10 Things I Learned From Working Overseas

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong |

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong |

There are some things I realized after working overseas for a couple of years. As a Filipino migrant worker, I’m sure most of you are familiar with a lot of stereotypes. One good example would be people tend to think that once a Filipino’s out there making dollars, he’s already successful. Well, to tell you the truth, it’s not the case most of the time. There are a lot of Filipino migrants who are putting up with work, their bosses, their colleagues, just to send a decent amount of money back home. I, for one, realized a lot things after moving to Singapore. Here are 10 things I learned and will keep on remembering.

1. It’s okay to speak up.

Filipinos are generally patient, hardworking, and courteous. We try to do our best and complain less when it comes to work. Being generally “nice” is one of the reasons why other countries prefer Filipinos as employees. That’s good but it also doesn’t mean we can’t speak up and stand for what we think is right, especially when we feel that we are being abused, whether physically or verbally, by our bosses. Better said than done? That’s what I also thought. But after working overseas for a couple of years, the training I had in my previous company, and earning another degree from a foreign university, they don’t really mind to hear you out. Some may raise their eyebrows, but it’s better expressed than left unsaid.

2. Live within your means.

Even multi-billionaire Warren Buffet will tell you to live within your means. Sure, the feeling of working abroad and earning in foreign currency sounds good but you also have to consider that you’re using the same currency to pay for rent, utility bills, food, etc. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy what you earn but I’ve seen folks who got too overwhelmed with how much they earn and end up in debt. So, just know how to manage your finances. At the end of the day, we are bending our backs abroad to save up for the future, right?

3. You have no choice but to adjust and learn to co-habitate.

At some point, you may have to live with someone else you barely know, be a roomie to an Indian, Myanmar, Thai, American, what-have-yous, or worse, live with your landlord. Be prepared to live and learn different cultures when moving to another country.

4. Be domesticated.

When you’re far away from home, you can trust no one but yourself. And that also applies to those pile of dishes left unwashed, clothes in the laundry, leftovers, and even changing the lightbulbs in your flat. Nobody’s going to do it but you. So you better start learning house chores if you’re planning to work abroad.

5. Distance increases faith.

I found myself going to church more and praying more when I started working overseas. Being away from family and loved ones put us in a vulnerable state sometimes, and the only refuge we may have is the comfort of our own faith.

6. Friends become enemies, enemies become friends.

You’ll be surprised to find out once you’re already out there that the people who used to care about you are actually the ones giving you a nightmare and those whom you think you can never exist with are the ones who actually got your back. Trust me, you’ll know it when you’re there.

7. Discrimination is inevitable.

You will either be pushed, threatened, stared, shouted, or laughed at, by any local in any country that you go. While the world is trying to stop racial discrimination and promoting racial harmony within their nations, I find it difficult in any culture to fully eradicate this attitude. We are territorial in nature and the feeling of getting our space occupied by any alien, literally or not, will make us feel uneasy and threatened.

8. Travel and explore.

Take the time to travel and explore while you can, when you can. It doesn’t have to be in a far-flung place or crossing another continent. It could be an unexplored town in the country where you live in, a neighboring country, or a nearby park. We all need a breath of fresh air once in a while.

9. Save, save, and save.

I couldn’t stress it even more. If you’re not planning to stay in a foreign country and work overseas your entire life, you better start saving up. I’ve seen migrant workers who, after having a taste of their career, forgot why they were there in the first place, and that’s to save something enough for them to return home and be with their families. It’s such a pity to see fellowmen stuck in their workplaces, working their arses off simply because they can’t go home yet.

10. Look back and give back.

I met a tech whiz turned entrepreneur who was a scholar in a top university in the US and worked for a huge international company back there. But after gaining some experience, he preferred to go back to his homeland and start his own business, a social enterprise, to help budding scientists and technopreneurs to succeed with their innovations. He kept on reminding his fellowmen that if they’re dreaming to work away from home, be sure to go back and contribute their talents to the society. For someone who almost lost hope in this calamity-stricken, corrupt country, it gave me a new light that people like him does actually care for our beloved Pilipinas. And I’ll start doing that by being back and supporting our local goods.

~ ee ~


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