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Some tips and good advice on how to get used to foreign culture, how to deal with culture shock and face problems that occur while working in an alien environment. Article was prepared on the base of the report which was published in Eurograduate magazine 2004.

Tips and advice:
• Beware: culture shock can kick in and then surprise you at intervals along the way;
• Regardless of where you go to work, whether Europe or on the other side of the world, the same degree of preparation is essential;
• Study the specific attitudes, expectation and values of your target culture and learn how to deal with people based on an understanding of their point of view
• If you haven’t done so already, learn the local language as soon as possible
• Find out about how your host culture views issues such as punctuality and family. In Mediterranean countries there is a more relaxed attitude to time keeping, whereas in Germany, punctuality for both business and social functions is considered important
• Take up extra-curricular activities – people can provide friendship, understanding and even support
• Learn as much about the particular country or region as possible: history, politics, economic situation and current issues. It is equally important to learn about the business practices and social culture in order to understand why people behave the way they do.

The awareness of cultural differences is essential but interpersonal skills are of the same importance, esspecialy during the adaptation process:
• Entrepreneurship
• People management
• Strategic and innovative thinking
• Results orientation
• Flexibility
• Confidence
• Open mindedness
• Self-awareness
• Acceptance of others
• Ability to compromise
• Communication skills
• Understanding others’ values
• Respect for others
• Willingness to learn a language
• Willingness to research the host country and culture
• Networking
• Willingness to be mentored

Before making the final decision it is worth to remember about some important issues.
The first-timer’s Assignment Package Guide – what to ask for:
• Pre-assignment visit and meetings with local office prior to signing contract
• Relocation assistance through reputable agent
• Cross-cultural coaching for family, including partner and dual career assistance
• Contact with predecessors
• Flexible home leave arrangements
• Management development objectives, including return guarantee
• Transparent assignments goals and job description
• Performance appraisal criteria and consequences of not meeting assignment goals – or rewards for exceeding them
• Clear definition of personal and corporate expectations and policy on ethics and business principles
• Repatriation assistance (including relocation agent backup)

Besides it is worth to know the 5 most important criteria for successful assignments – from expatriate partners’ point of view (you must remember that their satisfaction is almost as important as yours):
• Living situation in the host country
• Pre-assignments visits in the host country
• Children’s schooling and healthcare on assignment
• Job/activities for partners

Source: "Moving to a different beat" by Jo Parfitt, "This time it's peronal!" byJo Parfitt, Eurograduate 2004

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