Most of us in global mobility have been exposed to the concept of culture shock and understand that each assignee that we support heading off on their journey is going to have their own unique ups and downs along the way and throughout the assignment. In the link below, Carole Hallett Mobbs of ExpatChild talks to the uniqueness of the Cultural Adaptation Curve for each person, using her own stories as referenced examples.
While many people hit similar emotional stages (honeymoon, anxiety/irritability, adjustment, adaptation, re-entry), the range and duration of each is different for all. As an expat life mentor and consultant, she taps into her own experiences to help others.
Her definition of culture shock is that it is "the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes."
So, how can we improve the assignment journey and overall expatriate experience? Many suggest providing some degree of cultural training support where people can be educated on what to expect and be provided with some resources as they move through their assignment period. There are many great options available. Expats will do better when they know what lies ahead and how to navigate their emotional experience. Gaining a better understanding of the host country culture will help prevent unintentional mistakes when you get to your destination and help prevent misinterpretations and help to avoid expat fatigue. Check out a recent post we did on What is expat fatigue?
Expat living can be challenging at times, but with preparation and optimism it’s often a career highlight. George Santayana, a philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist once stated in his book, The Philosophy of Travel, "There is wisdom in turning as often as possible from the familiar to the unfamiliar: it keeps the mind nimble, it kills prejudice, and it fosters humor."
Try this post from our own Joe Benevides for more on the expat journey: "Expat life is ______."
Further to my generalised article about culture shock, I decided to expand on certain aspects of this expat-relevant ‘condition’. As mentioned before, culture shock may hit you at a certain point of your stay in your new country; this may be instant, it may take about six months or even happen several years down the line.