One of the most relevant factors in any internationalisation process is the human element. International expansion of a project is, at the same time, an invaluable opportunity for professional and personal growth for those who participate in the process, but it is still a major challenge. One of the main tests will be the so-called “culture shock.” This term, originally coined by anthropologist Kalervo Oberg in the sixties of the 20th century, describes a series of phases that a person that relocates for work reasons goes through. Thus, Oberg describes the “U”-shaped process in four stages: honeymoon, crisis, recovery and adjustment, which are, strictly speaking, self-explanatory.

Adaptation process

Despite being a completely normal issue and present in every adaptation process, the impact of cultural differences is usually poorly managed by organizations and individuals. This is a serious problem considering that relocation processes are usually very expensive, both from the point of view of the company’s investment and the personal cost for the entrepreneur or executive if things do not go as expected. An internationalisation and relocation project that does not lead to good results is ruinous for the company and wrought with frustration for the persons involved.

Culture shock

Culture shock can be defined as the state of general discomfort or disorientation due to lack of familiarity in a new environment and immersed in a culture different from our own. This feeling of annoyance can arise from different reasons. For example, feeling personally isolated or ignored by new colleagues, experiencing anxiety or concern about meeting proposed objectives, confusion in values and identity when the destination society is very different, perhaps distaste for the new culture or local protocols or, in general, perceiving that the new reality does not live up to our initial expectations.

Read the full article published in El Mundo Financiero (Spanish) here.