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« Language learning is aided by technology and knowing what works for you | Main | Saved Webinar: Wellbeing for Expats »

You've arrived -And suddenly you're important!

Photo by Danny Kekspro on UnsplashSome cultural differences are difficult to adapt to.  Sometimes we are acutely aware of them and sometimes they niggle at the edge of our awareness.

Our last discussion was about differences in who gets status and is respected, and how that difference plays out in workplaces and society. We spoke about ‘power distance’

‘the way in which power is distributed in a group and the extent to which less powerful members of the group accept and expect that power to be distributed unequally.   Showing deference and respect is important in High Power Distance (HPD) or hierarchical cultures but not so critical in a Low Power Distance (LPD) or egalitarian culture.’

In that post I wrote about the impact on people moving from a society that is high power distance (HPD) to one that is lower (LPD) and the attitude and behavioural flexing they may need to be effective in a workplace.

This time I want to look at those moving from a LPD society such as from Australia to a more HPD society. 

This may not initially appear as too much of an issue.

Behaviours may seem more formal.  There might be more use of titles.  Your suggestions people call you by your personal name rather than your family name may be ignored. 

These aspects may leave you feeling less close to people but you accept them knowing it’s the way things happen here. 

What can be more difficult to accept is the silence in the team meeting when you’ve asked for suggestions on how to improve things.  People not coming to you with problems or issues despite your assurances of ‘my door is always open’. 

The hierarchy becomes a barrier to the type of collaborative relationships you have easily built in the past and instead of a team environment it feels much more like a “boss” and “workers” situation.

The risk here is almost unconsciously stepping into that role of “boss” and relating to your team from a perspective of power -becoming the expat who shouts and demands, who doesn’t see the locals as capable of growth or development. This is where developing and using CQ Strategy becomes critical.  Being aware of the differences and planning how to work effectively within them.  Reflecting with a coach on how to develop and use your cultural intelligence in these situations can be extremely helpful .

Another risk in HPD societies may be acting in ways that are not appropriate to the level you should be operating in.  Your dress, your manners or apparent ignorance of the cultural etiquette may be marking you as not deserving of the position you hold and you may lose respect from your colleagues, from local officials.

Once lost that respect can be hard to regain despite your important expat position.




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