Culture Shock-Educate Yourself

Cultural intelligence is a hot topic for companies that want to compete in the global market. It can also be important for Expats when moving abroad. When making an international move educate yourself on your new home country. You might think you are familiar with a new country but living there and visiting can be two entirely different things.

When I first moved to Germany I think I knew that Germans were perhaps more rule-oriented then American’s. However, after a month of being there and getting yelled at I was worn down and angry. I knew how to say “leave me alone” in German and I started using it, much to the surprise of people who probably thought that was incredibly rude. So I started to try and get with the program and learn the rules. Does your new country have Integration classes or does your company offer this as a benefit? Expat sites on Facebook are often really helpful for asking questions or reading other posts. Sometimes, other expatriates problems can save you some heartache of the same mistakes. Search Facebook or Meetup groups for simple items such as: American’s in Italy, Expats in Germany, English Speaking Moms in France.

An idea that might help you learn more about your new culture is exploring a model such as Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions. This is a fun one to look at even in terms of relationships. My husband is German and I am American. Hofstede depicts American’s as a culture to be highly indulgent and the German’s rather low and more of a restrained culture in terms of self-gratification. Ah ha, that explained a lot of my marital issues. It may also help you to understand the new country you are moving to. The model goes further to explain cultural attitudes towards masculinity and femininity, individualism or group attendance, all things that could be helpful to know. To read more about it and rate your native country to your new country you can start here.

So before moving overseas, prepare and educate yourself as much as you can. You can find further guidance in my book, Moving Overseas. Or for some hilarious culture shock stories check out my blog.