The greying digital nomad in a foreign land

The greying digital nomad in a foreign land

Having explored the option of being an international digital nomad - - the challenge of working from a country where English was not the dominant language loomed and was grabbed with relish. Is it possible to effectively operate from foreign quarters (France/Paris) and maintain the very levels of communication and operation needed? In short – quite straight forward for many reasons.

Paris (France) is the city of lights – and given the fact that my travels have brought me here during the festive season – the lighting and displays are eccentric to say the least. The sights are delightful during the day and sensational at night. Possibly a distraction – so let’s get back to the issues of communication and operation.

Strong WIFI is the key

At the heart of all modern communication is the importance of a strong WIFI connection. My first consideration was ensuring an apartment where this was strong and sustained. For the Paris component of the adventure – an apartment was secured with highly reliable WIFI that was consistent and ongoing throughout the period. Remaining in the one place has advantages. Having a suitable work space is also a key consideration – especially early in the morning.

Using email as the central tool

By choice, email was used as the centre of all communication. It is fast, efficient and readily available to all colleagues. Using a good lap top, wireless mouse and keyboard, combined with a good quality video device and a tri-screen access is provided to a range of options including video conference, email and web access – in some cases simultaneously.



For speed and simplicity SMS was used for quick and immediate call/response activities. On occasion it was even used to send photographs and images required – but generally it formed an essential element of effective communication as a short, sharp and quick response tool.



This is a remarkably flexible tool that was used considerably more than expected. With the ability to establish communication groups it was highly effective and in many ways became the preferred tool of many as an instantaneous response device where photographs and text could be shared quite efficiently. It was not used for business purposes as such – but became an important tool for general communication.


Meeting people logistics

Unexpectedly, a number of meetings with other nomads took place. The liaison was largely via email – but the specifics of the physical meeting locations was generally achieved via SMS, WhatsApp – and dare I share – by telephone (and in one case by land line). Having multiple tools made the four connections relatively straight forward despite the complexities of location and travel.


Time zone issues

From the outset, my view has always been the most difficult aspect of international nomadism is the time zone issue. Paris is -10 hours to Sydney/Melbourne during DEST. Though not a particular drawback – one needs to be cognisant of the differences at all times and ensure meetings are scheduled appropriately without too much imposition on the nomad. In my case I was comfortable with 4am meetings on line (2pm in Sydney/Melbourne) being an early riser – this may cause distress for some. My laptop recorded the Sydney/Melbourne time and my iPhone showed Paris time – simultaneously – this was an exceptional advantage.


Language issues

Despite the reputation that the French have for being somewhat aloof and difficult in terms of language – this was not the experience on this adventurer. With a smattering of French and a companion who was fluent – there was little in the way of distress. Using the internet to access venues and the like was very straight forward either in French or in many cases the option of an English language version. English has become the international language and most commercial outlets are multi-lingual.

The adventure in a second foreign land commences in a week or two – this time Italy. To date the notion of being an international digital nomad operating in a foreign land in a foreign language has caused little in the way of distress – and has proven to be effective and productive – we shall see!



Emeritus Professor Greg Whateley is the Deputy Vice Chancellor (UBSS) and Vice President - Academic (GCA)