Keeping up with the latest trends, hairstyles and gadgets shaped like starfish can be difficult in any culture. For assignees hoping to fit into a new home abroad, this can be even more challenging. Many cultures around the world have entirely different ideas about fashion trends that may quite not align with your assignee Margo’s trusty khaki-and-Uggs ensemble (oh, Margo).
What’s more? When unexpected meetings and office fashions come into play, an unprepared assignee could be risking more than a potential coffee date with the pleasant stranger they met in line at the Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt. Here’s a taste of some of the top style trends across the globe. No pictures, please.
You won’t find too many instances of sweatpants and t-shirts in Scandinavia and the colder areas of Europe - though you will find many locals chilling with no makeup on. Those in Denmark, Sweden and Norway tend to value minimalism over the color and - by many cultures’ standards - dolled up nature of Americans. One of the largest reasons for this minimalism is largely due to practicality. Instead of choosing a colorful wardrobe with memorable pieces, those in the north would rather have a smaller collection of high value pieces that could function in a variety of scenarios - from a regular office meeting during the day to a casual night on the town.
For that Stockholm-bound assignee looking to make a positive impression on her new boss, recommend that she go heavy on the black (but maybe not on the eyeliner). Fortunately, if your assignee regularly shops at H&M stateside, they may fit right in as the Stockholm-based brand provides inexpensive options for both office wear and casual settings.
Fashion in China is largely different from what assignees may be used to and theyshould take special care to make sure their outfits are on par with cultural expectations - especially in the corporate setting. Advise your assignee to dress conservatively in the office. Those in China tend to favor being overdressed versus underdressed and would never be caught going to a meeting exposing their legs (so refrain from the shorts!). For those who have some extra cash, China is the largest market for luxury wears in the world—so if an assignee has a Chanel suit, they shouldn’t be shy about dusting it off.
Accessories are also an important consideration to keep in mind for business meetings. Both men and women should strive to keep their outfits as conservative as possible, making sure to take necklace size, as well as heel height into consideration prior to meetings. While heels are largely considered stylish stateside, they are considered offensive to wear in meetings as they are thought to promote a sense of entitlement.
Similar to our friends in Asia, South African fashion largely revolves around remaining conservative in an office setting. In many cases, men are expected to wear long sleeves in corporate settings, with women staying covered up and straying toward more traditional fashions (like dresses and skirts). Advise your assignees to bring their best suits along and they will fit right in.
The good news is that outside of the office, South Africa is a booming hub for the fashion-conscious. Fashion tends to be bright, with big statement jewelry and flattering cuts for every kind of consumer. Many locals value the latest fashion trends in social situations, so tell your assignee to dress to impress!
Preparing your assignees for foreign style will be crucial for them to feel comfortable in their new homes. For more ways to prepare your assignees prior to departure, take a look at our checklist: 10 Signs Your Employees Are Experiencing Culture Shock.