It is important for the organisations to carefully manage the cross cultural elements and factors which directly influence the performance of the employees in international ventures. One of the important issues in this regard is adoption of the new cultural and norms by the employees in the host country. The four main phases which are involved in this process of adoption are: honeymoon, cultural shock, gradual adjustment, and reverse cultural shock. It is important for the organisations to manage these phases in effective and efficient manner in order to make sure that the employees easily adopt the new culture in the host country.
EXPATRIATION & CULTURAL SHOCK
Moving from country of origin to another could significantly influence the person’s attitude due to the change of culture and environment. It has been identified that coping with cultural shock is one of the major challenge that an individual faces when moving overseas. The term cultural shock when used with expatriation indicates the process to understand and accept difference in culture which is fuelled through daily interaction and situation that an individual is provided. All individuals that are involved in international relocation have to go through this process. As defined by (Yamazaki & Kayes, 2004), cultural shock is a process that fuels anxiety in an individual due to totally new environment and culture. Even the signs and symbols of social intercourse are totally different due to which the individual needs time to consciously accept the new culture. People from different culture tends to perceive things differently (i.e. according to their culture rather than new culture) as the individuals are familiar with their old culture rather than the new culture. This indicates that when people are provided with new culture, they act in a shared pattern unconsciously (Takeuchi, Yun, & Tesluk, 2002).
There are several sources that give rise to cultural shock. Some of the most common sources include discrimination from the new environment, difference in taste and food, new and unexpected lifestyle, language and weather differences, high level of restrictions in colleges and universities, separation from family and home, change of role and status along with change in educational system. In addition, it has also been identified that stress is also a major cause of cultural shock. As students relocate themselves overseas to enter higher education they will feel change in the environment along with the difference in education system. Their previous learning experience would be quite different which give rise to cultural shock. But as the time passes, the person gradually overcomes the cultural shock and it is such a valuable life experience that no person ever has regretted going through this process. By such shock, the individuals are provided with an opportunity to learn about others and to accept and appreciate the difference among cultures and the variables associated with it (Thomas & Lazarova, 2006).
The most common phases that an individual has to go through in order to adjust to new culture and environment are as follows:
Phase 1 – Honeymoon
This phase lasts two to six weeks. As the expats move from their country of origin to foreign country they are fascinated by the sights and sceneries in the new country. Their excitement and enthusiasm in this phase is at its highest level. Expats that relocates themselves to emerging countries are provided with an environment where they feel superiority over others in the country. Such expats experience increase in status and standard of living along with the quality of life. As the environment provided to such expats is new and exciting, it encourages expats to move forward rapidly. Due to such reasons, the relocated expats are in a very good mood and are thrilled to work in the new environment with people from new culture. This feeling does not lasts long enough as when expats starts working they might enjoy the work at work but as the time passes, they enter the second phase of cultural shock (Baruch & Altman, 2002).
Phase 2 – Cultural shock
Everything fascinates the individual at first but as the time passes individuals i.e. expats usually faces difficulties and barriers in their performance and productivity at job as well as in daily routine. As the expats have move from totally different cultural and environment and are provided with new environment it takes time to adjust and understand the new culture and environment. Due to their presence in the new environment expats usually face barriers in their careers as the methods they once used are considered useless or counter-productive in the newly provided environment. In addition, the condition gets even worse when the expats cannot cope with the new environment which leaves the expats with stress and confusion due to the new circumstances and the methods used. Due to difficulties in understanding and managing the culture and environment, expats may feel cultural shock symptoms such as stress, frustration, confusion and anger. The second phase in cultural shock lasts six to eight months (Sanchez, Spector, & Cooper, 2000).
In this phase, expats usually react in three ways i.e. reject, adopt and cosmopolite.
Individuals that find it difficult to understand the new environment and culture usually isolate themselves. The reason for such isolation from the host country is its fragility and hostility. To be once again in harmony, the expat is left with a single option i.e. to return home (Thomas & Lazarova, 2006).
Some of the expats embrace new culture and the country. Due to such environment and the culture, the expats usually give up their original identity and choose to live in the host country forever (Thomas & Lazarova, 2006).
Such expats take the new culture and environment as positive and gradually adapt the new culture while keeping the original identity as well as the culture. These expats create their own culture by mixing the components of their culture with the new culture and have no problems in returning to their country of origin (Thomas & Lazarova, 2006).
Phase 3 – Gradual adjustment
Once the expats regain their self confidence, they are able to adjust to the new culture and the environment. Due to their self confidence, they are able to bond with other expats and locals which could help in understanding the new culture and its elements. With the help of such relationships with others in the new culture the expats are provided with an opportunity to integrate into the new society. During the years (i.e. one to two) the expats gradually understands and appreciate the new environment, language, lifestyle and business practices. As the expats starts appreciating the new environment, the lifestyle comes back to normal (Littrell, Salas, Hess, Paley, & Riedel, 2006).
At this stage, the expats are able to communicate more freely to others in the environment and society. The country which they once considered hostile becomes a place where they could learn and enrich their lifestyle (Thomas & Lazarova, 2006).
Phase 4 – Reverse cultural shock
The last phase in cultural shock is the reverse cultural shock which occurs when expats move back to their home country after long period. As the expats have to face certain challenges in order to become a part of the society, they are provided with the same challenges (i.e. understanding the culture and new environment). Due to such challenges, the expats would have to go through the whole process once again in order to reintegrate into the home country and the society (Jun, Gentry, & Hyun, 2001).
List of References
Baruch, Y., & Altman, Y. (2002). Expatriation and repatriation in MNCs: a taxonomy. Human Resource Management, vol. 41, no. 2, pp. 239-259.
Jun, S., Gentry, J. W., & Hyun, Y. J. (2001). Cultural adaptation of business expatriates in the host marketplace. Journal of International Business Studies, pp. 369-377.
Littrell, L. N., Salas, E., Hess, K. P., Paley, M., & Riedel, S. (2006). Expatriate preparation: A critical analysis of 25 years of cross-cultural training research. Human Resource Development Review, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 355-388.
Sanchez, J. I., Spector, P. E., & Cooper, C. L. (2000). Adapting to a boundaryless world: A developmental expatriate model. The Academy of Management Executive, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 96-106.
Takeuchi, R., Yun, S., & Tesluk, P. (2002). An examination of crossover and spillover effects of spousal and expatriate cross-cultural adjustment on expatriate outcomes. Journal of applied psychology, vol. 87, no. 4, pp. 655-666.
Thomas, D. C., & Lazarova, M. B. (2006). 13 Expatriate adjustment and performance: a critical review. Handbook of research in international human resource management, pp. 247.
Yamazaki, Y., & Kayes, D. C. (2004). An Experiential Approach to Cross-Cultural Learning: A Review and Integration of Competencies for Successful Expatriate Adaptation. Academy of Management Learning & Education, vol. 3, no. 4, pp. 362-379.