Re: first job/international opportunities?

Subject: Re: first job/international opportunities?
From: George Mena <George -dot- Mena -at- ESSTECH -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 24 Sep 1998 21:44:33 -0700

Greetings from California, Mark Nelson. :D

There is indeed a market for technical writing overseas. I know because
I explored it once in 1994 and was very close to going to a remote part
of Saudi Arabia 200 miles southeast of Dhahran on what the locals call
The Highway of Death (and the name itself came to me courtesy of
paperwork I received from the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Houston,
TX, so I'm not making this up. Call the Saudi Embassy in Houston for
your own copy.).

A number of factors are at work behind the overseas employment

1) Your Mastery of the Country's Language: Your second-language skills
need to be outstanding. Not only do you need to know enough of the
local language just to satisfy citizenship requirements and make your
way peacefully in-country (ANY country), but you also need to know the
local language equivalent of technical terms you know in your own
language. Further, if you're being hired on by an outfit that knows
you've never been deeply immersed in their technology before (but
they're taking a chance on you anyway), your learning curve is going to
be extremely steep, as in a 90° vertical climb.

For example, if I say "El ciguenal esta descompuesto", someone needs a
new engine for his car because the crankshaft is broken. (Yes, I know:
"ciguenal" needs to be spelled with a tilde (~) over the n.).

The bilingual professional has the clear advantage here. If you're not
bilingual, chances are great that you're wasting your time.

2) The Wait: Applying for work overseas means months of waiting.
Between the international red tape and the background check into your
personal life, the normal selection process and the overseas telephone
interviewing process, you're looking at a minimum of eight months;
longer if the country you're interested in has some severe immigration
policies in place. Listmember Peter Niebergall of Germany is currently
waiting for his H1-B visa from the USA so that he can come over here.
Regrettably, I deleted his excellent post from my mailbox, or you'd be
reading his words now instead of mine.

3) The Culture Shock: Sooner or later, you'll have to deal with this
on top of your relocation process and the strains of getting up to speed
on your responsibilities and duties of your new job. Meeting your
deadlines are going to be the least of your problems. If you haven't
traveled to other countries yet as a tourist, I recommend you do some
traveling first before you decide that working overseas is actually
something you want to do.

Some of my own travels as a young, unlicensed merchant marine officer
once included a place named El Salvador. The only seaport there,
Acajutla, was a rather rude awakening to me in 1973. One of the first
sights I took in on debarkation from my tanker was that of Salvadoran
soldiers walking around with loaded M-16s on the pier. When we set sail
out of San Diego, I knew I hadn't seen anyone under arms walking around
there, so I was naturally paranoid. The last thing I wanted to do was
to get shot by someone holding an American-made weapon -- or ANY weapon,
for that matter.

Walking into downtown Acajutla was also eye-opening, from the unpaved
and well-rutted dirt paths that passed for streets to the sights and
smells of pigs running loose in the town square and the 6 foot (2 meter)
high grass of an unkempt soccer field that nobody had used for at least
several years! As this was years before the Salvadoran Civil War, I can
only imagine what the place looks like now.

I seriously hope they've paved the roads, corralled the pigs and cut the
grass, but my gut feeling is that the reverse has (actually, has not)
happened. I'm sure there are some combat vets from the 'Nam who can and
will share their experiences with you if you find them and ask them
nicely. And I think John Renish once went to Saudi Arabia and lived
there quite awhile as a technical writer. Hopefully, I'm not thinking
of someone else: advance apologies for the mistaken identity if this has

Definitely go to the nearest US Government bookstore near you and buy a
State Department backgrounder on the countries you think you want to
work in before you actually apply. Learn as much as you can about the
country and its culture. Don't forget your inoculations. You'll need
the record for your passport and your work visa.

4) Finding the International Recruiting Firm: The agency I applied with
was based in Sacramento, our state capital. I'd seen the agency's ad in
the December 1993 edition of the national STC newsletter Intercom (?)
when I was still a member. The agency was representing a subsidiary of
Saudi Aramco, whose name escapes me now. For the short term, the
national STC newsletter and the Yellow Pages of the nearest metropolitan
area near you (read New York, L.A., San Francisco, Chicago and the like)
are probably your best bet.

5) A Final Point To Remember: When a citizen of one country travels to
another, he is an ambassador of his country whether he realizes it or
not. America has a lot of friends in the 160+ nations of the world. It
also has a lot of enemies, many of its own making through inept and/or
corrupt foreign policies. Supporting the Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza
Pahlavi (and his dynasty) in the 1950s resulted in the eventual ascent
of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power in Tehran and the hostage taking
of Americans in 1979, a 444-day long affair nobody will forget. And we
brought it on ourselves needlessly.

It's easy to be an Ugly American overseas. It's also disgraceful.
Always represent your country well by your personal conduct and your
kindness, no matter what country you come from. It's easier to make
enemies than it is to keep friends. We have more than enough racist
xenophobes in the world as it is, and we can all live better without

George Mena

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Mark Nelson [SMTP:chosunnam -at- HOTMAIL -dot- COM]
> Sent: Thursday, September 24, 1998 8:15 PM
> To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
> Subject: first job/international opportunities?
> Hi all!
> I am wondering about opportunites for technical writers overseas. Does
> anyone out there have experience either with firms that deal with
> international business/trade or directly working overseas?
[George Mena] snip

> Job searches, postings, and internships seem to be
> limited to North America. Is there no market for technical writing
> overseas? Is it not quite developed?
> Any insights will be greatly appreciated!
> Mark Nelson
> Utah State University

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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