Not everyone’s move abroad is going to be the same. Some people adjust within a few months, while others may take closer to a year. The loss of home and culture can cause relocated employees to experience culture shock. Most people feel like a fish out of water, rightfully so, and their behavior can change in ways that impacts their friends, family and place of work. While it’s important to note that culture shock manifests in different ways for everyone, here are the top three signs your assignee is experiencing culture shock:
Does your assignee complain about a constant state of tiredness? Even when the jet lag is gone and they’ve settled into the new time zone, they’re still always feeling worn out. If your assignee feels like everyday tasks, like getting out of bed or leaving the couch for a snack feel exhausting, they could be experiencing culture shock.
In order to help your assignee get over the fatigue, suggest they start exploring ex-pat support or family groups. Through meeting other individuals going through the same experiences, they will hopefully start to enjoy the new culture more, and make some friends in the process. Plus, giving them a reason to get up and move is the perfect combat to fatigue.
Fits of displaced anger.
A hair-trigger temper could be another sign that an assignee is experiencing culture shock. They may explode in anger at small things, like minor mishaps at work or an innocent comment that rubs them the wrong way. If an employee is constantly leaving your meetings in a fit of rage, it seems like culture shock has set in. Remind your employee that their new employees or neighbors can sense a hostile attitude, which may be hurting their adjustment process. Encourage them to try and learn more about the culture and why this new place does things differently by connecting with locals who would be happy to teach them. In the process, they are likely to make a few native friends and practice their language skills as well.
Excessive hand washing.
It might be surprising to learn, but excessive hand-washing and an obsession with cleanliness speaks to an assignee’s need to feel in control. The constant need to wash their hands and scrub for minutes is a sure sign your assignee feels unstable in their surroundings. Similar to the previous symptom, challenge your employee to spend time with neighbors and locals to learn more about the culture. Suggest they spend time in a local coffee shop or library to meet some locals who may help them better understand the culture and get their feet firmly planted on the ground.
Want more signs of culture shock? Download our checklist ‘10 Signs Your Employees Are Experiencing Culture Shock’ and get up to speed on what symptoms to look for in those assignees abroad.