Culture shock occurs due to the disorientation that is felt when moving to another country.

As a contractor, who might regularly work in a variety of countries as part of their employment it is important to master culture shock.

Common problems that can contribute to culture shock are the language barrier, technology gaps, skill interdependence and good old fashioned home sickness.

Many companies when employing foreign contractors do not take the time to deal with the problems that may occur due to culture shock.  Working in a foreign environment is very different from visiting a foreign country and culture shock can impact significantly on the work due to frustration which can lead to exhaustion and anxiety.

It is important to remember that not all nations are the same and to learn and accept the differences that you are likely to encounter on a daily basis, such as German and Anglophone business people are generally punctual and see this as a mutual sign of respect whereas some Mediterranean nations are very laid back effecting deadlines and punctuality.  Another example is that the English regularly use humour in order to create a lighter mood whereas in some countries such as Germany this is not appreciated in a work environment.

Things that may help cope with culture shock are;

  • Support system.  This includes making new friends preferably both foreign and expat and also connecting with your existing friends and family.
  • Acceptance.  This is the need to learn about the different culture and embrace it.
  • Language.  Learning the new language can prove to be a huge help even if it is just a few basic words.
  • Attitude.  Sometimes when experiencing culture shock it is common to adopt a negative view of the host country.  It is important to keep a positive attitude and not automatically allocate blame when things go wrong.

One thing to remember is that culture shock does not only occur when moving abroad.  Sometimes reverse culture shock occurs when moving back and this can prove just as difficult to deal with.