Posts tagged ‘relocations’

January 16, 2008

Relocation & Culture Shock…

As I face yet another relocation, convention with friend natural reached this topic and as always, I was bragging about my optimist outlook on relocations and so he suggested that I should pen down my thoughts about culture shock during relocations. I don’t claim to be expert to know the trick of the game but with experience of crossing 5different culture/language in past 6years, I can say my social extrovert attitude made things easier for me.

When relocating abroad, there is so much to think about, so much to do that invariably the departure date seems to come out of nowhere. One of the most important things, and unfortunately, the thing that is most often overlooked, is the emotional and very personal reaction from all those involved during the adjustment to life in any new country and its culture.

Culture refers to the total way of life of a people. It includes everything they may think, do, say, and make – its customs, language, artefacts, shared attitudes, values and feelings. Culture is learned and inherited and passed down through the generations and it influences the way we think, speak and behave. Culture shock is not poor adjustment. It has little to do with strength of character. It is the result of stress overload, which is caused by a multitude of unpredictable incidents. we don’t know how to behave, actions don’t get the expected responses, and we don’t understand the messages we are getting. Culture shock is the disorientation, which causes perpetual stress.

After a fairly brief honeymoon or tourist phase readjustment suddenly becomes a little more difficult due to culture shock. It is predictable and should be expected in any new country. Some tasks are challenging; accustomed resources aren’t available, communication is difficult (for example, we don’t get the jokes). These feelings build up over time and at some point start causing distress.

Communication problems and the accumulation of little stressors start challenging our own values and attitudes. Glorification of our own country, homesickness and missing friends and family can make this a very difficult time.

With time, greater understanding and appreciation of the new culture, values and attitudes are gained. We have more insight into our own culture and this allows us to adapt more easily to the new one. Once full adjustment is reached, both our home country culture and the new one have become natural and normal. Sometime we make unavoidable comparison to adapt and pick/modify our thinking process, values. We become truly multi-cultural person (greatest outcome of relocation – open mind, tolerance,)

Recently I took couple break from work to spend time with family and I understood, coming back home can bring its own problem. There may be unexpected changes at home and make you feel like a stranger on your own(/past) territory. There may be lifestyle changes and a need to adjust to that. Repatriation can be more dramatic than culture shock because it is not expected. The more successful the time overseas has been, the more difficult the repatriation process. Adjustment to coming home can take up to two years. New values might make it necessary to re-evaluate lifestyles, however it is always important to integrate the overseas experience into our new lives.

Expatriate or repatriate, be open and give change to strangers. may be you will be surprised, some of them might become your good friend of tomorrow.

Remind yourself— most things in Life, place, people, work,… is (mostly)our choice and we have to make most out it.

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