International assignment can be an extremely exciting – and challenging – period for those heading abroad. The good news is that preparing for the assignment can ease the transition for assignees and their families, and help guarantee success.
The needs of each international assignee vary, but there are some basics that you should address before you move abroad.
Seek Out Cross-Cultural Insights – Before you can begin to understand another culture, you must have an awareness of your own. After you learn about your own cultural preferences, you can gain an understanding of the values, beliefs and behaviors of your host culture. With the combination of self-awareness and knowledge of the other culture, the process of closing the gaps and building cultural competence can begin.
Find Practical Living Information – Think about how day-to-day life may change, including the food, dress, climate, language, people, and the social and business etiquette of your host country. This information is as important for your spouse or partner as it is for you, the assignee.
Minimize Culture Shock – Be prepared for the impact of culture shock by recognizing the symptoms of it and coming up with strategies to minimize the impact on yourself and your entire family. Some signs a person is going through culture shock are irritation, depression, loss of interest, and intense homesickness. Small, cursory ventures into the new culture, in particular fun trips to restaurants or parks, can help. It is best to avoid returning to your home country for the first few months of your assignment, if possible, as that tends to prolong the adjustment phase in your host culture.
Develop Effective Communication Skills – Communication is at the root of success at both the social and business levels for expatriates. Communication skills govern how you influence and motivate others, and how you handle conflict. This goes far beyond language acquisition and includes mastering non-verbal communication. Developing a keen sense of communication patterns and styles in the host country will help you build relationships that enable success.
Gain Business Acumen – Building knowledge about the local corporate culture, the level of formality in the host office, the importance of relationships, the organizational hierarchy, how information is shared, and how things get done in general are just a few skills necessary to be effective.
Taking the above into consideration before leaving and at the initial stages of your trip will ease your transition for yourself and your family, and ensure a successful assignment.Back to Navigating Culture Blog