Many executives have experienced the combination of anticipation and anxiety as they prepare for a posting abroad. What many executives fail to anticipate is the culture shock they experience on returning home. Cross-cultural specialist Craig Storti addresses these experiences in his clearly written book called The Art of Crossing Cultures.
'It's Not the Heat...'
The expatriate transition will differ greatly, of course, depending on where you are coming from and where you are going. A new and (to the newcomer) uncomfortable climate, doing without ("the list of things 'they don't have here' sometimes seems to have been designed with you personally in mind," Storti notes); the loss of routines; and unfamiliar faces are some of the elements of what Storti labels "country shock."
Country shock, however, is just a sideshow to the main event: culture shock. The weather is one thing. Dealing with "different, deeply held beliefs and instincts about what is natural, normal, right and good" is another.
'The Fried Ants Are Delicious'
The first step in dealing with culture shock, according to Storti, is to abandon expectations of cultural sameness. People in foreign countries are going to act differently. Expatriates must then take steps to learn about the culture around them. They will then come to understand and even expect the behaviors and attitudes of the people in their new country.
"The message of this book," Storti notes, "is not that you must uncritically embrace all local behavior no matter how strange or offensive, but only that you should not reject behaviors before you have understood them."
The result might surprise you. As one foreign aid worker in East Africa wrote, "All in all, [this] is a really nice place to live and work. The people are friendly, the beaches are great, and the fried ants are delicious."
Why Soundview Likes This Book
The Art of Crossing Cultures is typical of the titles published by Intercultural Press, a small Maine publisher that specializes in authoritative, how-to guides on cross-cultural relations. Any person facing the prospect of going abroad would do well to start with this title. Then, request the Intercultural Press catalogue for more detailed guides on specific countries. Copyright (c) 2002 Soundview Executive Book Summaries