Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Cultural adaptation is a process

Do we honestly think that a one or, at most, two day cultural training course is going to produce the behavioral changes that are necessary for genuine cross-cultural adaptation? Those going abroad will benefit from pre-departure training which will give them an overview of the new culture and help prepare them to deal with the challenging reality of “culture shock”. (“Culture shock”, by the way is something of a misnomer – a "shock", to my way of thinking, suggests an event which happens in a very reduced time-frame from which we recover quickly. What we mean by "culture shock" is a minor state of depression that can last up to 10 weeks, post arrival at the new location, and is prone to re-occurrence).

Post-arrival cultural training, when the brief “honeymoon” period is wearing down, is very necessary. To be truly relevant and useful, this cross-cultural training must deal with the aspects of emotional adjustment which are especially vital for the adaptation of the accompanying spouse. It is important to ensure that measurable outcomes are incorporated into the training curriculum and that the sojourners are given practical advice on setting up their “emotional” networks. I suggest that “emotional management” (in the “scientific” acceptance of the terms) is emerging as a major key to success in the global marketplace. Interestingly, we do not learn emotional intelligence from CD-ROMs or from books. We learn it from our mothers, from our teachers, coaches and (if we are very lucky) bosses. Cultural adjustment is more of a "process" than an "event". So, I think it is more cost efficient to offer pre-departure cultural training to candidates for expatriation and cross-cultural coaching once they have settled in at their new location. Read more...

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