4 Tips to Succeed as an Entrepreneur in a Foreign Country

Starting a business as an entrepreneur is difficult, but starting a business as an entrepreneur in a foreign country can be even more challenging.

With the language barrier, the cultural differences, the differences in law and regulations, it could be uncomfortable and scary.

I started my business in Tokyo, Japan, and although I had lived there for a few years and I speak the language relatively fluently, I still ran into many different challenges along the way, some expected, others not so much.

Here are 4 tips that I have gathered in my experience to help you succeed as an entrepreneur in a foreign country.

  1. Adaptability 

It might seem obvious, but it’s easier said than done. Being able to adapt is one of the most important tips when building a business in a foreign country. The process of starting a business, building your business and growing your business varies depending on the country and it can be a big learning curve to start a business from the ground up.

Understanding cultural diversity and the business culture can make or break your business. There are differences and changes that you might not be comfortable with but that’s part of the beauty of being an entrepreneur in a foreign country.

When I was just starting with my business here in Tokyo, I realized that the Japanese work culture is very different from what I’m used to. Many companies in Japan have long working hours, strict schedules, long meetings where every tiny detail has to be unanimously agreed upon.

Japan is known for their politeness and in the Japanese language, you would need to use “business Japanese” when communicating for work, one that you wouldn’t need to use in other situations.

Be flexible and have an open mind. Allow yourself to learn and grow along the way. You don’t have to lose your identity just because of the working culture you are in, but rather, try to adapt and adopt the differences and create something unique.

Have a local friend, local community, educate yourself, take workshops that can guide you in understanding the local work culture and better adapt to your environment.

  1. Risks

Entrepreneurs who take risks and are not afraid to face failures can experience the journey and learn from it.

By starting a business in a foreign country, you’re already taking a big risk. It is a step that puts you in a world of the unknown. Don’t let your risks stop you there. Say “yes” to opportunities that come along the way, especially in the beginning. Chances are you will be able to learn and discover things that you didn’t know more.

When you have just entered into your business in a foreign country, things could seem frightening. You could feel alone. If opportunities come, no matter how big or small, grasp them and take the risks. Even small risks such as going to a networking event where you don’t know anyone, or going to knock on the door of a potential client, some risks might change your business.

It can be scary, especially in a foreign country where you might not be familiar with the place or the language. Take small steps and expand your reach one step at a time. Actively seek out opportunities that might help take your business closer to your goals.

As an entrepreneur, you need to understand that failure is a natural part of success, especially for businesses in a foreign environment. You should embrace your experiences and learn from them to do well in the future.

  1. Goals

Setting clear goals and creating attainable plans are necessary to help your success in a foreign country. It is very important to learn the mechanics of successful goal setting and planning. More than the business plan, it is the process that is important.

Successful entrepreneurs are goal-driven and goal-oriented. To strategize your goals and plans to achieve those goals, it is necessary to visualize your goals. Write your goals down and put together a detailed plan for reaching your vision.

This might seem counterintuitive to the previous tip for taking risks. It is important to understand and execute your steps while considering your goals. Measure carefully what opportunities would likely bring you closer to your goals and which opportunities may not.

One big part of achieving your goals when starting a business in a foreign country might be the need to expand your network.

You might be more comfortable engaging with a person with a similar mindset. But having your business in a foreign country will likely require you to expand your social circle for engaging with new people. It may put you out of your comfort zone.

Check if this aligns with your business goals, and if it does, take the risk and put yourself out there in networking opportunities, events and local meetups.

  1. Costs

Entrepreneurs understand that there is a cost to pay. Not just the cost of money, but also time, energy and perseverance. The cost of starting a business in a foreign country could be big, with moving costs, start-up costs, visa costs, language costs and a lot more.

Think about everything that will require your time, energy and money. Take into account every little cost with time and money, the day-to-day mechanics of running a business, producing products, dealing with customers, clients, competitors and employees.

Calculating the costs and understanding what goes into running your business

For example, to start a business in Japan, there is a minimum capital that you need to invest in your company. There is the cost of getting a visa lawyer and an accountant, the visa fee and company start-up fee. There is the cost of the required office, furniture and monthly expenses.

You might have similar costs when starting a business in your country. Considering what costs you have can help you understand exactly what is required of you when you’re starting your business in the country that you have chosen.

Besides the costs related to your business, you have to think about the potential costs of your personal life. Will you be able to leave the life you know so well behind? What does it mean for you to move to a completely different country?

The biggest challenge of all of this is developing an understanding of yourself and what motivates you. You need to come to grips with what you want and what motivates you. Successful business owners and entrepreneurs can transform their thinking, allowing them to prevail where others fail along the way.


Starting a business is difficult in itself and starting a business in a foreign country is even harder. Take these tips into account and know that although the journey is not going to be an easy one, it will be rewarding. Not just your business, but you will grow and thrive in the process.

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Venese Lau
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2 thoughts on “4 Tips to Succeed as an Entrepreneur in a Foreign Country”

  1. Hi Venese,

    This is great advice. Being a traveler, I have some friends who run businesses abroad. Being adaptable is the foundation. Unless you are flexible you cannot grow a business overseas because laws, rules and customs offer differ a great deal from your homeland.


    • Hi Ryan,

      Thank you for checking out the article and your kind words.

      Yes, absolutely! Every country is different and just like what you said, laws, rules, customers as well as culture and work etiquette are all very different. It’s important to understand the differences and be flexible 🙂

      Have a great one,


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