Learning (a new culture) on the job

Even if you have all of the occupational skills for the job, you’ll still have a lot to absorb when joining the workforce in your host country. What should you keep in mind?

Uncharted waters

For starters, don’t expect it to be plain sailing. Make sure you’re well rested and mentally prepared. Don’t underestimate the number of challenges in play, especially if you are new to the country and still adjusting to the culture. We only have so much emotional energy!

Cultural insights

It’s definitely good to have a little external support. That could come from a Global Connection consultant, a cultural coach, or someone who has already gone through a similar experience. They can help answer any questions you have, for example, how do locals view concepts such as schedules and deadlines? How do they dress for work? How do colleagues interact / socialise? What is expected of employees when attending meetings? What is the local approach to decision making?

Build a rapport

Ask coworkers for a coffee, join them for lunch or an after-work drink (whatever is appropriate!). Conversing with them in a social setting will help you heighten your cross-cultural awareness. Remember culture is an iceberg! There is much to be discovered beneath the surface and hanging out with your local colleagues will give you invaluable insights into working alongside them. Just as importantly, the more your colleagues get to know you, the more empathy they will have for you!

Be inquisitive

Even if you have been hired to innovate and introduce new concepts, stay open-minded and be humble. Be ready to listen and learn. Don’t be disheartened by any failures or setbacks. Your approach might need to be tweaked – or recast entirely – to work in another country. Keep asking questions so you can adjust and adapt accordingly.

Flexible mindset

Through learning about your host country’s culture – not just how they approach work but what they value and how they view the world – can enhance your whole expat life (not just at the office). Even if a job doesn’t  work out, you will likely have had a valuable learning experience that will stand you in good stead. Having a flexible mindset and being prepared to adapt will help you on your continuing journey in this fluid, globalised world, even if you decide to do something completely  different as so many of our members have done.


This article was originally published for the thousands of expat partners that Global Connection supports around the globe. It is reproduced here in its original form.

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