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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action



Cross-Cultural HOME || Saying Goodbye || Managing Stress || Landing Overseas ||
Succeeding Overseas || Adapting || Moving On || Resilience || Learning More

You can't avoid the process of adjusting, but you can manage it.
Which strategies have proven most effective?

Keep a sense of humor.
If you can drop the perfectionism and laugh at yourself, your journey will be easier and more fun.

Practice cultural learning strategies. (Reference 7

  • SEPARATE facts and feelings when you think about what happened. Regulating emotions is "the gateway skill for intercultural adjustment" (Matsumoto, 2005). Don't let negative reactions cloud your judgment.
  • ANALYZE how your culture affected the situation.
  • INVESTIGATE the host culture.
  • LIST strategies to try the next time.

Example of the S A I L Model

  • Separate facts and feelingsI was giving a presentation and a man coughed and spit on the floor. I was disgusted and felt angry that he showed such a lack of respect.
  • Analyze my culture:  Spitting is an insult and never done indoors (hmmm, the Wild West wasn't so long ago, and what about baseball players?)
  • Investigate: I asked my "culture mentor" and discovered that this is "normal" here. Since there are no indoor trash cans, what would someone even do with a used tissue? Perhaps as a result, people NEVER touch their food with their hands: they think our habit of eating while we are working or driving is disgusting!
  • List strategies: I'm not going to adopt this practice, but I will try not to let it bother me. If it happens a lot, I will investigate to see whether there is an acceptable way to promote an alternative.

Take care of your needs.  (Reference 8)
An overseas move challenges the four basic psychological needs: competence, relatedness, self-esteem, and a sense of control (Sheldon et al, 2001). People who have been there suggest that you:

  • Accept that your new life is different than your old life. Expectations and comparisons are major sources of suffering.
  • Find a way to feel more in charge of what's happening to you.  What decisions could you make?  "Plans are totally useless, but planning is absolutely essential." (Winston Churchill)
  • Make a commitment to learn and grow. This goal cannot be hindered by circumstances or other people.
  • Keep an open mind and be flexible (things are"different," not "bad").
  • Establish a routine or do what you can to gain a sense of stability and control. Find a balance between exploring and withdrawing.
  • Re-establish a support network.  Don't allow yourself to become isolated. Include local people in your network as well as friends from your home country.
  • Make time for internal activities, such as writing in a journal, listening to music, or walking.
  • Follow the old adage, "Rome wasn't built in a day."  Take time to settle in, and do one thing at a time.  There will be plenty to do tomorrow!
  • Get out there! Find ways to enjoy using your skills and developing new ones.


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