Understanding Cultural Adjustment

The more I study cultural understanding, I realize that you don’t have to move or travel to another destination to experience symptoms of cultural differences and adjustment.  Our youngest son, James, who is a senior in high school and has just made his college choice, brought this home most recently. We live in the Northeastern U.S. and we liked the idea that if he were to go to school in one of the nearby states to Connecticut, he could drive or take the train home. Nope, he’s off to Ohio to study and will be a good 10-hour car ride away.
The thing I notice and adjust to the most when I’m in the Midwest is that people are generally very friendly and helpful. For example, the dean of the Computer Science department took the time out of his busy schedule to meet with us for an hour to discuss the program.
Demonstrating our new Culture Coach Online’s learning platform has given me lots of opportunity to think about how its concepts positively affect the lives of its users. Recently, I realized that the insights in our Culture Coach Online learning track, Symptoms of Culture Shock, also apply to a college student leaving home! I know this because I’ve had three other children leave the nest.

Everyone experiences culture shock and cultural adjustment in a different way.  Some of the signs that a person is having a hard time are: anxiety, impatience, fear and insecurity, isolation and loneliness, fatigue, boredom, confusion, depression, and withdrawal from others and daily life.

I’ve talked to my college-bound son about culture shock. Who talks to your globally mobile employees and their families about culture shock?

Here are some suggestions for dealing with culture shock:

  • Understand there are stages of cultural adjustment.
  • Recall other times you went through a challenging period of adjustment such as going to university, getting married, or starting a new job.
  • Keep an open mind and withhold judgments.
  • Ask questions about the culture.
  • Be flexible and expect things to be different.
  • Be patient.
  • Foster a sense of humor.
  • Don’t isolate yourself.
  • Plan a visit home.

These are just some of the things your employees can do to feel more comfortable in a new location. It is also important to make sure they know about resources for assistance, in both the company and destination communities. An international assignment can be difficult, but discussing culture shock before it happens can help assignees become comfortable in their new location more quickly.

Living Abroad empowers your assignees, their families and business travelers with information on 194 destinations, tailored to their specific needs. Knowledge about a destination builds confidence. Understanding cultural nuance and work style builds productivity. Confidence and productivity build success on the job, from the start.

To try out the International Relocation Center or the Culture Coach Online, click the orange demo button.

Written by Cathy Heyne, GMS-T – Managing Director, Living Abroadc