FAQ

Below you will find answers to frequently asked questions.

What is Culture (Shock)?

"Culture is a kind of orientation system that is typical of a particular nation, society, or group, and is shared in common by them."

It influences the perception, thinking, feelings, emotions, values, and, accordingly, the actions of the group. It provides members with support and orientation in evaluating and coping with their environment. However, this orientation system is not the same everywhere; it varies in every society or community.

When we come into contact with a foreign culture or a foreign country, we realize that our own orientation system no longer works. Our familiar patterns of thought and behaviour, our coping strategies, are no longer effective.

Our thought patterns, our often subconscious judgment, and action strategies that we have used for years, often even decades, no longer fit. Our subconscious tries to judge the perceptions of the new environment streaming in through our five senses based on the information and experiences we have gathered over decades, our personal “normal.”

But the new “normal” in the new environment is different. And, another very important point, we can no longer rely on our intuition.

Culture shock, or rather, living through the phases of culture shock, is a reaction to a new environment that is perceived as unpredictable and uncertain. We have left our familiar living environment or space and are trying to get used to the new one.

5 phases of culture shock

Based on Kalervo Oberg's widely used model, an assignment proceeds in five different phases.

1

The first phase is often referred to as the honeymoon phase. This phase is characterized by euphoria, enthusiasm, and optimism; everything is great, everything is beautiful, and everything is fascinating. The focus is on similarities, with differences being hardly noticed. This emphasis on similarities creates a feeling of security, understanding, and a sense of belonging. Everything runs smoothly.

2

The second phase begins when the sense of security, understanding, and orientation built up in the first phase is shaken. This occurs when more and more social and cultural differences are perceived in the new environment. Stereotypes are sought and found, the differences are perceived as more disturbing. The expat closes himself off more and more from his new environment. This leads to contact difficulties, a lack of understanding and orientation. Confusion increases, satisfaction decreases. The stress level increases, while work motivation and productivity decrease.

3

I n the third phase, the climax of the culture shock, the crisis, is reached. The expat realises that their old “normal” is failing as an orientation in their new environment. A psychological adjustment or reorientation occurs. Possible symptoms during this phase include physical stress reactions such as tiredness, fatigue, high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, and shortness of breath. Emotional and psychological symptoms may encompass feelings of helplessness, homesickness, anxiety, frustration, overreaction, and the feeling of being rejected by members of the new culture. There can also be feelings of insecurity and doubt, as well as outbursts of anger, hostility, and sarcasm. Rejection of the new culture, distancing from the assignment, the company, and/or the new environment are also common. Additional symptoms might include insomnia, excessive demands, and feelings of powerlessness.

In these two phases, phases two and three, the problems that can lead to failure, such as cancellation, poor work performance or termination, arise and manifest themselves. The success or failure of the secondment is decided in these phases.

4

In the fourth phase, provided that no negative development manifests itself or a negative event has taken place, things start to pick up again. Understanding, adjustment, mood and satisfaction increase again.

5

In the fifth phase, the feeling of being "at home" sets in. The expat is integrated and has arrived in their new environment. Satisfaction and work productivity are at their highest in this phase.

The severity and length of the individual phases vary from person to person.

Why do expatriate assignments fail?

Since the early 1980s to the present day, a wide range of authors in their publications, scientific articles, dissertations, master's theses, and books all come to the same conclusion on one point: “The main reason for the failure of an expatriate assignment is the lack of integration of the expat, their partner, or accompanying family in the host country.”

What does a failed assignment mean today?

It means far more than just a cancellation. After all, what use is an employee who completes the duration but delivers poorer performance? According to studies, this applies to up to 50% of expatriates. Or, an employee who achieves the set goals but resigns within a year of completion? According to studies, this is the case for up to 45% of expatriates.

What are the costs of a failed expatriation?

The costs always depend on the country, the expat, and their family. Let's take as an example a family consisting of a father, mother and two school-age children whose assignment is terminated within the first year.

Directly chargeable costs are, for example, the salary, let's say €120,000 + €20,000 supplements, flights there and back a €1,300, overnight stays in hotels a €200, rent for accommodation €60,000 per year, relocation costs a €6,000, school fees a €10,000 per year, ancillary costs such as visas, training and consultancy costs €15,000.

The indirect costs can be far higher. Loss of market share, lost business opportunities, loss of trust among customers, local employees and government officials, and even a ban on doing business in the host country.

The third area concerns the loss of a valuable employee. The probability is very high that the failed employee will leave the company and take expertise, insider knowledge and contacts with them.

Salary & bonuses

140 000 €

Flights for "look and see" trip

2.600 €

+ 4 days hotel

800 €

Outbound flights

5.200 €

Return flights

5.200 €

Relocation costs

12.000 €

School fees

20.000 €

Rent

60.000 €

Ancillary costs

15.000 €

Total costs

260.800 €

The Expatriate Protection and Integration Programme - Far too much effort! Really?

Few things motivate us as much as the feeling of being recognised and appreciated. Think back to a moment in your own life when you experienced this feeling. Recognised and appreciated.

What enormous energy was released in you as a result? What connection did you feel? What support and security did it give you? What joy? What happiness? It really is a wonderful feeling - isn't it?

But beyond this great feeling, motivated employees, in our case motivated expatriates, increase the company's performance, innovative strength and return on investment (ROI). Commitment and loyalty are increased. At the same time, the willingness to resign is reduced and the likelihood of emotional exhaustion drops by a double-digit percentage. And, the programme saves the company time, money and effort.

Really too much effort?


Why has no solution yet been found for the biggest weakness, the main reason for the failure of a secondment?

There are various reasons for this. For a long time, an assignment that was not cancelled prematurely was regarded as a successful assignment. Labour productivity, ROI, motivation, and dismissal rates played a subordinate role, if at all. This has only changed more and more in recent years.

Difficult implementation. The solution cannot be achieved through preparatory, theoretical online or face-to-face training. The problem must be solved where it arises - in the target country itself.

No providers. There was no provider who specialised in this.

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