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7 essential skills for a successful international assignment

by | Dec 6, 2022 14:48

Is there a secret to having a successful international assignment?

Housing, schools, work permits, employment visas, language barriers… With all the hassle and the challenges that come with an international relocation, is there a silver lining?

Moving to a new country is hard work at many levels: physically, emotionally, and logistically. It’s a huge undertaking, and even the most experienced expatriates can find themselves feeling overwhelmed.

So, what can you actually do to make the transition smoother?

Hint: the answer might be right in your DNA.

Cultural sensitivity

Developing cultural sensitivity is essential for successful cultural integration, therefore a successful international assignment.

Cultural sensitivity plays a major role in adapting to new environments and having a successful expatriation process

Knowing the basics about cultural diversity will help you build relationships

Don’t believe you’re prepared just because you had a summer trip to Asia when you were in college!

It is essential to recognise and embrace cultural diversity and keep an open mind towards different cultural customs and values.

Additionally, knowing the basics about cultural diversity will help you build relationships and connect effectively with the local community.

You might want to take an intercultural training session before your relocation abroad. You can access here a great pool of certified intercultural experts around the world.

Ultimately, appreciating the host culture will be invaluable as you settle into your new lifestyle.


Being able to rapidly adapt to new surroundings and deal with unpredictable events proves to be a fundamental skill. It’s a skill that brings you closer to a successful international relocation.

It’s important to have it when faced with unfamiliar situations. It will give you the confidence and power to come up with creative solutions for any barriers.

Moreover, adaptability also involves making necessary changes in yourself. To better integrate in the new destination, you might want to shift your attitudes, mindset, or behaviour.

You might have the tendency to get stuck to the good old ways you were accustomed to back home. However, staying adaptable can make the difference between a successful and a failed international assignment.  

Open-mindedness and curiosity

Curiosity is the fuel for learning

Curiosity is the fuel for learning. Asking relevant questions and being eager to know more makes you more open to new experiences. As well, it makes you better at dealing with anxiety, and more resilient.

By embracing an open-minded attitude you can look at the new environment with different lenses. As a result, you’ll look at the new house you rented, the school your kids are, the new office you go to, with a genuine desire to learn more and understand them.

You’ll gain a real interest in seeing things from a different perspective.

Strong interpersonal skills

It’s paramount to communicate and socialize in order to build successful relationships within the local community. Such relationships can provide a great support network during difficult times.

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to forget the importance of forming strong relationships with those in your local community. It might be hard to form meaningful connections as an adult in your own country, let alone a foreign one!

Invest time into getting to know those around you – mingle with your neighbours and the local colleagues. Try to avoid living your life in the ‘expat bubble’ .

Patience and flexibility

In today’s world, many professionals have found themselves working abroad. Though international assignments can be exciting, they also require patience and flexibility.

Developing an understanding of the new culture and navigating unfamiliar social expectations and bureaucratic systems take a lot of time and effort.

Being flexible in adjusting your expectations is key. A less stressful international assignment is one that assumes things may go wrong. You might face delays in immigration processes, forms that need refiling, or hours on end to find a proper house.

Being patient and flexible can save you from a lot of frustration and hassle. Plus, it will allow you to reap all the rewards an international relocation abroad has to offer!

Problem-solving skills

Problem-solving skills have become increasingly important for individuals relocating abroad.

Relocation often means adapting to an entirely different environment and culture. Having the ability to think quickly and creatively can make a huge difference when it comes to finding solutions fast.

Problem-solving skills can include anything from being resourceful with limited supplies or making decisions under pressure to figuring out how to stay connected over long distances with your family back home.

These skills are vital not only for relocations abroad, but also for any transition in life.

Sense of humour and positive outlook

Humour helps with better integration and a more successful international assignment

As an expatriate transitioning to a new culture you often face an entire series of challenges. It appears that having a sense of humour and a positive outlook can help you in your transition. Moreover, it can lead to a successful international assignment.

Expatriates who are able to laugh at themselves and their cultural faux pas are more likely to settle into their new homes faster and build stronger social networks.

At the same time, people with a positive outlook despite the difficulties are more likely to be successful in their jobs and feel satisfied with their lives.

In contrast, expatriates who dwell on the negative aspects of their experiences are more likely to struggle with the adaptation and have a negative view of their time abroad.


There are more skills that can contribute to a successful international assignment, but we believe the 7 above are among the essential ones.

Are there any other skills you would add to this list?

Are you an HR and need support with managing your expatriate fleet? Get in touch with us! xpath.global is a SaaS-enabled marketplace that allows you to keep track of all ongoing assignment cases and access our expert partners, local and regional global mobility providers, with over 50.000 services in over 183 countries.

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