Minimizing the Effects of Culture Shock - Part 2

#5. We see things as we are

I know it’ sounds counter intuitive, but the real priority is not to understand your new host culture, but your own. We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are – through our own perspective. According to cultural anthropologists and millions of expats worldwide, it’s very likely that with the exception of Canada, Australia, England, and South Africa, your tendencies and expectations align with 85% of the rest of the world, unlike Americans.

#6. How to tell you’re not American

Read the following statements based on the main kinds of cultural differences like how cultures view authority, groups, relationships, communication, time, change, and work/life balance to determine your personal cultural profile. Give yourself 1 point for each one you can identify with. A score of 6+ means you were probably raised outside the USA and need to adjust your mindset. You can then compare your personal tendencies with the cultural attributes of the USA (# 7-15) For example, you may not be as transactional as a typical American, making you more relationship based. Knowing that about yourself helps you recognize and understand differences, gaps and tendencies, expectations. Cultural values are learned, that means they can be unlearned. When we’re in a stressful situation, we tend to revert to our cultural roots. Imagine you’re a French expat in the USA now facing a problem at your child’s school, becoming frustrated, and exacerbating the situation by becoming imperious. Practice behavior when something happens so it sticks.

  • You probably need a lot of information before making decisions.
  • You would generally put people before profits.
  • You’re not much a risk taker, and don’t tolerate much ambiguity.
  • You save for a rainy day and can really hang in there when the going gets tough, able to delay instant gratification.
  • You think children should be seen and not heard.
  • You believe its business should only be done with friends and family.
  • You shy away from putting your needs above those of others.
  • You think that people should work to live, not live to work.
  • You also think relationships are more important than getting things done.
  • Time is rather elastic to you so talking, doing, and interacting with people, places and things, sometimes all at once doesn’t really seem exceptionally difficult.
  • You think people are pretty much born into their status, or that it’s ascribed to them because of their age or level of education rather than achieving it just on individual merit.
  • You prefer discussion to competition.

If some or all of these statements ring true, then you’re about to live and work with Americans who were raised in ways utterly unlike your own. So, what makes Americans, American?

#7. Americans are always in such a hurry

Americans often seem this way because of their tendency to use achievements and accomplishments to measure your worth. They’re in a hurry to get things done because it’s only then that they feel they have proven their worth to other people. The more Americans accomplish, the more they feel they are respected. To them, time is money, giving you the impression everything is just “business”. One reason Americans tend to underestimate the need for relationships is that time is so important to us and they don’t realize that building relationships and taking time to talk to people is so important. These things are not time wasters to 85% of the rest of the world. Curt, information-only e-mails are the rule, but you can teach them a few things about the value of taking time to stop and smell the roses like showing personal interest or opening an e-mail with a hello, if appropriate saying you hope they had a good weekend, closing it with your name, just being polite.

Minimizing the Effects of Culture Shock - Part 3
Minimizing the Effects of Culture Shock - Part 1