the US military much, and you'll probably spend a lot of time explaining that you're not with the military.

    Also, Japanese and Okinawans are different ethnicities, and the Japanese pretty much look down on the Okinawans (or used to, anyway). That's not really your problem; but to the extent that you become immersed in the local culture, it's something to be aware of. You will have to get used to dealing with two separate cultures and populations, not just one homogenous culture.

    All in all, Okinawa is kind of a mixed bag. There's a lot going on there, with a lot of ethnic and cultural diversity (US military, Japanese, Okinawan); but that can also create barriers and make it all the harder to really get to know the place.

    Japan is a simpler story: Ethnically homogenous, you can basically do the total immersion thing with the one big Japanese culture there. Also, Japan is a big, pretty land with lots to see and do. I was up north; you'll be down south. So I don't really have much to say in detail. But I thought Misawa was nice, and I enjoyed my travels to Tokyo and around the country.

    ETA: One more reminiscence about Okinawa. When I was in the military, the guys who most enjoyed being stationed at Oki were the ones who were into martial arts. There wasn't much to do in one's off-time, so those guys could take a lot of classes and really hone their skills. Also, Okinawa has its own fighting style and is known for its martial arts schools. So just in case you're into that (or want to get into it)…
    Okinawa sounds ok to me, but maybe not so much for my buddy. Of course, I do know that there is a distinct cultural difference between Okinawa and the Mainland though and the Military presence where the locals tend to protest about. Gah, I was hoping Okinawa would have a inhabitable beach... I went to one part of Oahu once where there were coral reefs, wasn't fun trying to swim. And going through the sand was painful. Other than that...

    I am more apt for the South-West portion because the climate there is more likely to be warmer and much more like the current climate I live in while being warmer during the winter months. Though places in and around Hokkaido wouldn't be so bad either (snowboarding during free-time in the winter.)

    For the most part, I don't mind whether it is the North-East or South-West as long as it isn't really cold during the winter months. So the place won't be off-limits as long as it is smaller than 2000 person per square kilometers, not the big cities, and has enough to do.

    What were some/many of the things you did while being stationed in Misawa? Or, like you said, did you just travel to other areas during freetime?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rail Tracer View Post
    Okinawa sounds ok to me, but maybe not so much for my buddy. Of course, I do know that there is a distinct cultural difference between Okinawa and the Mainland though and the Military presence where the locals tend to protest about. Gah, I was hoping Okinawa would have a inhabitable beach... I went to one part of Oahu once where there were coral reefs, wasn't fun trying to swim. And going through the sand was painful. Other than that...

    I am more apt for the South-West portion because the climate there is more likely to be warmer and much more like the current climate I live in while being warmer during the winter months. Though places in and around Hokkaido wouldn't be so bad either (snowboarding during free-time in the winter.)

    For the most part, I don't mind whether it is the North-East or South-West as long as it isn't really cold during the winter months. So the place won't be off-limits as long as it is smaller than 2000 person per square kilometers, not the big cities, and has enough to do.

    What were some/many of the things you did while being stationed in Misawa? Or, like you said, did you just travel to other areas during freetime?
    The area around Misawa is flat, rural, bucolic, and pretty. The north of Japan is mainly fishing villages and small towns; the south of Japan has the industrial centers. Hachinohe is the city nearest to Misawa of any real size, and it's a good spot for touring.

    I was in Misawa during the summer and left there just as the first frosts hit. But winters are supposed to be moderate (20s and 30s) with lots of snow. Across the water is Hokkaido, of course. The capital, Sapporo, hosted the Winter Olympics in 1972.

    I didn't get out and around as much in Misawa as I would have liked. I stayed in Tokyo for a few days when traveling between Hawaii and Misawa and saw the countryside by train. I didn't get up to Hokkaido; I would have liked to check that out, but that's a pretty big expedition and requires some cash and time. Due to a tight work schedule, I mostly stayed pretty close to base. But even just hitting the bars and restaurants off-base in Misawa was fun. They were full-blown, old-style Japanese establishments, small and cozy; some of the old hostesses said that they had been brought up in the old Geisha style as young women (though they wore western clothes by the 1970s). A few of us would go out there during the week, have the place all to ourselves, and party until closing time. The US dollar was still king back then, so it was all quite affordable.

    Of course, this all dates back 40 years. But I remember Misawa as a mellow, pretty, laid-back rural setting.

    One more reminiscence: The summer nights were cool, and we slept in old barracks with screened windows. The Japanese mosquitos made it through gaps and rips in the screens and raised sizable welts when they bit us. One guy wasn't getting bit though, and I asked him what he was doing differently. He suggested that it might be his soap (Irish Spring, I think). So I switched soaps, and from then on I didn't have any more trouble with the mosquitos. Just a bit of trivia that might come in handy in the future.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rail Tracer View Post
    Gah, I was hoping Okinawa would have a inhabitable beach...
    There are a couple beaches; just not as nice or as plentiful as in Hawaii. Some are private resort beaches. Google okinawa & beaches for more info. Friends of mine who checked them out weren't much impressed by them, so I didn't even bother going to them. But part of the problem was that I was coming from Hawaii, and Hawaii kind of spoils you when it comes to beaches.

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