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Those who think that work is pretty much the same everywhere you go, are sorely mistaken. Across the border or across the pond things at work can take a pretty different turn to what you might be used to. This can bring a surprising amount of challenges if you get to work as an expat. If you forget the differences, you can cause a proper culture clash!

Culture clash

A culture clash occurs when different cultural beliefs and values clash. An extreme example of this is when different countries go to eat against each other. This case sounds more dramatic than what happens in real life. In the world of expats there are no bombs and guns. However, a culture clash may occur sooner than you think. To pray or not to pray before dinner, shoes on or off in the house, kiss on the cheek or a formal handshake… If a conduct for a specific culture is of great value, and you ignore it, whether or not this happens on purpose, this can come across as you being disrespectful. And respect can differ per culture.

Unconscious glasses

You look at the world through your own culture glasses. This happens largely without you being aware of it. This attitude is so normal, that you might not even notice you have it. It is as if you are wearing a pair of glasses, and you peer out at the world through their lenses. For example, you may find it the most normal thing in the world to call your boss by their first name, to go to the pub on a Friday afternoon after work for a cheeky beverage with your colleagues, or to be very direct if you don’t like whatever is happening. Work ethic, contact with colleagues, overtime, the balance between work and life… Without knowing it, your culture has given you a certain way of looking at the world. This is completely normal for you, that you almost can’t imagine that this might not be the case in a different culture.

Culture glasses

Your culture glasses can be very strange for a different culture. You might cause offence if you strongly stick to your own cultural values whilst being in a different country. You can compare it to someone who wears their shades during a torrential downpour. Fortunately, you can take off your glasses, if you make conscious decisions. You can improve your knowledge of the culture that you find yourself in, perhaps take a peek through new culture glasses. Be aware of the glasses you wear and prevent a culture clash. I know that those new glasses need getting used to, but don’t worry, you can take them off! At the end of the ride as an expat, you will have gathered a nice collection of culture glasses. This allows you to connect with different cultures. A pair of glasses for every occasion (rain or shine). So: Will you be working abroad? Be aware of the glasses you wear, take them off every now and again, and don’t be afraid to look at the world through a different pair of glasses.

Looking for the Dutch version of this blog? Click here!