Importance of Cultural Intelligence When Moving Abroad

by David Tompkins

What Expats Need to Know About Cultural Intelligence When Moving Abroad

With the openness of various economies globally and the expansion of many multi-national companies, cultural intelligence plays a vital role in expats’ lives these days. Globalization and internationalization are increasingly promoted by developing countries too. They have become standard features of today’s business landscape.

cultural intelligence when moving abroad

There is no doubt that globalization has made this world look much smaller. Cultural diversity is a common thing in most larger organizations or multi-national firms. However, cultural diversity can lead to potential confusion, fights, and misunderstandings among co-workers, which can hamper performance and the workplace environment. Today, acquiring and developing cultural intelligence is vital for expats as well as the local workforce. This will assist you in enjoying a relaxed and successful professional life overseas.

Here are some tips that will help you be a better and more effective global mind:

cultural intelligence when moving abroad

When Planning for the Move Overseas

  • Expats usually face initial disorientation because of the lack of adequate intercultural knowledge. Ideally, it would help if you learned as many “norms” or “rules” before moving to your host destination. It would help if you also analyzed your attachment with your own cultural roots before transitioning from cultural awareness to cultural intelligence.
  • Cultural intelligence helps in overcoming cultural shock; however, acquiring cultural intelligence is not a cakewalk.

When Living and Working in Your Home Country

  • You should know the common traditions and rituals if you are living and working in your home country.
  • Knowing the social norms will assist you in comfortably adjusting to your professional environment.
  • Social norms also include the traditional norms followed by families in your home country. Small little things like having respect for elders can help families stay united.
  • If you follow or accept the social norms of your home country, you will be able to adapt to another country’s workplace hierarchy and culture.

cultural intelligence when moving abroad

Adapting to the Host Country’s Culture

Here are a few helpful steps for moving in the path towards cultural intelligence.

  • Enroll yourself in language classes as soon as you arrive at your expat destination. Knowing a language well will help you communicate effectively with peers and neighbors. Language proficiency helps you gather factual information and address various misunderstandings effectively.
  • Get in touch with fellow expats or former expats to know about the ‘best practices’ in the country you are moving to.
  • Watch the local TV channel in your expat destination
  • Read books on history, social and business etiquette, or research online and delve into your new country’s traditions and rituals. Also, knowing the social issues will help in boosting your cultural intelligence.
  • Participate in seminars related to cultural intelligence. However, check out the qualifications and experience of intercultural trainers before you seek their help.

Summing Up

It is important to understand that expats with cultural intelligence may behave weirdly, especially during the initial days. However, with time and focused efforts, the level of intercultural skills would increase and make you quite successful. Global communication will continue to remain a vital part of any domain’s businesses, irrespective of your rank or position in an organization. Similarly, social values are there to stay; however, superficial cultural differences may disappear due to companies’ and countries’ globalization strategies.

If you are planning an international business, your intercultural skills will play a vital role in ensuring its success, especially in this ultra-modern era. Practice your intercultural skills even before you decide to move abroad on an international job assignment. They will come in handy right from the outset.

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