WORKING ABROAD: Simply put, we are creatures of habit. Handling claims in the U.S.A. is pretty much the same no matter what state you are working in. Sure, there are subtle differences in coverages, management styles and local building codes, but the day-to-day handling of claims is pretty much "standard issue".
Adjusting in other countries, however, presents some pretty unique challenges for the first-time-abroad-adjuster. The simplest things that we take for granted every day can become stressers and, if not dealt with properly, can cause big trouble down the line. Here are a few of the issues brought up at a recent meeting of seasoned domestic adjusters I moderated while working in Australia...
SHOTS: Tetanus is a must in our line of work. Check with the Centers for Disease Control and your physician prior to making any travel decisions regarding foriegn work.
BAGGAGE:. Remember, airlines have weight and quantity restrictions on how much and how many. Pack the necessities, proper attire, etc. You may find that you can buy sunscreen at your destination, as opposed to carrying it with you. You will likely pick up a few souvenirs on the trip, so make sure you have room in the bags or a way to ship 'em home. One of our crew actually had to throw away several articles of clothing in order to meet weight requirements at the airport. Weigh it at home prior to going to the airport.
DRESS CODE:. Plan to dress in appropriate adjusting attire. Khakis and polos are always a safe bet. Some companies abroad actually encourage wearing shorts in hot climates. Check with your IA firm before breaking protocol with the company you are working for.
POWER: Electronic devices do not necessarily work in foriegn lands. You will need to research voltages, outlet types, etc prior to departing the US. Power convertors and adaptors are necessary, but always take along a U.S. surge protecting power strip. You will need it once you plug into the power convertor in order to recharge cameras, phones, laptops.
JET LAG: It is a common side effect of air travel. You have likely all experienced some form of time-related stress when travelling from L.A. to Florida, or New York to Arizona. The effect is compounded when you have to depart DFW to LAX, then delay three hours waiting on your Qantas 14 hour flight to Brisbane, Australia. Sure you can sleep on the flight, but the sheer length of the flight, and missing an entire day of your life (not only the length of the flight, but the crossing of the international date line), can take its toll on your sleep patterns for several days.
DIZZINESS: If you are travelling to the Southern Hemisphere, you will also experience a strange dizziness or nausea for a couple of days. It is something our entire crew experienced during our trip to Australia. Strange dizziness due to a change in your orientation. It is normal, and will pass.
TIME CHANGE: Not only does jet lag affect you, but the normal routine of calling the spouse or kids is interrupted because while you are working, they are asleep, and vice-versa.
DRIVING on the wrong side of the road / and the wrong side of the car. The awkwardness of dealing with 'roundabouts' left side driving, strange street signs and signals, and turning patterns are not only wierd, but dangerous if you don't have a strong focus. The roads are also more narrow, and signage is sometimes confusing. Add to this, the fact that you are in a disaster area, and you could be facing some pretty formidable obstacles.
ALLERGIES. You may be as healthy as a horse back home, but strange pollens, bacteria, etc. can take its toll on the heartiest of humans in foriegn lands. Make sure to pack all the necessary meds, and have advanced supplies of prescriptions, as you cannot always get them abroad.
FOOD: It is comforting to see a McD's or KFC when you get to your destination. Your constitution may thank you for that. But at least try some local cuisine. The 'locals' will appreciate your patronage, and your palate will appreciate the change. Make sure you have some pepto or zantac, just in case. Remember Montezuma's Revenge. Kao or Imodium is not a bad idea either.
CULTURE: You may think it is normal behavior to enter a house with your shoes on. This is taboo in many cultures. Simple customs of any foriegn culture should be researched prior to making any overseas trip. It will save you and your company embarassment.
REPORTING: You may find this section is baffling. In the states we have stringent reporting requirements, likely due to litigation issues, which make measurement, scope, reporting and documentation a strictly followed process. You may find in some countries that the reporting requirements are much less demanding. In fact, a company supervisor actually was amazed when I turned in a completed file in Australia with labeled photos, sketched floor and roof plans, itemized individually priced estimatics and a captioned report. He tapped me on the shoulder and said to "pace off the rooms, write a brief note about what you saw, and be done with it." Some of the more 'seasoned' adjusters have a great issue with the simplicity of the reporting requirements. Remember, -what ever the company requires you to do... just do it- Too much information is not necessarily a good thing.
DOWN TIME. Remember, first you are here to work. Give the client 100% of your efforts, representing your IA firm in the best light. BUT, remember that you are in a foriegn land, and take time to 'smell the roses'. Do some sightseeing, take plenty of photos, contact family at a mutually agreed upon time. ENJOY your time here, it may be your only time.
LAWS:, rules, regulations. Though it may be okay in the US to go 65 in a 60 on the highway, or make a right-turn-on-red, laws in foriegn countries vary greatly. Four miles over the limit in Australia, for example, can cost you $280.00 or more. Toll roads, parking restrictions, turning on red lights, etc are all offenses that can add up to a costly trip abroad. Read ahead, online or in print, about rules of the road in the country you are visiting.
SMOKING: Most buildings abroad do not allow smoking, and many areas ban it all together, even outdoors. A trip abroad may be the right time for you to consider kicking the habit. A pack of domestic 100's in some Australia can run as much as $16.00 per pack.
CREDIT CARDS: You must contact your credit card issuer prior to using the card abroad. Check to see if any additional fees are restrictions apply.
CURRENCY: You will likely need to convert your cash to the local currency either in advance or upon arrival. Many merchants do not accept US Currency or Travellers' Cheques. Be prepared to lose value on your US Cash, due to exchange rates and fees charged by the exchange kiosks.
VISA/PASSPORT: Plan on getting passports at least six to eight weeks in advance of travel. It is a good idea to go ahead NOW and get your passport in order. Nothing is worse than missing an overseas opportunity because you put off getting the required documentation up front. VISAs are required in most countries, and must be applied for as soon as you have been assigned to the job. MAKE SURE YOU CARRY YOUR PASSPORT EVERYWHERE YOU GO.
SECURITY: Keeping your wallet in the front pocket, using travellers cheques and locking your rental car are just a few things to consider. Not leaving your tools/equipment in plain view through the car window will prevent them from getting stolen. Walking in crowded areas invites pick-pockets. Travel in well lit, populated areas whenever possible. Use a GPS device and be aware of your surroundings. Common sense applies. If it looks dangerous or suspicious, it probably is. Let someone else know your itenerary every day, and communicate like Dr. Pepper... 10-2-4 to make sure you are safe and your location is known. Remember, some disasters occur in countries with political unrest. Know where the US Embassy and/or US military base is located.
CELL PHONES: Contact your cell carrier to make sure they have international calling. If not, set it up now. Consider purchasing phone cards in the country you work in. Or, buy a 'throw-away' phone or alternate SIM card with a carrier like Lebara, which offers international calling at less than one cent per minute.
PHONES: Magic Jack actually works well, with free calling anywhere in the world, as long as you have an internet connection. Skype is also a good way to communicate with loved ones back home, with features like video phone and texting. Facebook is also a good way to stay in touch.
SUNSCREEN. Need I say more?
BUG SPRAY: Get it locally upon arrival if possible.
GUEST: Remember, you are a guest in a foriegn land. Many cultures do not like Americans, so do not provoke unrest. Be polite, courteous and represent your self, your company and your country in the best possible light.
These are a few of the things we discussed during our trip to Australia. Please contribute to this thread if you have any additional information that will help your fellow adjuster to cope with international adjusting.