Cultural Differences in Relocation
There is little doubt nowadays that culture determines behaviors in new situations. But what does this mean though when people move to a new country? The classic answer is, “it depends.” An individual’s cultural background, and their success in their natural environment is a very poor predictor of success in other cultures. The skills that determine success in a new culture require a different way of looking at things.
For example, when you move to a new place, one of the best ways to combat loneliness is to meet new people. However, the best way to build a new network can vary greatly from country to country. For example, the average American takes a very individualistic approach, while the average Japanese would prefer a more collective or group based approach.
In America meeting new people is largely dependent on the individual. Introducing yourself to new person is perfectly acceptable, and often admired both on the personal and professional level. It is a great first step in building an extensive network, and extroverts tend to be the most connected.
By contrast, in Japan, introductions need to be made. On both the personal and professional level, you would make a large network by effectively leveraging your relationships to get more introductions, and investing time and effort to take care and maintain those relationships. Extroverts may have large networks, but it’s the people that take care of their existing relationships that end up being the most connected. They networks may not be as large, but they are usually very powerful.
The American that shows up in Japan and tries to build a large network through introducing him/herself to everyone would have a very difficult time making it through the door without the proper connections. Likewise, the Japanese person arriving in America expected to rely on the strength of his company name, or network that provides introductions is going to be in for a rude surprise when he finds himself judged based on his own ability and not the strength of the person who introduced him.
This is one example of why the most successful person back home may not be successful outside of their native culture. Successes in native cultures get that way from learning how to “play the game” based on the rules as defined by their culture. When they go to brand new areas however the rules are often different, and there is a huge struggle around adjusting to a new way of doing things. The ability to learn and understand cultural differences and then adapt to them is a huge determining factor of success.
Often the person who insists the most on doing things they would back home will never be fully integrated into their host culture and will struggle greatly both personally and professionally.
If you find yourself in a new culture, always try to find out how they do things there. It might be hard for you to understand, but if a whole society can abide by a set of cultural rules and guidelines, they must be there for a reason, and they work. Much like the old expression, “when in Rome,” by adapting some of the local culture into your behaviors you can help yourself be more successful.