The 3 Stages of Cultural Adjustment
We asked several tax & TP partners we work with what it means for them to relocate to a different jurisdiction. When describing moving abroad, how it impacted their careers and how they made it a success, they described similar patterns of adjustments, which we choose to summarise below in three stages.
The Honeymoon – the first few days – up to a month
Most of what you see in the first few days is fresh and exciting. Exploring new locations, cuisines, and meeting new people can be energising. At this time, the benefits of being an expat will usually outweigh any disadvantages.
The Realization & Cultural Shock
In this stage, the honeymoon ends, and a more realistic vision of the rest of your new lifestyle and working arrangements begins. Now you begin to understand that working abroad means removing the ‘tourist’ hat and adapting to a different climate, culture, beliefs, and customs. This means an extra effort on your side, that may seem at first more demanding than expected.
Each experience that is brought by cultural differences teaches you about the need to prepare and adjust. After multiple adjustments to variations, one experiences the reality of cultural shock. That is, how different norms, values, and social arrangements can impact your life from working style and family life to your deepest personal needs and wants.
This phase usually requires commitment and a strong desire to succeed. It represents a crucial moment in your growth as a person. Overcoming it lays the groundwork for a future based on acceptance, openness to change, and respect to other worlds and cultures.
The reality is that the first few months might be difficult, and it is important to understand yourself and if you think this is the right place for you indeed. The tax professionals we interviewed, often once settled in, eased into enjoying their host countries to their fullest extent, with all the cultural differences and similarities attached that become valued and truly enriching.
New local friends and other expats often guided them through the most attractive experiences the country has to offer and growing their social network made the place feel ‘homey’ at last. In fact, most of the tax partners we spoke to highlighted that they found in their new host country what they were missing at home – fantastic weather, amazing local fauna and flora, unusual foods, and beautiful traditions, not to mention the excellent career progression choice the tax professional opted in for! This is the time when the career move confirms as it delivered a resounding success.