Culture Shock Special Tips for expats on dealing with culture shock
Recognising the signs and what to do about it
The Look-See Trip How to make a stress-free quick first visit to your new home
Expect the Unexpected What to do when things donâ€™t turn out as you planned
Kids and Culture Shock Tips on helping your kids to settle in to school and home
Flying Solo The relocation experience for singles
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THE LOOK-SEE TRIP: TAKING THE LAG OUT OF JETTING By Travis Murray
or expats taking up assignments overseas, there is usually a prelude to the big move called a Look-See Trip. This 3-7 day foray to their soonto-be new home is meant as a kind of orientation during which assignees will take a closer look at potential neighborhoods to live in, schools for their kids, healthcare options and generally get a feel for the city. The trip usually happens in the spring, although the timing and duration will vary greatly among the new crop of assignees arriving in expat hubs across Asia and the world. Across the board, expats describe these trips as a blur of experiences crammed into a timeframe that is far too short to be truly effective. Part of the reason for this is that most expats are travelling to the other side of the world, which carries with it a complete reversal of daily time and meaning there is a 12 -13 hour time difference. This reversal causes jet lag which Merriam Webster describes as:
“A CONDITION THAT IS CHARACTERIZED BY VARIOUS PSYCHOLOGICAL AND PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECTS (AS FATIGUE AND IRRITABILITY), OCCURS FOLLOWING LONG FLIGHT THROUGH SEVERAL TIME ZONES, AND PROBABLY RESULTS FROM DISRUPTION OF CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS IN THE HUMAN BODY.” Resetting one’s circadian rhythms usually takes a day or two for most people, although for some a feeling of normality will only return after a week or more of regular, restful sleep. One positive to the Look-See Trip is that assignees will be sleeping in a 5-star hotel with all the creature comforts that come with it, including a luxurious bed to fall into after a hard day buzzing around one of Asia’s mega-cities, or rougher second-tier cities. While having a 5–star sleeping experience certainly helps, there are also natural remedies that you can use to reset your circadian rhythms more
MOST EXPATS REPORT THAT THEIR LOOK-SEE TRIP IS LITTLE MORE THAN A BLUR
quickly, which is extremely helpful on your Look-See Trip, given its abbreviated nature. If you are better rested and feeling closer to 100%, your ability to absorb information and process it more effectively will be increased significantly and may have a positive effect on your assignment overseas for years to come. Here are some remedies that have been shown to help: (source: health. com) Melatonin Melatonin, a natural hormone also sold as a supplement, regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Levels rise after dark, peak overnight, and then fall in the morning. In some studies, taking melatonin has been shown to help fight jet lag. Experts recommend taking melatonin after dark on the day that you travel, and for a few days thereafter. For people flying east, some recommend taking melatonin in the evening (at around 6 or 7 pm) for a few days before your flight.
How to avoid making your Look-See Trip turn out like this!
Melatonin can interact with medications and, if taken incorrectly, can actually disrupt sleep, so be sure to consult your doctor before trying it. Lavender oil Lavender oil (also known as lavender essential oil) is a proven sleep enhancer. In a small 2005 study conducted by psychologists at Wesleyan University, lavender was shown to act as a mild sedative, promoting deep sleep and leaving the people who took it feeling more refreshed the next day. Health.com’s natural remedies expert, Sara Altshul, who tends to experience insomnia when she sleeps away from home, always takes a small bottle of the oil when she travels. “I shake a few drops on my hotel pillows and the lovely aroma immediately relaxes me,” she says. Pycnogenol This dietary supplement, which is a trademarked extract of the bark of French pine trees, reduced jet lag symptoms in a small 2008 study conducted in Italy. People who took 50 milligrams of Pycnogenol three times a day for
a week, starting two days before their flight, had substantially fewer symptoms of jet lag (including fatigue, insomnia, and mental slowness) than people who took a placebo, while symptoms people in the Pycnogenol control group did experience lasted just 18 hours on average, compared to 39 hours in the placebo group. As with any supplement, you should consult your doctor before trying Pycnogenol. Soak up the sun When flying west to east, you’re likely to feel sleepy on the day after your arrival. Getting as much sleep as possible the night before will help, and so will getting some sun. “To keep awake, get bright light early in the day by turning on a bright lamp or taking a walk in the sunshine,” says sleep expert Dr Carlos Schenck. And avoid naps, he adds, because they tend to prolong jet lag. If you fly from east to west and arrive in the afternoon, Dr. Schenck suggests recharging by getting some late-afternoon sun, and trying to stay awake until your usual bedtime back east.
Get ahead of schedule Adjusting to the time zone you’re traveling to before you get on the plane can help you stay ahead of jet lag. If you’re flying east, you might go to sleep an hour earlier than usual each night for a few days before your flight. If you’re traveling in the opposite direction, stay up later than you normally would. (This is generally only useful if you will be at your destination for more than two days.) Making the adjustment gradually is essential, according to Dr. Schenck. “Do this in steps over a period of days,” he says. “Otherwise, sleep could become a problem even before the trip.” In addition to trying one of the above methods or remedies, it is also critical to educate yourself as much as possible before your Look-See Trip. Understanding your potential new home and the choices you will have to make prior to your trip will be essential to bemg able to look back on the viit as a successful one. x expat essentials
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EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED By Mark Angus
n the previous pages, we looked at the importance of reducing the effects of jet lag during your Look-See Trip so that during that time intensive initial foray to your new city you would feel as close to 100% as possible. This is critical to increasing the chances that you will not experience culture shock to such as extent that it ultimately results in a failed assignment. It’s widely reported by those in the relocation industry that one in three overseas assignments fail, regardless of the city or region of the world to which an employee is being relocated. This rate of assignment failure may vary slightly between so-called hardship postings (cities where there is little or no expat-oriented infrastructure in place) and cities where there are already established expat networks, but the rate is nevertheless largely consistent across a wide variety of posting types and location. In many ways, this is unsurprising. Any situation that requires a person to uproot their entire life, and all its associated comforts, to take on an entirely new existence in a different country is bound to bring many challenges, some anticipated, some expat essentials
not so. And, put simply, there are those people who thrive in new, unknown environments, and those who for whom the experience is more daunting. Very often, these can be the people for whom an overseas posting doesn’t work out and they return home before the end of their time. It is difficult for anyone, even relocation professionals, to predict in advance how people will react to a life in an overseas posting. However, there are certain qualities that it is worth thinking about and cultivating in order to make the most of your new life. One of the best pieces of advice that we can give is to be prepared to relinquish control at times. You may be used to being at charge at work, or at home, in a particular social group, or like things to run and to be organised in a particular way. If you are set in your ways, or think that you can always be in control of a situation, you may get some nasty surprises along the way, especially in the initial stages of a relocation. The simplest changes or unexpected events can throw even the most organised amongst us, but the secret
THE SIMPLEST CHANGES OR UNEXPECTED EVENTS CAN THROW EVEN THE MOST ORGANISED AMONGST US
to a successful move is how you react when things don’t turn out quite as you expect or want. Reacting with anger to, or becoming upset by, the myriad of let-downs that everyone who relocates abroad experiences won’t, in the long run, help you to make a success of your posting. Trying to enforce your will on others and how they do things only ever leads to disappointment, and can in fact get in the way of you gaining a greater understanding of how things get done in your new location. A more positive way to approach the trials and tribulations of moving abroad is to choose to accept that things will often be confusing, or disappointing, or downright frustrating, and learn to be more flexible and more adaptable than you might otherwise be. Take the
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time to ask questions – not demand answers – when you feel you’ve been let down or haven’t had something explained to you sufficiently well. The person who gets the most out of the relocation experience is usually the one who takes the time to listen, takes note of what they learn and, most importantly, is realistic about the fact that many things will be done differently to the way they are ‘back home’. This doesn’t mean, however, that you have automatically to forego all of the creature comforts you’re used to, and with some planning and foresight you can in fact ensure that at least some of the minor irritations are smoothed out before you arrive.
Getting a good night’s sleep, on quality bed linens, can really help to make your first few days in your new apartment or villa much less stressful. Knowing that your home will be wellequipped in this regard before you arrive give you one less thing to worry about, and fewer bulky items to carry in your luggage.
linens and bath towels to your new address so that they are there waiting for you on arrival. Imagine walking in the door that first time, safe in the knowledge that you will get a good night’s rest, and be able to take a relaxing shower or bath, without having to worry about what you sleep on or what you dry yourself off with.
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10 GOING GLOBAL
AVOIDING CULTURE SHOCK FOR KIDS By Vela Ganeva
oing back to school is always an exciting period, but when coupled with a new country and new school, the process can become overwhelming. Whether the family is moving overseas for a temporary work assignment or a whole new life, making an international move with children in tow can seem a daunting task. To ensure a smooth transition for everyone, parents should tell their children as soon as plans to move are confirmed. Regardless of the reason for the relocation, it’s important to explain, in simple terms, why the move will be a great adventure for the whole family. Tips for a smooth international move Here are a few tips for keeping children engaged, happy and secure when the family moves to a new country:
• Enrol the children in language
classes. They’ll feel more confident if they can speak to and understand the locals, and they’ll adjust faster.
• Encourage a sense of discovery
and adventure. Spend time deciding together what the family will see and do in the new country.
• Prepare as much as possible to become familiar with the new culture and environment.
• Be ready for culture shock. Listen to expat essentials
children’s concerns and look for a way to smoothly resolve them.
• Stay connected with family and
friends back home. Pictures, emails and letters will help everyone keep in touch. It’s difficult for kids to move to another country, leaving friends and family behind. Although the transition may take time, living and going to school in a new country has unlimited benefits for children. Being organised and keeping them involved in major decisions will help the international move go smoothly for everyone. Getting adjusted Adjusting and settling in might take a little while, especially when the new country is very different from back home. Take it slow and give the new place a chance. Once you’ve adjusted to the new neighbourhood and your house is growing on you, it’ll be time for the kids to start at their new school. Children need patience, as being the new kid is always a bit strange, but the good news is that is most international schools your children will not be alone, as many new expatriates arrive every year. Little by little, your children will make friends and feel at home in the new city. Maybe they were taking swimming classes back home, so you’ll want to find swimming classes near where you live so they can take up where they left off. Or maybe being in a new place will inspire them to
ADJUSTING AND SETTLING IN MIGHT TAKE A LITTLE WHILE, ESPECIALLY WHEN THE NEW COUNTRY IS VERY DIFFERENT FROM BACK HOME
try something new – like art classes, football or a new musical instrument. The more your children communicate with other kids and take part in fun activities, the more your new city will feel like home. Tips for the first few weeks or months at the new school Talk to your kids. A lot. The first few weeks of school can be challenging and you might find that your child reacts differently than you had expected. Make sure you take the time to talk to them about their experience. Watch for any signs that your child is not adjusting. Ask for one-on-one time with teachers if needed, and resolve any concerns as early as possible. Grades may change. Be aware that your child’s grades could be affected by the move. Often, grades go down. This can be due to the change in curriculum or teaching styles, or simply because they need time to adjust.
Encourage extra-curricular activities. Help your children find clubs and activities they’re keen on, either through school or a community centre. Encourage sleepovers and play dates. Ask your children about new friends, then call their parents and invite them over for an afternoon or evening. Or volunteer to drive them to the mall or to a movie. Remember, it’s going to take time. Adjusting to a new home, new school and new friends will take a while; give your child the chance to feel comfortable in their new space. It may even take a few months before things settle. Allow your child (and yourself) that time. And before you know it, you’ll all be feeling a lot more at home.
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Conclusion While it may be difficult for parents to be clearheaded during the whole relocation and settling in process, maintaining focus on the end result is a great help. An expatriate experience is the opportunity of a lifetime, providing children with unparalleled knowledge, an open mind and a unique opportunity to explore foreign cultures and languages. While there may be a few difficult discussions, and undoubtedly some tears, parents need to remember that they are giving their child a gift. Following some constructive strategies such as those suggested above can help you all make the transition from early difficulties to the thrilling experience of relocating abroad .x
WHILE IT MAY BE DIFFICULT FOR PARENTS TO BE CLEARHEADED DURING THE WHOLE RELOCATION AND SETTLING IN PROCESS, MAINTAINING FOCUS ON THE END RESULT IS A GREAT HELP
Attending school in a foreign country can be an immensely rewarding experience
12 GOING GLOBAL
MOVING AS AN INDIVIDUAL By Expat Essentials
here are few things that compare to the excitement of moving abroad. Nevertheless, it can be a daunting and stressful process, and while those moving abroad alone don’t have the responsibilities of a spouse or family, they can be faced with other challenges. So if you’re moving overseas by yourself, there are certain steps that you can take to ensure a smooth transition. It goes without saying that you should thoroughly research your location before you consider moving. Try to visit your destination at different times of the year in order to gain a more realistic picture of what living there would be like; for example, summer resorts can be deserted during winter months. When there, try to build up a picture of what your day-to-day life would be like by doing routine things like visiting the local supermarkets and shops, as this will help build a more accurate image of how your life overseas may be. Making friends is often the prime concern of people moving alone, and there are various steps which can reduce the stress of finding new friendships. Expat Internet forums can provide a great wealth of information. By chatting to like-minded people, many of whom will have been in a similar situation, you can often get useful advice and even develop friendships before you arrive at your destination. It’s also a good idea to research recreational activities in the local area. If you’re a keen sportsperson (or perhaps just fancy your hand at trying something new), joining a local sports club or gym can be a great way of making new friends. If sport doesn’t appeal to you, there are plenty of other ways to meet people, whether through volunteering for a local charity, attending events in your area or hosting coffee mornings or weekly book clubs. By continuing your existing hobbies in your new location expat essentials
you’re likely to expand your social network, and this can also be a great way to establish a sense of routine and familiarity in your new lifestyle.
ONE COMMONLY OVERLOOKED FACTOR IN FINDING FRIENDSHIPS CAN BE YOUR CHOICE OF NEIGHBOURHOOD
One commonly overlooked factor in finding friendships can be your choice of neighbourhood. There are obviously a huge number of factors that will influence your choice of new home, such as where you end up working and what your budget is. However, certain neighbourhoods may be better situated for singles; for example, there may be limited opportunities to meet like-minded people if you live in a family neighbourhood. That said, given the importance of finding the right property for yourself, this should only be taken as one of many factors when deciding where to live.
build up some basic knowledge before you move, as this should make it far easier to engage with people upon arrival in your new country. Even if you can only say some basic greetings in the language, your efforts are bound to be appreciated. Once you’ve arrived, try to use your language skills in your new location, and if necessary improve on these skills by enrolling in a local course. Again, this can be a great way to meet others who may also be new to the area and looking for a friend.
If you’re moving to a country where English isn’t the first language, it’s advisable to enrol in a language course beforehand. Where possible, try to
Meeting people in a new place can be hard at first, but the best bit of advice is to be bold and take the initiative to strike up conversations. x
Beijing traffic at night
14 GOING GLOBAL
BUILD YOUR OWN GREAT WALL – STRESS MANAGEMENT TOOLS FOR EXPATS IN CHINA By Travis Murray
The effect of stress on one’s health is a well studied subject and for most people who deal with stress on a daily basis either at home or at work, they have developed some routines or activities to help them manage that stress. In the period leading up to, during, and after arriving on an international relocation abroad, stress levels will invariably rise to levels many people won’t have experienced. In this uncharted territory, those routines or activities that helped manage your stress in the past may be disrupted for extended periods of time, or simply not be possible in your new home. If your stress management regimen involves specific activities such as playing a particular sport, walking in a peaceful park, enjoying your favourite type of food or the happy hour at your local pub, it is important that you consider these factors when choosing a neighbourhood to live on your LookSee Trip. In many of Asia’s mega cities, traffic congestion is a major issue that will affect your ability to engage in the activities you’re used to enjoying simply because getting there is not as simple as hopping in your car and popping over to the gym for a quick workout after work like you did back in your home country. Depending on the neighbourhood, the traffic you experience during your Look-See Trip might not be indicative of traffic on a different day of the week or during rush hour. For instance, In the heart of the Former French Concession in Shanghai, the narrow streets and congested rush hour traffic could turn the 10-minute taxi ride that you took at 2pm on your Look-See Trip into a 35-minute crawl expat essentials
at 6pm – if you’re lucky enough to find a taxi. In Beijing, traffic congestion is infamous and on some lines the metro stops are inconveniently spaced, meaning public transport can also be problematic – even if you don’t mind being a human sardine during rush hour. As a 10-year veteran of the mean streets of Mainland China, and a person who has developed general anxiety during that time, I have found that one of the most useful stress management techniques is walking. Coming from a country like Canada where people drive everywhere, it was an adjustment that took a long time to get used to. Most westerners are accustomed to their car being a sanctuary in and of itself, even if the traffic is bad. You have your own semisecluded environment where you can listen to some music, the drive show on the radio, or just enjoy some quiet time. In China and other cities in Asia, many expats have a driver, but that driver may not always be available and you still have to deal with the additional time it takes to actually get anywhere at peak time. The value of choosing a neighbourhood that includes a venue for activities that you can use as a stress management tool cannot be underestimated. Some activities, like hitting golf balls at a driving range, will be more difficult to accommodate within walking distance, while others, like living near a gym, may not. In most cases, you will need to be flexible in developing your stress management activities, but proximity to the sorts of venues and locations you need is key. If the process of getting to your activity venue causes you more stress than it relieves, then you will be doing more harm than good by fighting
IN THE PERIOD LEADING UP TO, DURING, AND AFTER ARRIVING ON AN INTERNATIONAL RELOCATION ABROAD, STRESS LEVELS WILL INVARIABLY RISE TO LEVELS MANY INDIVIDUALS MAY NOT PREVIOUSLY HAVE EXPERIENCED
crowds and traffic for an hour to get to a place where you only want to spend 45 minutes. For those not accustomed to walking as a form of transportation, it’s important to consider that a 30 minute walk to a gym, restaurant or pub is a stress-free endeavour and will in itself contribute to stress relief. Purchasing an audio language course that you can listen to as part of your routine is also a good way to start your relocation abroad. Building your own Great Wall must start with a good foundation. Getting used to walking more, making a point of taking up stress management activities you employed in your home country or substituting for them a suitable replacement activity, and combining these with an audio language course you can listen to at the same time is an excellent way to start building your wall to keep the stress at bay. Bad China Days (BCDs) On meeting other expats in your new city in China, you will invariably meet Old China Hands (people who have been in the country a decade
GOING GLOBAL 15
Everyone has their own methods of dealing with stress
or more), newbies such as yourself, as well as everything in between. No doubt at some time you’ll hear someone say that they’ve had a Bad China Day. Generally, this means that the frustrations of daily life in China were particularly acute on that day. The difference between a normal bad day in your home country and a Bad China Day will depend in large part on the strength of your Stress Great Wall. If you have established activities and routines that help you release the pressure built up during the day, then when the BCDs come – and they will – you’ll be able to reduce their overall effect on your emotional and psychological well-being. For all but a small percentage of failed assignments, the main cause is a continued build up of stress and a sometimes overwhelming feeling of helplessness that can often lead to depression. The instinctive response of many new expats, when they hear about the difficulties associated with an overseas relocation, or have their first experiences of some of the problems themselves, is to make the choice to live within the secure confines of a gated community as soon as they arrive, or to retreat into one once some difficulties set in – the infamous ‘expat bubble’. However, taking such as approach won’t really reduce your stress beyond the short
term. While making your home a sanctuary is an important part of settling in when your first relocate, it should never become a prison. It’s important to get out of the house home and your own nearby community and meet other expats, as drawing on their experience will help you better to understand your own, as well as giving you the chance to learn some of the tricks and tips they have for dealing with stress. Many expats are astonished at how easy it is to meet new people when you move abroad. The reason for this is the shared experience. While strangers from your home city may make small talk about the weather for lack of something better to talk about, expats can literally talk for hours upon meeting someone new, whether it be about shared experiences, something out of the ordinary that you’ve been through, or a subject as simple as discovering a new shop that stocks a favourite produce or food. A word of advice from a veteran, however – don’t indulge in conversation with people that is inherently and consistently negative about daily life in China. There is always a subset of every group of expats that incessantly complain about everything all the time. While doing so
may sate your desire to shake your fist at the sky for all the frustrations and injustices you feel you are enduring, this is a path that leads nowhere, except to assignment failure or, at the very least, your own unhappiness. Personus Negitivus There is a very particular subset of the expat species known as Personus Negitivus. They can usually be identified by the thin veneer of happiness they display in public but which, however, is quickly discarded when engaged in conversation. They tend to travel in packs and have a clear leader, not unlike their juvenile counterparts in high schools everywhere around the world. No need to despair, however, as they are easily frightened away with positivity, although they may hurl some faeces at you like a chimpanzee while they retreat! It’s helpful to understand that Personus Negitivus is a wide-ranging sub-species that can be found in various habitats in all corners of the world, and it may be that you are familiar with their type already from your social groups at home. However, in an expat environment, where many are experiencing some degree of culture shock, Personus Negitivus has developed the ability to infect otherwise positive people with their expat essentials
16 GOING GLOBAL
own negativity even more dangerously than they do in their natural habitat. Those expats most susceptible to the insidious nature of Personus Negitivus are those experiencing the second, or Negotiation Phase, of culture shock (see below). The Honeymoon Phase of Culture Shock Almost all expats experience the Honeymoon Phase of culture shock. As the name suggests, this phase is characterised by romantic feelings of wonderment at your new surroundings. The differences in culture, pace of life, food and people’s habits, as well as many of the physical aspects of your new location, offer new and interesting daily discoveries and opportunities to compare the differences with the life you have left behind in your home country. As the name suggests, however, this phase is not permanent and will eventually end. For most, the honeymoon phase lasts 2 to 4 months, although for about 10% of assignees it never ends. People who fall into this 10% usually become what is referred to as ‘adopters’ and they may never leave the country they have moved to, or may continue on to another international assignment once their time in China has run its course. Joining newcomers groups and socialising with people experiencing the Honeymoon Phase of culture shock can be a good means of inoculating yourself against Personus Negitivus, particularly if you didn’t join one of these groups when you first arrived. While you may find that Personus Negitivus has infiltrated one of these newcomers’ groups, you will find that they quickly come to regard these groups as ‘useless’ or ‘stupid’ and subsequently retreat to their gated community, which is of course their natural habitat – both in their home country and abroad. The Negotiation Phase of Culture Shock The Negotiation Phase is the second phase of culture shock. In this phase, the sense of wonderment experienced during the Honeymoon Phase has begun to wear off, usually due to a series of frustrating experiences and BCDs. At the root of this very often is the new expat’s inability
to communicate effectively across the language barrier, and it can’t be underestimated as to how frustrating this can be in a country where your native language is not spoken. A feeling of helplessness develops from the inability to do even simple tasks, like paying bills or shopping, without the assistance of a third party. For people who have worked very hard to earn their independence in life, this feeling can have a devastating impact, damaging confidence and sometimes even leading to depression. The impact is often felt more acutely by trailing spouses, as they do not necessarily have the same readymade support network that many workplaces provide. During the Negotiation Phase, a feeling of homesickness often occurs when issues over public hygiene, traffic safety and the type and quality of food become increasingly intolerable. It’s during this phase that it’s crucial to seek out and surround yourself with more experienced expats, ideally Old China Hands, as they will help you to identify Personus Negitivus, who are often cleverly camouflaged to blend in with the expat foliage so they can strike from cover and ‘befriend’ newly-minted expats experiencing the Negotiation Phase of culture shock. As
I mentioned above, the objective of Personus Negitivus is to validate their own unhappiness by surrounding themselves with other unhappy people – even more attractive to them is to take a person on the fence about life in China and turn them into Personus Negitivus. The Adjustment Phase of Culture Shock The Adjustment Phase of culture shock usually begins 6 to 12 months after relocation, and is characterised by the adoption of various coping mechanisms in reaction to the frustration and anxiety experienced in the Negotiation Phase. On average, about 30% of expatriates evolve into what can be termed ‘cosmopolitans’, people who have managed to blend aspects of local culture with their own and who, in so doing, have achieved a sense of balance in their life abroad. This balanced perspective allows cosmopolitans to relocate home or elsewhere and seamlessly integrate without experiencing the Negotiation Phase of culture shock, or at least not to the same extent, as they did during their first relocation. As I explained above, about 10% of expatriates become what can be
GOING GLOBAL 17
Finding ways to cope is an important part of the relocation process
called adopters. These are people who fully integrate into their host culture and who largely leave their cultural identity behind. They often get married to a local and remain in their host country for the remainder of their lives, or continue to take up a long series of international assignments in other countries around the world. About 60% of expatriates who relocate to distinctly foreign countries never accept the culture in which they are immersed, becoming what can be termed rejectors. These people typically retreat into isolation within their household or gated community and simply bide their time until the assignment is over. In most cases, rejectors see a return to their home country as the only escape from an unhappy and hostile environment. Interestingly, rejectors are also more likely to experience reverse culture shock, which is a form of culture shock they undergo upon return to their home country. This type of culture shock can be even more difficult to deal with, simply because it’s so unexpected. The Mastery Phase of Culture Shock In this final phase, cosmopolitans and adopters are able to participate fully in their host culture. For expatriate assignees, progression to this stage means that a sense of normalcy in daily life has been achieved, often bringing
with it a feeling of general satisfaction and wellbeing. Progression to the Mastery Phase also brings with it the increased likelihood that assignees will remain abroad and pursue other assignments and opportunities. How to Build a Great Stress Wall Below are some tips to start building the foundation of your Great Stress Wall. 1. Seek support groups. Every expat community will have community organisations that host support groups for the newly arrived. Take advantage of these as soon as you land, even if you feel it isn’t really necessary. The key is to prepare for the Negotiation Phase while you’re still in the Honeymoon Phase. Talking to other expats (except those who are clearly rejectors and constantly complain about all aspects of their life abroad) and seeking their advice about taking care of the necessities of life has proven very effective for many assignees. Try not to be drawn into ongoing negative discussions, even though it may provide some relief in the short term. Focusing on the negative will only ensure you fail to see the positive when it appears. 2. Get oriented. Take a guided tour of the city as a start and then branch out from your local area so that you get comfortable with your surroundings. Learn how to take public transport and call a taxi in the
local language. This will significantly increase your sense of independence and lessen the feelings of isolation that often accompany the Negotiation Phase of culture shock. You will also discover new and interesting places that in many cases will substitute for things you left behind at home. 3. Take a language course. Overcoming the communication barrier is critical to ensuring a short stay in the Negotiation Phase. You don’t need to become fluent, but understanding how to give directions to taxi drivers, order food at a restaurant, buy goods at the market and use other basic phrases and answers will be extremely helpful. Don’t be shy, as locals are always happy when foreigners put the effort in to learn a bit of the language. You may even find that taxi drivers and your local restaurateur are excellent teachers. 4. Start a journal. Journals are always helpful in helping people admit the truth to themselves about how they are feeling. For some reason it is simply easier to put it on paper than say it out loud. This process will help you identify any issues you’re having with your relocation and daily life, but remember to go back and read what you wrote from time to time, to see if you’ve taken care of all those little things that were on your mind. x
Published on Jun 29, 2017
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