foreign workplace

How new expats can adjust to a foreign workplace

So, you’ve found a job overseas and you’re about to become an Australian expat. Congratulations, it’s an exciting and nerve-wracking time, all rolled up in one!

You’ve done all the paperwork. You’ve got your finances sorted. Your insurance, taxes, tax returns, property and investments are all under control.

Mentally you’re ready to adapt to a whole new culture. Are you ready to adapt to a new foreign workplace culture, too?

Australian workplace culture

Australian workplaces are fairly relaxed and casual: employees often swear and use slang. They gossip and chat about things that have got nothing to do with work. At the same time, Australians work hard and get the job done and they generally have respect for rules and regulations.

Foreign workplace culture

In many European and Asian workplaces, business is a more formal matter. The atmosphere is neither relaxed nor casual. In Italy, for example, don’t expect to be on a first name basis with senior management. Here in our Vietnam office, our Vietnamese team-members use “Anh” as a respectful way to address, older male colleagues, “Chi” for older female colleagues and “Em” for younger colleagues (male & female). Italians use “Signor(e)” (Mr.) or “Signora” (Ms.), plus the surname when first introduced to high-ranking staff. They keep using surnames and appropriate titles unless specifically invited to do otherwise. Likewise, in many countries, you need to be careful when greeting senior management. A friendly “hi, how’s it going?” may be seen as disrespectful.


Red tape can be another shock for Australian expats. Not only will you have to familiarise yourself with new tax laws and other everyday bureaucracy, but you will also have to contend with new rules and regulations – both internal and external – in the foreign workplace. While some countries such as Singapore and Qatar are known to have minimal levels of bureaucratic red-tape, other countries such as Italy and Argentina are the opposite.

Tax issues for expats

Some expats adapt really well to their new country and thrive in a new work environment. The idea of never moving back to Australia begins to take seed. Other expats miss Australia and know they’ll move back eventually.

Either way, it’s important to be on top of your Australian taxation rights and responsibilities as an expat. There is a wealth of useful information on matters such as property tax, superannuation, residency, tax returns and various other information on this site.

If you need some assistance with your Australian tax returns, and your Australian taxes generally, we highly recommend that you book a tax consultation with us to obtain professional tax advice about your particular situation.

Shane Macfarlane CA
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