Expat Genius 05 Apr, 2016

Lost in translation?

Cross-cultural training may save you from faux-pas situations.

By Gosia, Genius in London

You have just moved to a new country, found a new house, were able to transfer your precious belongings and found a school for your kids or a new sport club for yourself! Congrats! So you are all settled in and ready to live your new life?

Moving abroad is a bit more complex than that. I am not trying to underestimate the importance of those basic and crucial arrangements, they are in fact very important… Once sorted out they let you have a deep and sound sleep at night without worrying about tomorrow. Living and working abroad brings other challenges. However at the same time it brings great opportunities as well. That would be a huge shame to miss them. Learning a new culture, meeting and getting to know local people, understanding their behaviours and reactions, being able to communicate well and avoiding unnecessary misunderstandings – simply benefiting from cultural differences – those are among other benefits of cultural intelligence.

I have been living and working abroad for over 10 years, enjoying every single moment of that experience. Have these been 10 years filled up only with successes, cheerful moments, and great adventures? Not at all! But they were 10 beautiful years of a great experience, new learnings, and absolutely no regrets.

What I have observed, everywhere I have lived so far, are people who create their own ghettos, spend time with people from their own countries or eventually a selected group of close friends, cook their comfort food they ate growing up, listening online radios and watching TV channels of their home countries. There is nothing wrong about being homesick, and sticking to such pieces of your ‘home away from home’. However if you limit yourself to your own national bubble, you definitely miss a lot out of your international experience. Is your goal to survive or to thrive? It’s not easy. You will have to go out of your comfort zone, speak a foreign language, often without understanding other people jokes (!), trying new food, immersing yourself into a local culture.

It will be all new; it will be all out of your comfort zone, it will make you uncomfortable, alert and anxious. It may cause many faux-pas situations, many misunderstanding, many moments when you will simply feeling like giving up. But by doing so, you will miss all the beauty of living abroad – broadening your horizons, becoming more innovative and creative, learning new language, trying new dishes, doing new things, winning new friends, gathering memorable experiences…

Nobody says you will love all the new discoveries and learnings. Nobody says that’s easy. Once you settled in and are comfortable in your new flat, kids are sent to the new school and ready to play with their new friends, you know where to do your grocery, where to exercise, where to have your haircut done… time to think of stepping up a notch higher. The good news is there are several tools that may help you to succeed on this field.

Cross-cultural coaching and training are powerful tools enabling expats not only to survive their international assignments, but also making the most of them.

Thanks to Gosia for sharing this great post!