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  • Writer's pictureMatilda

First Day at Work for Expats: Do's and Don'ts for the Best Start

Updated: Jan 21

You accepted a job offer for your first international job and you're officially starting your expat career journey. But, as the first day at work is approaching, the excitement about the new chapter of your career is getting mixed with nervousness.

Let's face it, the first day at any job is always stressful. But starting a new job in a new country? Takes it to a whole new level.

What to expect? What's going to be different? How should you prepare? How to handle it all? These questions are now swirling in your mind as the reality of this big change sinks in. Well, first, kudos to you for making the bold move. We know it's not easy, but we're sure you'll do great! Now, let's help you prepare for your first day with some essential dos and don'ts, so you can navigate your first day with ease and set yourself up for success.



What to Expect from Your First Day

Most companies organize the first day of work for all their new joiners as part of the onboarding program. So, you can expect the day to be structured and filled with various activities aimed at helping you settle into your new role smoothly.

People at work in an office on their first day at a job abroad.

Photo by fauxels

Here's the typical flow of the day:

  • Welcome: Your new employer and colleagues will greet you with a warm welcome, ensuring you feel comfortable and included from the moment you step into the office.

  • Orientation and Induction: You can anticipate an orientation and induction session introducing you to the company culture, policies, and procedures. This session will provide valuable info about your role, responsibilities, and the overall expectations for your job.

  • Workspace Setup: Your workspace will be prepared for you, complete with the necessary equipment, such as a computer, phone, and any other tools required for your role.

  • Introduction to Colleagues: You'll have the opportunity to meet your new colleagues, either individually or as a group. This initial introduction is an excellent chance to build relationships and establish connections within your new work environment.

  • Training and Onboarding: Depending on your job and the company, you may receive specific training and onboarding sessions to familiarize yourself with the systems, processes, and tools relevant to your position. This will ensure that you have a solid foundation to perform your tasks effectively.

  • Expectations and Goals: Your manager or supervisor will likely meet with you to discuss expectations, set goals, and establish a clear understanding of what is expected from you in your new role. This discussion will help you align your efforts with the company's objectives.

  • Networking Opportunities: Throughout your first day, there may be opportunities to engage in informal conversations and networking activities, enabling you to expand your professional network and get to know your colleagues on a more personal level.

Knowing what to do on your first day of work is important. So is knowing what not to do.


Preparing for Your First Day as an Expat

Even though you don't have to organize your first day and navigate the new work environment alone, you should still prepare to make sure everything goes well and you make a good impression on all the people you'll work with.

Here are some essential dos and don'ts to help you prepare for your first day at work.

Do your research

Before your first day, research the country and the company you'll be working for. Check out the company's website and social media pages to understand its culture and values. You should also research the local customs and etiquette so you don't accidentally offend anyone. The chances are you've already done it as you were preparing for your interviews, but this is a good time to do a refresh.

Plan your route

Familiarize yourself with the local transportation system. Plan your route to work in advance and ensure you know how long it will take to get there. Remember—it's better to come early than to be late, even if it's due to unforeseen circumstances.

Tram in Budapest, emphasizing familiarizing with local transportation for the first day at work.

Learn basic phrases

Starting a new job in a foreign country often means you'll need to overcome a language barrier.

Even if you don't speak the local language fluently, learning the basic phrases can help you express your respect towards the new country and make a positive impression.

Saying a few phrases in the local language is also a great ice-breaker. Knowing how to say hi, thank you, and you're welcome is often much appreciated by the locals. Even if you don't pronounce them perfectly, your effort to speak the local language will show your genuine interest in embracing the local culture, which will always be well-received.

Get your paperwork in order

Ensure you have all the necessary paperwork in order before your first day. This may include your visa, work permit, and other legal documents. Check with your employer to see what you must bring on your first day.

A woman completing legal documents before her first day at work abroad.

If you're unsure about any paperwork, don't be afraid to ask for help. Your employer should be able to provide guidance and support to help you get everything sorted.

Dress appropriately

Research the company's dress code in advance and choose an appropriate outfit. If you're unsure, it's better to err on the side of caution and dress more formally than you think is necessary. You can always dress more casually once you've gotten a sense of the office culture.

Plus, dressing well will boost your confidence and show that you respect the company's culture and values.

Prepare your outfit in advance. Clean it and iron it if needed for a polished look.

Get plenty of rest

A great first day of work starts the night before. You want to be well-rested and alert for your first day on the job. If you're feeling anxious or nervous, try to relax with some deep breathing exercises or meditation.

Then, when the day comes, follow the guidelines below.


Dos on Your First Day as an Expat at Work

Making a great impression on your first day at work is crucial to setting the tone and establishing a positive relationship with your boss and colleagues.

Here are some essential dos for a successful start:

#1: Arrive early

Black alarm clock on sidetable.

Arriving early on the first day at work shows professionalism and commitment. Coming 10-15 minutes before the set time will give you enough time to settle in, familiarize yourself with the office environment, and prepare for the day ahead. Being punctual is the simplest and best way to show that you are reliable and respect your colleagues' time.

#2: Meet your boss and colleagues

Take the initiative to introduce yourself to your boss and colleagues. A friendly greeting and a firm handshake can go a long way in establishing a positive first impression. Try to remember everyone's names and job titles and show interest in their roles and responsibilities.

#3: Introduce yourself the right way

Two women shaking hands and smiling on first day at work.

Photo by George Milton

Introduce yourself in a professional and friendly way. The easiest way to do it? Just smile when you meet someone new. Be clear and concise when describing your background and experience. Avoid oversharing personal details or making inappropriate jokes. A well-crafted introduction will set the tone for future interactions and help you build rapport with your new colleagues.

#4: Ask questions

Don't be afraid to ask questions on your first day at work. Clarify any doubts or uncertainties you may have about your role, responsibilities, or company policies. Asking questions shows that you are eager to learn, open-minded, and proactive.

#5: Listen carefully and take notes

Woman taking notes on her laptop at work.

Pay close attention to any instructions or information given to you on your first day. Take notes to help you remember the details and refer back to them later. This shows that you are attentive and take your job seriously.

By following these dos, you can make a great first impression and start your new job as an expat on the right foot. Just in case, let's explore essential don'ts for your first day at work.


Don'ts on Your First Day

Knowing what to do on your first day is important. So is knowing what not to do.

Avoiding these common mistakes will help you start off on the right foot.

#1: Be late (without a valid reason)

Woman rushing to her work.

Photo by Ono Kosuki Showing up late on your first day sends the wrong message. Unfortunately, it may come across as you don't value the job or the company's time.

So, plan your commute ahead of time and give yourself extra time to arrive early. If you do run into unexpected delays, call or email your supervisor as soon as possible to let them know you will be late.

#2: Assume things without asking questions

As a new employee, you don't know everything about the company's policies and procedures. Don't assume you do, and always clarify any questions or doubts you may have. It's better to ask lots of questions than to make a mistake that could have easily been avoided.

#3: Be afraid to ask for help

Three women using their laptops and helping each other at work.

If you are unsure about anything on your first day, don't be afraid to ask for help. Your colleagues and supervisor are there to support you and help you succeed in your new role. Plus, asking questions shows that you are proactive and eager to learn.

#4: Complain or criticize

Starting a new job can be overwhelming and stressful, but avoid complaining or criticizing anything on your first day. Keep a positive attitude and show enthusiasm for the job. If you do have concerns or issues, wait until you have a better understanding of the situation and talk to your supervisor in a professional manner.

#5: Show uninterest or lack of enthusiasm for your new role

Everyone understands that starting a new job isn't easy, especially when you've also moved to a new country and basically started a whole new life. But it's important to show enthusiasm and interest in your new role. Your employer hired you because they believed you were the right fit for the job. Show them that they made the right decision by being engaged and eager to learn.

A woman in the office in front of her laptop looking uninterested.

Photo by on Unsplash

Remember, your first day is an opportunity to make a good impression and set the tone for your time at the company. Avoiding these common mistakes will help you start off on the right foot and make a positive impact.


Key Takeaways

No matter how challenging the first day of work can be for expats, by following these essential do's and don'ts, you'll set yourself up for a successful first day at work.

  • Prepare for your first day. Research your new company and its culture, dress appropriately, and plan your route to work.

  • On your first day, arrive early, ask questions, and be proactive in seeking help when needed.

  • Keep a positive and friendly attitude and stay open-minded.

As you navigate this new chapter in your life, you'll find that adaptability, patience, and a positive attitude are your greatest allies. Keep these tips in mind, and you'll soon feel at home in your new work environment, ready to flourish and grow in your new role.


What's Next?

Headshot of two female expats and career coaches. Cutout headshot in a circle on purple background.

Matilda Patsou & Ana Colak-Fustin

Hi there! We're Matilda and Ana — founders of MoreThanCareers, expats, international corporate recruiters, and HR professionals with 18+ years of combined HR experience. Since 2018, our career-building techniques, tools, and resources have helped over 500 coaching clients and 8,000 individuals worldwide land new, more fulfilling, higher-paying, career-changing jobs. Now it's your turn. And MoreThanCareers is here to help!

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