When you first travel outside your country, how was the feeling?
Were you nervous about your travel? Excited? Or, confused?
Well, it really depends on the objective of your travel. : )
If your travel is purely of holidays, visiting relatives, loved ones, or even exploration, the feeling can be much of excitement.
However, if your travel is because you are working to another country as an expatriate, well, the feelings would end up as a mixed emotions with a combination of:
- Excitement — Yes! I am going to work in a foreign land!
- Nervous whether the people you will be working with can tag along with you — Will they be warm with me? or Cold?
- Confused because of your loved ones whom you may have to leave behind either temporarily or in a long term basis — Can I really make this or break this?
During our school days, we were informed that the globe represents the world.
Prior working as an expat, what we know is that the world is round and the earth is revolving in the sun.
When you become an expat, your views about the world will start to change. And the first challenge that you will face is –> CULTURAL SHOCK.
Culture shock is that sense of feeling when you relocate to a foreign country and you are loosing sight and feelings of those familiar surroundings, sounds, food, smells, and smiles that you were accustomed. In brief sense, you are moving out of your culture’s comfort zones.
The Dutch organization sociologist Geert Hosftede (who is famous for Hofstede’s Culture Dimensions) has another model for Culture Shock.
And, relating to this Culture Shock Model, below is my analysis based on my own experience:
Phase 1: EUPHORIA
When I first relocated to another country four years ago, the sense of excitement is sky rocket high. All I can think of is that I am now a part of the globalized economy and I am helping not only my family but also my country because of the remittances each month that I am going to send across. And, being part of the globalized world, I have the capability to discover other countries and make friends with people belonging to different culture.
Phase 2: CULTURE SHOCK
When work started, the feelings started to change. My colleagues has different working attitude as compared to what I have used to. As the work stress is increasing, the feeling of being alone in a foreign land starts to sink in. Frictions with colleagues is unescapable. I started to look for and hang around with my fellow countrymen in order to fulfill that feeling that I got an ally against the other nationalities. Homesickness is an endless battle.
Phase 3: ACCULTURATION
After three months working in the foreign land, I started to hang around with my colleagues. Every Friday we usually go out to grab some drinks (most of the time English or German beers). I started to accept our cultural differences and showed respect to other nationalities and their religions. I started to adopt the host country’s ways of living but still preserving my own values.
Phase 4: STABLE STATE
Following the 3 months adjustment, the flexibility towards other people and their culture started to established inside me. After six months working in the same company, the management has decided that I will be relocated to another country. And so it does and I accepted the relocation. I worked to another country for another period of 2 years. After 2 years, the management has decided that I will be relocated again. Work relocations have made me a flexible expat.
Photo taken at Hall of Science, Queens New York, USA last 2005.
When I was young all I know is that the globe miniature that I have in my room is the world. After I relocated to various countries meeting people, knowing their cultures and their religions, my thinking of about the shape of the world has change tremendously.
By knowing other people’s culture and working with them, the WORLD HAS BECOME FLAT.
We are all equal regardless of where we come from. There is always challenges and differences in the working life because of culture but it can always be remediated with the expat’s flexibility and understanding of the host country’s culture.
- Geert Hofstede, “Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geert_Hofstede
Til next time. Au revoir.