7 steps to overcome intercultural shock while living and working abroad

Life abroad can be very exciting and demanding, however may also cause an anxiety, stress and homesickness. It may make you feel helpless, alone, lost and uncomfortable, especially if you are looking to build your career and life in new country. There are many expatriates, especially women, who are suffering in silence, either not asking for help or they do not know how, where or who to ask for support to design the career they want and live a successful life abroad. My international experience started over 10 years ago when I moved from a small town in Poland to study psychology in Rome, Italy. After my graduation, I entered the job world and for the next 5 years I covered various positions in recruitment, career counselling, sales, marketing and customer service. I worked in the cities like Rome, Milan, London and Manchester. I experienced two intercultural shocks moving from Poland to Italy, from Italy to the UK at different stages of my life. I noticed also that even moving to a different city within one country can cause you some challenges.

Here are 7 steps which will help you to have the best of your international experience :

  1. Be curious. Research about the country you are moving in. Discover what are traditions, values and beliefs. Ask questions, read local newspapers and watch local television. This is what I was doing when I moved to Italy, even my Italian was very poor at the time I was watching the local TV and trying to speak Italian.
  2. Learn a local language. It will help you to understand better your host country and improve your communication with the locals.
  3. Go out of your comfort zone. Instead of hanging around with the fellow expats from your native country, go out and make connections, friendships with the locals. Attend social, networking or business events. Do not get me wrong I don’t want you to abandon your home country friends but sometimes foreign people stick too much to each other and do not make any contacts with the local community.
  4. Do not compare your native country with your new home. I know it is difficult especially when you have just moved. Keep your mind open and you will enrich your personal and professional background.
  5. Be gentle with yourself. Count positive things, new experiences, new challenges in your life. If you are facing an obstacle for example you didn’t pass the job interview, ask yourself what can you learn from that experience and what can you improve?
  6. Ask for support. Sometimes asking for help can make you see everything from a different perspective. Get yourself a Coach, there are many great Expat Coaches out there, speak with a friend or a fellow expat. Create your own support team!
  7. Enjoy yourself. Whatever your expat experience lasts a few months or you are planning to stay abroad for a long time get the best of it. Keep the best memories!

I want to hear your voice. What is your experience of living and working in a foreign country, your daily challenges, and how did you overcome them.

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About the Author

Dominika Miernik

Dominika Miernik is a Career Coach & Business Idea Generator for women. She has lived in Manchester, London, Milan and Rome, and she now helps expat women to pursue their true passions as they adapt to the living in a new country. In 2015 she was named the best International Coach by The Coaching Academy.

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