Acquiring Cultural Skills Takes Time and Planning

July 1, 1994
Successful expatriation doesn't just happen-it requires foresight and careful thought. Here are a few tips:

  • Consider overseas assignments part of the developmental process. Groom and prepare people for their jobs abroad. They can learn language, culture and prepare for additional stressors well ahead of time
  • Know a lot about the country to which you assign people. If there has been violent activity against people of the same ethnic background as the expatriate, consider consequences carefully

Give the candidate thorough and honest information about the country under consideration. Some individuals may not want to deal with the difficulties; others will want to take on the challenge

  • Allow time for language acquisition. Language teaches culture in context
  • Provide cross-cultural training for the candidate, spouse and family
  • Help the expatriate understand the business culture of the destination country. How do things get accomplished? What are the management styles? For example, prepare people with seminars on intercultural communication and negotiation in their intended region
  • Don't assume that individuals of the same background as those in the host country will not need education and discussions about the new culture. Offer them training as well
  • Encourage the expatriate to get involved in the new culture. This helps to develop a social network and also provides more information about the culture. Furthermore, local people regard the interest in their culture with respect.

Personnel Journal, July 1994, Vol.73, No. 7, p. 44.