Your attitude should be to learn – not lecture

It can be easy to assume that what you have learned in Australia is best practice, and should be adopted everywhere. But the world is not all the same, that’s why you are overseas: to learn, and to help, not make it all about you.

As an intern you need to be tactful. Take time to consider the local conditions and norms and the fact that you are in this workplace for just a short time. You need to understand and respect the culture of your host country and of your workplace.

And make no assumptions. Better to observe and learn. That local reporter you are sitting next to might not speak English particularly well, but may be one of the country’s best investigative journalists. That photographer may be the bravest fellow on staff.

Fitting in

No matter how much self-confidence you normally have, starting a new job in a new workplace is daunting . How is it best to fit in, be productive and maybe even make friends?

Here are some tips from employment experts and even better, others who have interned, on fitting in:

  • On your first day leave plenty of time to get there (preferably arrive a little early). And better yet, do a practice trip to the workplace before you actually start.
  • Be respectful and pay attention during introductions (remembering people’s names/roles wins hearts and minds).
  • Take a ‘culture walk’ and learn what you can from glancing at what’s on people’s desks and studying what’s on the walls (with hopefully enough visual clues if you don’t speak the language). Even the office layout can tell you a lot. A collaborative culture might have team work areas, more hierarchical will have separate spaces for the boss and managers.
  • Be a quick study – listen proactively and take notes when taking instructions, and ask questions then and there so you don’t need to be told repeatedly.
  • Always appreciate feedback.
  • Own your mistakes and ‘fess up as soon as you can. Some  mistakes can be avoided by not acting like you know everything in the first place and taking a bit more time to get it right.
  • Be grateful for any inclusion in social activities and join in.
  • Never forget you are a guest in a host country and they are at home and in their jobs that need to continue long after you have gone.
  • Smile and be positive.


Photo credit: hatalmas via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC