International employment can be exciting, adventurous and provide extraordinary career opportunities. However, overseas assignments can also mean varying degrees of lifestyle change and continuous adaptation to your new business and social environments. Careful consideration must be given to the changes on your everyday way of life and your ability to successfully react to and manage these changes.
Research reveals some of the important characteristics possessed by those who have achieved successful transition. You should carefully contemplate and consider your personality profile against the characteristics listed below:
- a strong internal motivation to adapt to a new environment and accept the inevitable setbacks as a necessary part of the process;
- patience and a resilience to adapt, perhaps over and over again;
- tolerance, sensitivity, acceptance and appreciation of differences;
- persistence and resourcefulness;
- initiative – i.e., to work independently, be self-reliant and be a self-starter;
- decisiveness – the ability to make decisions in confusing situations often without having all of the facts at hand;
- an "adventurer’s streak" – i.e., to thrive in the face of the new and different things that need to be experienced and embraced;
- confidence and self-awareness, but without a strong ego;
- emotional stability and ability to deal effectively with stress;
- a personable approach, savvy manner and tact; but above all,
- a sense of humor.
The mental impact of adjusting to a new country and culture is commonly referred to as culture shock. You must carefully consider your ability to successfully manage this inevitability. Common symptoms of culture shock include:
- hostility at minor irritations
- dependance on fellow nationals
- doubts about your decision to come and your ability to perform
When you enter a new culture, the cues and clues you normally relied on are gone. It can involve any of the following areas of life: manners, customs, beliefs, ceremonies and rituals, social institutions, values, laws, ideas and thought patterns, language, tools, morals, ideals, accepted ways of behavior. Because your own frame of reference has been replaced, you may feel confused, disoriented, frustrated and anxious.