Most people will experience stress when moving to another country, but the intensity and duration of this ‘acculturation stress’ differs from one person to the next. Cultural intelligence plays an important role in this process, but other factors also come into play: personality traits, your social environment and the amount of contact you keep with people back home will also influence how you adapt to your new culture. The reason for moving abroad also influences your ability to adjust: people who are moving voluntarily generally adjust easier than people who are forced to move.
In a time of globalization, as we expats all know, it is important to be able to recognize and handle cultural diverse situations. As an expat, you need your cultural skills to adjust to a new country. Also, since companies tend to get more and more culturally diverse, you also need to rely on cultural intelligence in order to keep connected at work. This is why a higher cultural intelligence can lead to better job opportunities and increased success in your career.
Cultural intelligence is one of the components of general intelligence. Even though there isn’t a cultural intelligence measuring scale yet, your CQ (cultural quotient) seems to be just as important as IQ (intellectual quotient) and EQ (emotional quotient) nowadays. Even more so than your intellectual and emotional abilities, your cultural intelligence level is seen as a skill that you can train and grow. Here are some tips to increase your CQ:
Learn about the culture of your new home country. By reading up about the history and current political situation, watching movies and talking to people from your new host country you’ll get better insights to the cultural aspects of it.
It is important to realize that culture shock is a clash between two cultures: your own culture and a new culture. By realizing your own cultural baggage, you’ll be prepared and better able to handle encounters with a new culture. Try writing down which norms and values are important to you from your own culture. How do they differ from the new culture?
Practice, practice, practice! The more intercultural encounters you’ll have, the smoother they will go. Small faux-pas in the beginning? Neven mind, be gentle with yourself and allow yourself some time to practice.
Lastly: try to keep a mild attitude towards new cultures. Differences aren’t necessarily good or bad, so see if you can observe these differences without judging. If you can let yourself be amazed instead of annoyed by them, you’ll probably find the adjustment to your new home much easier.