Shock is not something that people generally get on a holiday but
as soon as your boss calls you into the office and says "Hi
John, we value you so much we want you to head our Hong Kong
operations !" you really need to start thinking about the
implications and how you are going to avoid this condition. It is
not so much as a life threatening disease, but it can lead to some
very serious problems if you do not take a few precautions.
shock is definitely a serious condition that needs to be watched,
and checked upon. I personally have suffered from it on numerous
occasions and yes sleep deprivation, mood swings, and depression
are all in there.
to a new destination with unusual habits and traditions can be a
very traumatic experience, a little research before you leave will
help tremendously but the most important thing is to actually
leave with an open mind. A lot of people fly off without any
research and expect things to be done in exactly the same way and
at the same speed as they were at home, well this just isn't going
to happen, and it is very important to try to understand the
culture religion and people of the country that you are travelling
culture shock selection of books are a very good starting place,
but one that you will not really understand fully until you are
actually in the country mingling with the locals. One interesting
point of this can be found in the book Culture Shock Thailand
(check our book reviews here),
Thai people are among the nicest people in the world but it is a
very different world from let's say the UK. The book explains a
good deal about Thai culture and traditions and it explains how
Thais smile their way out of an embarrassing situation and look
down on those that don't. The book then puts this into a couple of
different examples, to try to ensure that the reader understands.
One such example is that if you are walking down the street and
someone throws dirty water over you from a doorway, you should
smile at the person that did this, showing your forgiveness, this
should help clear the air and the person will most likely go out
of there way to help you clean up, imagine this happening in
London ! Thais shy away from confrontation, and this is one of the
many aspects that make them such a happy and kind nation.
as an expatriate you are moving to a country with severe Culture
Shock such as perhaps Cambodia, or Vietnam, then even more
research would be needed. Nowadays you can do a lot more research
than was ever possible with the growth of the internet. You can
see pictures of pretty much every destination in the world and
even read restaurant, hotel and bar reviews without having even
left your office. It is also advisable to stay away from a lot of
the other expats especially before you leave and for while after
you arrive in the destination, a lot of expats can be very
negative about a country, even though they continue to stay there
and this is not something that you need when you have just
travelled half way around the world. Instead leave with an open
mind and make your own judgements about the place after you have
started to understand it a little.
of the biggest causes though of Culture Shock is language. It will
make an enormous amount of difference to you if you learn a little
or as much as possible of the local language before you leave.
Take up classes and practice it as much as you can; if you are
studying Thai, eat out at Thai restaurants and try to practice
your Thai. This small step will make your life a lot simpler and
will also give you immediate respect when you arrive in the
foreign country, not to mention open many new doors. If you show
an interest in the other persons language and culture they will
show an interest in you.
you are being relocated by your company try to find out a little
about the living conditions in that country and the package that
the company offers you. Will they supply you with hotel
accommodation or will you be straight into an appartment or house
? Are you given a housing allowance and allowed to choose the
accomodation yourself ? Will the company pay the deposits that the
landlord requires etc. ? Will you have maids ? What about a car ?
How many return trips will you have a year to your home country ?
Will they be in economy or business class ? What about your family
rights - the wife - the husband - the children ? How long is the
posting for ? Will the company pay for repatriation due to
illness, or unemployment ? Do they have limits to the amount of
furniture that you can send over but most importantly bring back ?
Will they cover these charges ? Do they have any restrictions as
to how you send these things ? Do they offer you insurance that is
suitable for the country that you are travelling to ?
now that you have read up on the country, searched millions of web
pages, have learnt a little of the language, and are happy with
the package that the company is offering you, you are ready to
you arrive it is important to fit in, get a feel for the place,
the smells, the sounds. I would suggest just walking for a day or
two experiencing the mystique of the new land you have just
discovered. After a while when you are feeling a little more at
home join a club, and make friends socially outside of your
regular work patterns, and try to meet and befriend as many locals
a you can, so that you will really get a deeper understanding of
where you and most probably appreciate the differences in culture
a lot more.
Shock basically comes from a lack of understanding and built up
anxiety, and can be caused by the most minute things, building up.
One time in Hong Kong a colleague seemed to be literally screaming
at the waitress in Cantonese, I was very anxious and asked what
was wrong, my colleague looked very confused as to why I was
asking the question and she simply replied that she was ordering
some water !
in all every expat has had his or her bad days, and there are
times you just want to get on a plane and fly back, however these
days are minimal compared to the fun, and amazing discoveries that
you will make. Once you are bitten by the spirit and feeling of
adventure you are about to embark on, you will have more
difficulty believe it or not, returning "home" than you
imagined especially the longer you stay away.