The pandemic has transformed the way we think about work, especially in the tech world. With some companies exploring hybrid models of both in person and remote work, and others completely foregoing their office leases, there’s no doubt flexibility is the new normal. In response to this new work style, Valon recently launched a Work From Abroad policy, letting employees work closer to family or even take an extended break from their home environments. Now, they can log into meetings from almost anywhere in the world!
Work-life balance is important, and many of our team members have already taken advantage of remote work based on the flexibility of their job requirements within the company. Whether they traveled across the pond or across the country, we’re sharing two stories of our employees Valeria and Nethra.
Valeria in Paris
What made you choose Paris?
I always wanted to go to Europe. At home in New York, I love visiting museums like the Whitney, Moma, and The Met. So part of my desire to go to Paris was to take in their museum scene. I was there for about two weeks.
What made you decide to work remotely, as opposed to using PTO and traveling for vacation?
Honestly, it was the flexibility that I had here at Valon. When I spoke to my manager, I asked them if this was even possible. I always wanted to go to Europe, but I wanted to do it for a long period of time to really see the different places and take my time. I didn’t want to feel like my experience was rushed by just taking PTO and having to adhere to a strict itinerary. That’s mainly why I decided to go and work remotely. I’m grateful I actually got to work and experience doing that in another culture. I went by myself, but I enjoyed the independence.
What was your day structured like? Did you build a routine during those two weeks?
So let me preface by saying there’s a six hour difference between Paris and New York. So my mornings began with waking up at 9 or 10 Parisian time. Then, I’d head outside for breakfast at either a bakery or supermarket.
The good thing about the supermarkets in Europe is that they have freshly squeezed orange juice accessible to shoppers. I loved this option because where I was staying, they didn’t have a kitchenette or a fridge—so I’d have to go out to get food. From there, I’d take a nice stroll because everything is within walking distance. I’d see the kids going to school—it was so peaceful.
But getting back to the structure: my day basically was from 9-3. I’d have breakfast outside, go to the mall, and take time to explore museums like the Louvre, Rodin, and Picasso. I’d be back at my hotel at 3, because 3 PM in Paris is 9 AM in New York.
What did you observe about Parisian work culture, or the culture overall?
One thing I noticed about a lot of people is that they don’t take lunch to go. Many people sit and eat. There’s a lot of intention when it comes to down time actually being down time.
In general, I also noticed that although Paris is a city, it still feels very relaxed and laid back. I went to a few parks that were so beautiful and clean. I guess I’m comparing it to New York. In New York you see the good and the bad. But no matter what, I think the hustle culture is always in the background. On the other hand, in Paris, you see a lot of people dressed nicely. You know how here, it’s really normal for people to go outside with tights, work out clothes, or athletic apparel? I didn’t see much of that in Paris.
Do you think any of the habits you formed in Paris came back with you to New York?
One thing I definitely brought back was being more consistent and mindful of what I eat. I felt like the quality of the food in Paris was different, and I’d generally feel fuller after each meal. Oh, I also started making my own orange juice!
Any favorite restaurants or meals?
Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots! The food at each place is very similar. For breakfast, they usually served amazing hot chocolate—it was dark melted chocolate and cream. There were also croissants, fresh juice, and it was all delicious!
For lunch, I’d typically get a club sandwich with eggs in it. I thought that was different—definitely very protein rich. The sandwich consisted of eggs, tomato, lettuce, and turkey. That’s mainly where I’d go to eat, other than the supermarket. Because I didn’t have a fridge, everything else I picked up was non-perishable snacks.
Where do you want to work next?
I’d love to keep a six hour difference so I can maintain a similar schedule. At the top of my list are Italy, Portugal, Netherland, the UK, and maybe Greece!
Nethra in India
What made you decide to go to India?
Well, I’m from India—Coimbatore to be specific. I always try to come home during the holidays because I think that’s the best season to spend time with my family. In addition to doing my usual holiday visit back home, four of my childhood friends are getting married. So I definitely didn’t want to miss any of those weddings. I wanted to stay from mid December (2022) to almost mid February (2023)—just because that’s the timeline of all the events.
What is the time zone difference and what is your work schedule like?
I’m ten and a half hours ahead. I’ve worked abroad before, so it’s not new to me. But what I try to do is mostly get in my independent work in the morning, during the Indian days.
Day and night are completely switched between the US and India. I usually get my independent work done for a couple of hours, then I take my break and spend time with friends and family. At night, I only make sure I’m online so that in case anyone needs me I’m available to take meetings.
At night, I just take my laptop with me wherever I go so I can find a silent space to take meetings and finish up any work that pops up. And after these meetings, I just stay online.
What is the work culture in India like and how does it compare to the US?
I’ve worked in India before, but that was years ago. And back then, I worked at an agency, so maybe the experience is not exactly parallel with a startup. But what I have noticed is that people do work extremely long hours. They either work in the office super late, or take the work home and continue into the evening.
But what I do appreciate in India is that everyone has designated tea breaks in the morning and in the evening. As a team, everyone gets out for around 20 or so minutes and we all go get tea together. I think that’s a nice pause—a little different than the independent breaks people tend to take in the US.
What are you eating on your day to day?
Street food and fruit is something I indulge in when I’m home. I try to eat a lot of fruit in India. It’s such a tropical country, so the fruit is amazing.
I also eat a lot of seafood when I’m here. I know the schedule that I have is quite hectic, but spending time with my family and friends, and eating well, makes it all worth it. I really don’t mind.
What habits from working abroad in India will you bring back to the US?
Every time I’m home I try to cultivate a lot of habits.
When I’m home, I attend a meditation class that’s right across the street from my home. I probably go a few times a week. I definitely want to take that practice back with me. I’ve also been eating a lot of tender coconut and drinking a lot of freshly squeezed juice. These are the healthy habits I’ll bring back.
What would you tell someone who is thinking of working abroad from India?
If you plan to work abroad from India, the beauty is that you’ll get a chance to look at India from a very different perspective. You’ll be able to understand the practices of people, the way they live. Staying in the country as an integrated participant of the culture, and not just a tourist, is how you’ll make those observations. I think vacationing in India can be equally enjoyable, but I still feel that coming as a tourist, and possibly having a busy schedule, you can miss out on really connecting with the world around you.
Where would you like to work from next?
Maybe Paris or Copenhagen!