How can you avoid cultural shock?
In the past, adventurous Brits may have gone to the Middle East to work in the oil industry or emigrated to the likes of Australia and New Zealand, but today there are many more opportunities overseas as the world has become more interconnected. Globalisation has created huge benefits for businesses, and recruitment has become much more international. But, even though the world may have ‘shrunk’, that doesn’t mean that everything’s the same everywhere, and understanding cultural differences is hugely important when considering life as an expat.
This issue was discussed in last month’s Global Recruiter in which our Head of Mobile Practice, Sean Schwarz, shared his thoughts. There’s a real danger in assuming that culture is the same – sometimes the difference isn’t always obvious but it’s still there – and it can be a struggle for some individuals to adapt to the change. The end user company is looking for a candidate with the right personality traits, attitude and adaptability, not just for the job but also for the location, and any past experience you may have had working abroad can be a real advantage as it highlights your flexibility.
This doesn’t mean that other candidates are automatically ruled out though. For instance, if you’ve been in the UK for 20 years and have a family we wouldn’t necessarily steer away from you, but it’s often harder to make the move. We typically find that interim workers with two or three years in different countries can make ideal hires.
Clearly not everyone can have this experience, but there are still ways for candidates at the beginning of their career to sell their flexibility to the employer. For example, you may have travelled extensively, opting for trips abroad that involve integrating with local people rather than an all-inclusive holiday. Experiences such as these will all be beneficial.
It’s also important to recognise that you as an individual may be ready to move and experience a different culture, but you need to be sure that your family can adapt to the changes. If they’re not coming with you, will you all be able to cope for extensive periods apart? And, if they are joining you, how will they fit in? There’s not the sort of closed expat environment that there once was, today it’s much more about mixing with local people and customs.
When it comes taking a job abroad, there are a lot of things to think about, and it’s important that all candidates and their families are made fully aware of any potential problems from the start. Working in a different culture is not for everyone, and in challenging areas, employers want to play it safe to ensure that they have made the right hire, as much for your benefit as for theirs.