Time zone differences and the “foreigner myth”

I’m living in Portugal – for now. I don’t really know what’s in store for the future, but right now, the plans include going back to Brazil once my husband and I finish our Masters. Living abroad is often a problem when searching for new clients, and I didn’t expect that. Many clients presuppose that, if you’re not living in the country, you don’t know “what you’re saying” – I like to call this “the foreigner myth”. This presupposition may apply to exchange students that are abroad all alone, since the level of exposure to this foreign culture is crucial for this change. Not my case, folks. I’m not much exposed to the Portuguese culture and language – we have very few Portuguese friends, I’m only exposed to the spoken Portuguese (which is unbelievably different from Braz PT) for a few hours in the afternoon, my husband and I speak in BP at home, very hardly using the phrase style and slang from around here. I also keep in touch with my family and friends in Brazil, read a few online Brazilian papers to keep up-to-date, so I’m not losing my Brazilian “style”.

Additionally, a few clients have told me they prefer people living in Brazil because of time zone differences, they were afraid I would confuse the time zones and delay a project delivery. My dearest, I am a professional. Being a professional, I am dedicated to what I do and, thus, I have many clients (well, not many, but very special and “keep-me-busy” kind of clients). This means I have many clocks at sight, with time zones from USA, Brazil and a few European countries. Whenever I start collaborating with a client from a different time zone, I get a new clock and set it up for that client. You’re visualizing me surrounded by wall clocks, right? Well, my clocks are virtual, I keep them in my computer and in my cell phone, so I can easily keep track of the time – here and there.

Being in a different time zone is also an advantage for me. I like sleeping late, since I work better at night. So I set my start-of-day for checking messages, checking my RSS feeds, planning my day, delivering whatever projects I have for the day and then I start translating/ editing/ proofreading/ localizing. Since I have a few clients that are 5 hours behind me, I also keep my email alerts loud, so I can readily reply their messages after my business hours. When I start working, most of my clients are asleep. Some are awake, of course, and I have a few emails from them to reply. This “time variety” functions greatly to me, I never have 20 emails to reply urgently.

This is something I think I am going to miss when we go back to Brazil – being able to sleep a little longer and still meet everyone’s schedules.

Do you have a theory yourself about this topic? Or do you have other problems with new clients?

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