Adjusting to a new culture
When I moved to France earlier this autumn (from the UK, and before that the US), I underestimated the various ways the different culture would affect my ability to ‘get things done’. I had moved to a new country before; I speak a little French; how hard could it be? Even with a great service that has helped us navigate a lot of the hurdles, we still found ourselves at the end of each day exhausted and wanting only to stare blankly into space. Each day, and then each week that passed, we kept thinking it would get easier, and some of it did, but there were always new challenges and we were exhausted by the effort it took to accomplish what seemed like the smallest things.
A psychologist who specialises in expatriation says that moving to another culture sends your brain into a ‘flight or fight’ response since everything is new, and you have to throw out all your preconceived auto-pilot skills to learn to navigate this new landscape. She says every day when you leave your apartment, you are going into battle, with an unknown outcome at every encounter. This heightened awareness of everything takes an enormous amount of physical energy and therefore it is exactly right that we felt exhausted each day.
Now that things have settled a bit, and I am more confident of the outcome each day, I realise that there are many things about moving abroad that are similar to starting at a new organisation or even starting your own business.
When you start working at a new organisation, you will encounter new vocabulary and new processes; also you’ll learn meeting protocols, conversational styles, the dress code, communication channels, and all those myriad unwritten behaviours! Every organisation has their own unique version of these and more, and how well you are integrated into the organisation can have a huge impact on your ability to ‘get things done’. Which of course is all tied up with your own personal sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and well-being. You certainly don’t want to start each day feeling as if you are going into battle!
If you are starting your own business, you can be quickly overwhelmed by the number of things you feel you need to do and to know, and which one to do first. And you will be bombarded with advice and direction, much of which may not be relevant to you, but how do you even begin to sift through all that?! Again, a brand new landscape and fully exhausting.
So what to do? Here are a few tips I learned about moving to a new culture that I think fit really well to adapting to a new job or change in organisation:
Do you have other suggestions?? I’d love to hear them! If you are in charge of on-boarding new employees, what do you do to help your new staff gain confidence and not feel as if they are going into battle each day they come to work? What do you do to ease these transition stages? Let us know in the comments below!