It’s been nearly three months since I arrived in London, England. When my husband came home last fall with the news of an opportunity to transfer abroad with his company for a year, it was a no-brainer. Though we love to travel, neither of us had been to Western Europe. We don’t have a mortgage or children to consider. And, most fortunately, I have the flexibility to work from anywhere—even across the pond.
But it’s not all about the fun of exploring a new city. This is already proving to be a mind-broadening experience—one that I hope will better me not only personally, but professionally. A recent article in Time Magazine comes to mind: research shows that “working in another country can make us better thinkers—more flexible, creative and complex—if we’re willing to adapt and learn from other cultures.”
Here are just a few of the ways I’ve had to practice being more flexible and creative:
Setting up a virtual office: Apparently it’s pretty standard in London for Internet setup to take a few weeks. Because I couldn’t wait that long to start working, I had to be resourceful to find alternative sources for Wi-Fi, which doesn’t seem as prevalent as one would expect from an otherwise technologically-advanced city. Luckily, I did find a couple of coffee shops, which as a side bonus got me out exploring the city. While I had a proper home office back in Toronto, I now have a spot at our dining table—a trade-off for living in such a dynamic, but expensive city.
Redefining ‘working hours’: I’ve had to be flexible given the people I’m working with in Canada are all in different time zones. Where my core working hours used to be 9 to 5ish, they’re now 2pm to 10pm. That means being responsive to emails after dinner when I’m used to winding down—even on a Friday night. The upside is having the morning to catch up on work uninterrupted by incoming emails. I can also squeeze in some errands—even a bit of wandering around the city—before settling in at my desk for a productive afternoon. That’s my idea of work-life balance!
Growing my network: Because all of my work is now done via email and Google hangouts, I don’t have much of an excuse to socialize or meet new people. As a result, I have to push myself to devise ways to network and meet new friends. Meetup.com has been helpful for getting together with other professionals at various coworking events. A hiking group has provided great opportunities to explore the countryside while meeting others with similar interests. And, I hear there’s also an Expat Spouses in London group I may have to check out!
There’s no doubt I’ll continue adding to this list over the coming year. Who knows, maybe I’ll even become a more “complex thinker” as the research suggests. But my ultimate goal is to be taught by the world, to hoard all kinds of lessons that I can apply to my work and personal life approach. Trips to Paris and Amsterdam have already been planned for spring, so I’m eager to discover what those cities will teach!
Have you applied lessons you’ve learned from travelling to your day-to-day routine? Share your story with us!
About the blogger: Jamie MacLean, Felicity Account Executive