Whether you’re an expat in a foreign country or working with expats in your own, integration requires action.
Successfully managing or working across cultures necessitates planning; not just business planning, but planning for how to react to those all-too-painful monkey moments.
When relocating abroad, your company will likely provide some type of pre-departure cross-cultural skills training. Such guidance can help significantly in adjusting to a new culture. However, cross-cultural training is not guaranteed, nor is it guaranteed to be effective.
Instead, most successful managers take cross-cultural integration into their own hands, navigating the steps of Awareness, Accepting, Adapting, Adopting, and Taking Action, with the last step being the most hands-on.
Taking action involves two action-packed tasks: Learning and Sharing.
We’ll discuss both briefly in this post and cover them in more detail over the next several weeks.
When you look at all the intricate details of a culture, you might grow overwhelmed with just how much there is to learn. The task seems nearly impossible and seeing it as such can be a setback to integration.
Instead, break down learning into the following three steps so that it seems a little less daunting:
- Learn Language – Communication is essential to integration, so language learning should be high on your to-do list.
- Learn Religion – Learning about religion will help you better understand the values and norms of a culture.
- Learn History – The same goes for learning a country’s history. Some knowledge of your host country’s past will help place some of the local’s traditions and habits in historical context.
You shouldn’t try and integrate on your own; in fact, doing so is counterintuitive. The whole point of integrating into a foreign culture is to make connections. That’s where sharing comes in!
- Seeking Friends – Making friends with the locals will not only take some of the stress off your initial culture shock, but it will also aid in cross-cultural understanding.
- Sharing Food – Sharing in each other’s food culture is a great way to ease into deeper-rooted cultural differences.
- Looking for your Zookeeper – Every monkey needs a zookeeper. The best zookeeper is one who may know enough about your culture to help you integrate into their own. They will be your veritable tour guide in this foreign land, as it is their home.