If you’ve ever moved countries for work, you’ll know what an intimidating experience it can be. Having to re-learn how pretty much everything works, from filing taxes to tipping service staff. Even where to buy groceries can be a minor inconvenience, at best, and a terrifying adventure at worst .
At such times, there are a couple of things you can do. First off, you can turn to your new colleagues (and the internet) for advice. Once you’ve done that, turn to Hollywood and watch these films, which are less “fish out of water” and more “fish in totally foreign waters”.
Lost in Translation
Released in 2003, Lost in Translation stars Bill Murray as a lonely, ageing actor arriving in Tokyo to film an advertisement. While much of the film concerns Murray’s “nearly-relationship” with Scarlett Johansson’s character, anyone who’s worked in a country where they don’t speak the local language will be able to relate to scenes around the filming of the ad.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Starring Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, and Kristin Scott Thomas, this 2012 film follows a fisheries consultant recruited by a Yemeni sheikh to help realise his vision to introduce salmon fishing to the desert.
The film will resonate with anyone suddenly transferred to a new country by their company, as well as anyone who’s felt like the job they’ve been tasked with is completely impossible.
It will also, however, give those same people hope that they’ll be able to achieve what they’ve set out to, against the odds.
Based on the real-life story of forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu, Concussion is ostensibly about the fight to get the NFL to recognise that it had a concussion problem.
The fact that Omalu is Nigerian, however, is something that will make the film immediately relatable to anyone who’s moved to and worked in a country where they’re perceived as “less than” because of where they come from.
A Good Year
Released in 2006, A Good Year is a romantic comedy directed and produced by Ridley Scott. Starring Russell Crowe, the film is loosely based on the 2004 novel of the same name by British author Peter Mayle.
Crowe plays Max, a successful, but unethical London Bond trader who inherits his Uncle Henry’s vineyard estate in Provence in south-eastern France. Initially, he plans to sell the estate off as soon as possible, but he starts to remember what was so special about the childhood summers he spent there. Torn between returning to his selfish London lifestyle or staying on at the estate, Max initially opts for the former before inevitably doing the right thing and heading back to the estate.
While few of us can relate to a fast-paced, high-earning London lifestyle, or inheriting an estate in Provence, there are more than a few international workers out there who can relate to moving somewhere they think is completely at odds with who they are, only to fall in love with the place.
The Last King of Scotland
Oscar-winning 2006 production, The Last King of Scotland stars Forrest Whitaker as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and James McAvoy as Nicholas Garrigan, a Scottish medical graduate. With dull prospects at home, Garrigan decides to seek adventure abroad by working at a Ugandan missionary clinic.
A series of events sees Garrigan become Amin’s doctor. Initially he believes the dictator’s promises, before being exposed to his true nature. From there, things get a lot more complicated and scary.
While it’s highly unlikely that any of our readers have been recruited as personal doctors to brutal dictators, we’re willing to bet that more than a few have taken a job in a new country, only for the political situation to change suddenly.
In Outsourced, corporate drone Todd Anderson (played by Josh Hamilton) is sent to India to train his replacement when his department is outsourced.
When he arrives, Todd is frustrated with everything in the country where people call him “Mr. Toad”. He has difficulty making the call center employees of Gharapuri understand what their American customers expect. He feels that he is never going to get the Minutes-per-Incident (MPI) under six minutes and so will never get to return to the USA.
After attending a Holi Festival celebration, he gets a better sense of what operating in a country like India requires and things start to improve.
We won’t reveal any more plot details, except to say that you shouldn’t expect any typical Hollywood happy endings.
That said, anyone who’s learned not to impose their culture on employees when moving to a new country, will relate to the lessons in this film.
Have you ever moved countries for work? What films helped you get through the transition? Let us know in the comments section below.