The acculturation process - "culture shock"
When the host culture differs from the home culture, the expatriate will go through a psychological and social adaptation process: i.e. the acculturation process, also called "culture shock". This has been described as "…a condition of disorientation affecting someone who is suddenly exposed to an unfamiliar culture or way of life or set of attitudes…". If the expatriate does not recognise and deal with culture shock, it will affect home and work life, possibly quite severely - simply because it is so easy to blame the new environment for the symptoms he experiences, for everything that is wrong. As a consequence, expatriates experience working and living in a foreign country as stressful. The experience encompasses a series of changes, each of which requires a great deal of patience, skill and determination to handle.
How to maximize the success of an international assignment
An assignment is a success only when the assignee repatriates suc-cessfully and adds value to the organisation.
- the criteria used for the selection of expatriates should include in-tercultural competencies
- alleviating culture shock is crucial for a successful international as-signment. Pre-assignment coaching and training equips assignees and their families for speedy and successful adaptation to their new country or for their return home. It is a proven tool in allow-ing them to become more effective, more quickly, in their new role.
- the psychosocial factors of spousal adjustment and overall family adjustment are the most frequent reasons for assignment failure. Addressing them is essential.
The cost effectiveness of intercultural training and coaching for expatriates is based on several factors – one of the most important being the cost of training as a percentage of the total cost of an assignment abroad.
The total annual cost of an assignment is always a six-figure number, rarely less than € 300,000 and in most cases much more. The cost of expatriate training and support also varies, depending largely on the duration and frequency of the training. The optimal training package includes pre-departure, post- arrival and repatriation programmes. As shown below, the total cost of effective expatriate training constitutes an extremely small percentage of the total assignment costs.
|An assignment supported by optimal training|
|Cost of optimal training||€ 10.000,-||Cost of 3-year assignment||€ 900.000,-|
|Annual cost of assignment||€ 300.000,-||Relative cost of training||1.1% of total cost|
Return on investment - ROI
Trade-offs between business needs and cost raise the issue of measuring the effectiveness of international as-signments. Ongoing research currently concludes that ROI is not yet sufficiently quantified to justify interna-tional assignments as a business strategy. Organisations consider expatriate assignments to be the price-tag of doing business globally.
To assure both success for the company and a meaningful experience for the employee, the company must:
- Choose the right candidate
- Equip candidates with the proper tools
- Manage assignment expectations
- Continue contact through repatriation
Why is our approach so valuable?
Culture shock shakes up our small world and forces us to question and reappraise what we thought we knew. A person who can be open to the challenge posed by a strange culture grows mentally and emotion-ally and gradually transforms into a true world citizen. Culture shock should be welcomed and most of all it should be managed well. If so culture shock turns into an asset. Let us use our extensive knowledge, first-hand experience and proven methodology to support you.
|Cycle phase||Our interventions||Time investment|
|Preparation||Intercultural Readiness Check|
|intercultural awareness training||1 day|
|country briefing||1 day|
|acculturation process||½ day|
|intercultural skills training (competencies)||½ day|
|Performance||ongoing (online) coaching|
|Repatriation||re-entry process||½ day|
Ideas4 and itim international
Ideas4 is a member of the itim international group. Together we enjoy long-standing relationships with leading multinationals, a huge variety of industries, both public and private organisations and higher educational insti-tutes. All our training strives to ensure that our passion, expertise and quality standards meet the needs and expectations of our participants and clients.
During the past 25 years itim international has acquired a strong reputation as a leading provider of intercultural management training. A global organisation, itim’s international network covers the 5 continents with partners in 22 countries. All Ideas4 trainers are itim accredited. Ideas4 programmes attract private and public sector clients from the region and around the world. We are renowned for our programme excellence, high quality learning experience and lasting results for our client organisations and their people.
“... now we are ready to go with peace of mind...”
Expatriate preparing for an assignment in Brazil
Ideas4 culture: organisational culture, intercultural management, intercultural differences, expatriation and international business and negotiation