The First Principle of Working Overseas: Go Travelling


It’s not easy being an expat. Among others, someone who works overseas would have to learn new cultural norms, get used to communicating using a foreign language, and re-establish their social circle. In this article, Indonesia Mengglobal Columnist Steffen Hadi shares his insight on how he stayed motivated during his assignment abroad: he went travelling.


No matter how busy you are with work, sparing some time to travel is essential. Especially if you work overseas. Do not get me wrong, I am not suggesting you to leave work and act unprofessionally just to prioritize travelling. Here I am emphasizing how unfortunate it would be if you miss your chance of travelling around the country when you work overseas.

In my profession as a lawyer, I had the chance to work overseas twice. No matter how tall the stacks of documents I should work on, I always managed to find a way to travel, and now I do not regret my decision.

In this opportunity, I would like to show you the importance of travelling as an expat.

Getting Used to the People

A usual symptom of people who work overseas is that they suddenly have a limited living environment, namely the home and the office. Life suddenly becomes black and white. The smaller the environment they are living in, the less people they would meet. At home, either they live alone or with a family that follows them to the foreign country. Most times, it means they are only able to experience a cultural mix at the office.

The bad news is, people they meet in the office do not represent the real culture of the people in that country. In the office, one could only find “serious stuff.” And believe me, it is the same anywhere in the world.

When I worked in Tokyo, I could barely feel the difference between working in Indonesia and working overseas. It was all the same: I dealt with serious people, deadline-oriented life, or serious talk. It was until I went to an Izakaya with some of my office colleagues that I could see the difference. I saw the real culture of Japanese salarymen when they had fun.

It was also the case when I visited Osaka, Kyoto or Nikko during weekends and public holidays. It was during those times that I was amazed and entertained with a very real sense of Japanese culture. When you travel for fun, there are so many opportunities where you could find the uniqueness of people from a different culture as well as enjoy their hospitality and friendliness.

Mingling with local colleagues is very beneficial when working abroad
Mingling with local colleagues is very beneficial when working abroad

Refresh Yourself from Within

For many people that become expatriates in other countries, more responsibilities are usually vested to them, hence adding more work pressure and expectation. I am the living proof of it. When I worked in Singapore and Tokyo, I was pressured with more expectations with regard to the work responsibilities. I must show that I have something the local lawyers do not have. It was indeed stressful. To overcome it, I usually entertained myself with weekend plans. My weekend plans were usually filled with travelling around the cities or countryside in Singapore or Tokyo. Travelling was the motivation that helped me to go through difficult weeks and refresh my mental health for the upcoming week.

Travelling with fellow expats is also a good idea!
Travelling with fellow expats is also a good idea

Significantly Improve your Social Media (and real life) Portfolio

It is undeniable that social media is an integral part of our life nowadays, and when it comes to social media, content is essential to improve the quality of your social media.

Let us then talk about Instagram, as I believe many of us have Instagram. It is no secret that the quality of our Instagram is, more or less, determined by the photos we posted on Instagram. As travelling is one of the most popular themes in Instagram, working overseas is great opportunity for you to find various Instagramable venues, which in turn would improve your Instagram content.

For those who have not seen social media as part of their lives, do not worry. Travelling while working overseas would enrich your life. Even better, as you are not burdened with social media image, you could focus on enjoying and fully living the experience.

Solo travelling is awesome too!
Solo travelling is awesome too!

How do you manage the preparation?

The key is research and preparation in advance. Before I worked in Japan, for instance, I researched the list of public holidays in Japan, made an organized schedule, and even made reservations before I even departed to Tokyo. But here the trick is we should make it all refundable to accommodate any unanticipated commitments such as business trips and weekend meetings.

In short, I had mapped my travelling plans during my assignment in Tokyo before I even landed in Tokyo. The result was very satisfying. I could maximize my experience in Japan, even though I was faced with tough wor and expectation.

All in all, when you become an expat, do not miss your chance. Travel!


Photos are provided by the author

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Steffen Hadi studied LL.M. in University of Pennsylvania Law School and Wharton Business and Law Certificate of the Wharton School at the same university. He was the Class President of Penn Law LL.M. Class 2016, Penn Law Students Representative in University of Pennsylvania’s council, and international associate editor in Penn Law Journal of International Law. Steffen also interned at a prominent international law firm in Philadelphia. Aside from LL.M. Steffen also holds a Sarjana Hukum (LL.B. equivalent) from Parahyangan Catholic University. Steffen has been practicing law as a corporate lawyer in Jakarta and Singapore. Presently, he is a senior associate in a prominent law firm in Indonesia and independently assisting few legal issues for start-ups. In his spare time, Steffen is a movie freak, loyal runner, and outdoor trekker.


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