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 feelings: I 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.