Do not minimize the importance of cultural integration when expatriating abroad – or sending employees abroad.
The value of learning how to adapt to another culture not only eases the transition for you and/or your employees, it also impacts your bottom line.
Last week, we talked about the difficulties of cross-cultural integration particularly for Westerners.
Overcoming our own cultural conditioning and ethnocentricity in order to accept another culture’s ways is challenging for those from the West.
That’s why it’s incredibly important for senior managers and employees who are expatriates abroad to learn how to learn another culture.
This actionable step should be incorporated into an employee cultural integration plan.
In fact, cultural integration should be a top objective when expatriating employees.
If you’re sending employees who don’t have any understanding of the culture or the finesse of diplomacy, then your business venture is likely to fall flat.
A Conscious Process
Think of the conscious process of cultural integration as similar to learning a new language.
First and foremost, you need to study.
Whether it’s through books or a teacher, you should be seeking knowledge about your foreign host country.
This is Cultural Integration 101.
And like language training, there’s only so far you can get with books; fluency also requires immersive practice with native speakers
Only then can you strengthen your vocabulary, master pronunciation, learn colloquial phrases, and really delve into the nuances of the language.
The same goes with fluency in a culture.
Books and notes make up the theoretical learning process. This can be done at home.
The immersive process is done through active sharing.
Whether you’re sharing a meal with your foreign colleagues, joining in a sport with your friends, or getting involved with your local community, sharing in the foreign culture hands-on is the way to the heart of its nuances.
Learn to Admire
As we talked about last week, the Colonial Superiority Complex may still be an inherent default for those from Western cultures.
But true integration is only achieved when expats view their host culture as equal to their own, despite any differences in economic, scientific, social, or military advancements, etc., between the two countries.
You can be proud of your own culture, while simultaneously showing curiosity and admiration in another’s.
The bottom line is, you must be able to adopt an objective perspective regarding values and norms in order to manage successfully in another culture.
Next week, we’ll talk more about learning about and admiring the achievements of other cultures.