Internship in a country from outside of the Western World. What do you need to know

People who went there, say it’s the greatest adventure of their life. However, it’s not that easy to get an a job in a country outside of the  Western World. You can either try to get a job directly or work for an international company and arrange yourself a relocation.

Getting an intership in one of the off-shore sites of a international corporation may be a shortcut to living in one of the Arab states, Africa or the Far East. Even if you don’t fancy living there permanently, most likely an internship in a country of Orient or Africa put in your resume will be perceived as a valuable trophy in development of your career.

Before applying for a job or internship in one of these non-typical locations it’s good to know what you probably will have to deal with.

China – Cosmopolitan Coast vs Traditional Inland

People who went to work in China underline especially one rule. Always try to be recruited as somebody from abroad. Once you are a resident (temporary or permanent) the job offers you will be worse than for a complete foreigner.

Once you get to China, you need to know that the country is polarised. The coastal East is mostly cosmopolitan. According to government statistics, there are over 173,000 expats in Shanghai, the most westernised Chinese city.Western media, however, often quote much bigger numbers. The Telegraph wrote once about over 400,000 expats working in Shanghai. Which means you won’t feel like you were a complete outsider working there. This applies also to Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Beijing.

On the other hand, if the chance may happen, you will get to one of the cities of the Chinese interior, don’t be surprised that you may become a local celebrity. There are people who haven’t seen a foreigner yet and they might even want to take a selfie along with you.

China is a safe country, with very low crime rate. Probably thanks to the communist government, who controls the media and internet. There are some Western websites which are permanently blocked. Some are blocked temporarily. TV is under auspices of Propaganda Bureau, so don’t expect that you will watch objective news from your country in Chinese TV.

One of the biggest problems is that outside of your workplace, you may have problems with communicating if you don’t know the basics of Mandarin Chinese. The knowledge of English in China is often overrated. Almost everybody you will meet in your work will speak English, but once you get in a taxi or go to grocer’s, barely anytime you will find someone who will understand you. Even in the big coastal cities.

You have to be aware that once you’re older than 24 and single, you will be frequently asked questions about your marital plans. If you’re a single female over 24, you will be considered “an old maid” and locals – especially in the interior – will try to help you getting a husband.

Japan – Not Eexactly the Mecca of Technology

Although for the Western world it has an image of a place, where everything is packed with high-tech, the everyday life in Japan may be a disappointment if you’re a tech-geek. The truth is you will get wireless internet almost everywhere, but in your work, you will have to deal with – let’s call it – business standard of the ‘90s.

You will have to learn how to use a fax machine. I bet, not many of us see those in offices these days. Not in Japan. As no official or business paperwork is allowed to be transferred via email, the fax machines are in constant use. Many of the official documents have to be completed in painfully old-fashioned ways – by hand and on paper.

In Japan cash is king. In business, as well as in your afterwork. No problem, because cash dispensers are almost on every corner, but... indoors. The banks close at 6 p.m., so you don’t have that much time to get some cash if you finish your work at standard 5 p.m.

You need to be aware that Japan is one of the most homogenous nations in the world. The Japanese hold for over 98% of the population. This means, they don’t really need to learn foreign languages. Thus, you need to know at least basics of Japanese to be self-sufficient living there. Thus, you will always be a foreigner, no matter how long you’ve stayed there. As a matter of fact, Japanese people are polite, but they will use every chance to remind you that you are not one of them. Appreciate it and don’t try to become one.

Muslim States – The Land of Moderate Tolerance

One thing that repeats in the stories related to Westerners living in Muslim countries can be put in a sentence:

“As you measure accurately (in all kinds of matters), then others will measure back to you in similar ways as honest people of almost any background respond fairly when treated fairly.” (source: http://www.wikihow.com/Live-Safely-in-a-Muslim-Country-As-a-Christian)

Although there are radical Muslims, most of people of that faith don’t want any trouble and as far as you don’t provoke anybody and respect their customs and traditional law, they will respond in the same manner.

If you think of applying for a job in a Islamic country, most likely, you will find offers from companies located in Dubai and Abu-Dhabi, which are parts of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This is the most tolerant Arab country, with big population of foreigners of all origin. Regardless of that, you will have to respect a few rules, which are transferred directly from Qur’an.

The first thing is modest clothing. This applies especially to women. In the UAE, Muslim women now decide for themselves how much they are covered and the fact is they choose to wear traditional  clothes.As a foreigner and non-Muslim, it’s safe to cover yourself loosely from the neck to the elbow to the knees. You also need to know that drunkenness, drug use, foul language, public display of affection, and dishonest behavior are all criminal offenses with very severe punishments. There are also strict rules about the holy month of Ramadan – it’s best to read a separate manual on that topic (e.g. here: http://muslimvillage.com/2013/07/08/12681/a-ramadan-guide-for-non-muslims/)

On the other hand, you are free to practice your own religion, as long as you don’t evangelise. This is not tolerated.

Africa – Choose Wisely

If you want to try yourself working in Africa, you will most likely find offers from oil companies from around the world, which have their subsidiaries who drill for oil on the West coast of the continent. A good idea before applying is to check whether the country of your destination is Christian or Muslim.

Although Christian countries are a bit more safe to live in Africa, you need to know, that Cabinda, a province of Angola, where the oil is drilled for has a strong separatist movement and you can expect drive-by’s and running gunmen on a normal day.

India – Differentiated Land of Plenty

Getting a job in India is relatively easiest compared to other countries from this blog post, as many of the Western companies have their offices and outsourcing centres out there. Most people in your office will speak fluent English. Local people will know English to the extent that you will be able to call a taxi and explain to the driver, where do you want to go. But there are other problems.

India is a federation of 28 states. This means you need to check what are the laws and rules for the one where you plan to go. For example, there are different rules for drinking alcohol for almost every state.

A fixed price is term barely known in India. Most of the time, when you want to buy something, you have to bargain. Even in a taxi. The driver will most likely find a good reason to charge you extra. A good solution is a pre-paid taxi, which can be found in the big cities.

Although English is widely known, the British occupation  makes the relations complicated. It’s rather seldom to witness hostility to foreigners, but you can’t say that Indians like them either.


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