Acknowledge from the outset that if you go abroad
there is a chance (or risk) that you might never return. If you eventually do go home you might experience that life has changed and it may never be like it was before.
I think the experience of working overseas allows you to see your own culture more clearly and put it into a larger context. It gets you away from local, immediate points of reference into more universal ones. You might be in the midst of explaining something about your home culture and all of a sudden it might strike you as a very odd custom because you are seeing it for the first time through the lens of your host culture. It affects who you are as a person, not just what you do!
Life may well feel more vivid, as if the sense of being alive is intensified. This is perhaps because you are having to pay attention to a lot of things you would normally take for granted in your home culture.
“Living life in technicolour, vividly ” is exactly why I love working cross-culturally. And I encourage people to be more open to that vividness, rather than just training them on “skills”.
Be mindful of the other culture; do not to go to the other country with any beliefs of superiority or inferiority. Be willing to learn. Suspend judgment. Instead of reacting negatively, ask WHY they are doing things that way?
The most important thing is to keep an open mind. This may sound banal, but it is not. When we keep an open mind, we also concomitantly accept that we are guests, and must do our best to identify, understand and, if possible, respect alternative, perhaps very different patterns of thinking and doing. Keeping an open mind does not mean we must tacitly accept all that we perceive. It does mean that we broaden our scope, that we learn about others (and ourselves), and, in some cases, adopt new behaviour patterns. When we keep an open mind, we let go to the power of inquiry, and we learn. Knowledge gained as such is unique, and, in the long run, extremely valuable.
Be ready to find out who you are, culturally, and to begin to understand where you are from. This is the first step to understanding where you are. This may sound trite, however living in a different cultural milieu brings out certain culturally influenced attitudes and behaviours that we don’t notice when we are “at home” because they fit into a norm.
Keep an open mind and develop a multi-perspective ability this will allow for the development of the necessary vision to develop your career and add value to any organisation. The experience of another culture is a boon for the international manager that adds immense value to the career and growth of the person so get ready to take their sight to the next level which can only happen with an open mind.
I would say foremost: develop and be mindful of the need to take in multiple perspectives before making decisions , making assumptions or taking actions in a multicultural environment.
Check out Edgar Schein’s definition of culture because it makes it clear that groups develop culture over a long period of time and that this is what helps them survive. Read more here.
For me, the most important part of any intercultural encounter is to go into it realising that a person’s or group’s culture meets certain needs for them (possibly consciously but in any case subconsciously) and therefore makes sense to them. “They” do things the way “they” do them because it works for “them”. If you want to get along with people from different cultures, you must work on that assumption and negotiate what might work for the two (or more) of you rather than imposing your ideas of what works. The disadvantages–lack of trust, de-motivation, and the absence of commitment–of not basing your actions on that assumption are otherwise too great.
In short :
- Be enthusiastic, open and aware.
- Do not assume anything and approach the new culture with respect; always to “ASK” if you don’t understand.
- Keep a sense of humour and let down your guard go at times!
- Be curious. Show you are really interested in finding out and understanding more about the other country/culture.
- Expect the unexpected, and expect that the reasons behind the unexpected are different from any expectations you have ever had!