How do you choose the country that suits you best?
As they move around in the world of expats, Peter Koijen and Ligia Koijen Ramos from In2motivation, an Amsterdam-based personal and professional development company, have found that some countries are "easier" for expats to live in. So, how do you choose the country that suits you best? How do you avoid culture shock?
This is the time of year when newcomers start their journey in the Netherlands. At the same time, there are also a lot of people saying their goodbyes and embarking on new journeys, out of the Netherlands. So, new starts, but also a lot of endings.
Some people deal with this better than others, though for the majority of expats, there is an acceptance that change is part of the process. In our experience working with internationals, one thing that is very obvious is that some countries are “easier” for expats to live in than others.
How to choose a new country is a challenge for many expat families. A country's security (or lack thereof) is one of the most important aspects that expat families take into consideration. Another, even more important aspect is: what is the national culture? How does this nation live? This, because you can have great schools and great healthcare but if the national culture is very different from what you believe in and stand for, it can be a real obstacle and a very intense experience.
Different dimensions and layers
A nation's culture has different dimensions and also different layers:
Layers: Signals, heroes, rituals and values
These cultural layers will be expressed in different ways and you can find a lot of differences between cultures. We always find it amazing to hear the participants in our training courses talk about their childhood stories, as these say a lot about the values and the rituals of a nation. It is also interesting to find out that some stories that are so intrinsic to our culture just don’t exist in other countries.
Discovering this for each country will make you aware of possible differences but also much give you much more knowledge about what your children could encounter on a daily basis if they go to a local school.
These represent independent preferences for one state of affairs over another, which distinguish societies (rather than individuals) from each other.
For example, take the dimension of individualism versus collectivism. The Netherlands scores higher on individualism, while Portugal has a higher score for collectivism. This means that you are more likely to meet a Dutch person who has travelled alone more than once than a Portuguese person, as the Portuguese tend to travel in groups.
There are six dimensions in total, ranging from power distance to uncertainty avoidance. Having an awareness of these dimensions and the score per country will allow you to recognise the daily challenges in a specific culture. Every country can bring different challenges.
If you challenge yourself to move to a country that scores very differently from your home country in every dimension, you need to be prepared for the “culture shock”.
More flexible and adaptable
The beauty of this is that if you experience all the differences, you will become more flexible and adaptable to challenges and cultural differences, and instead of avoiding them, you will be more and more curious about those differences.
If you are curious and want to know how to integrate all this into your family or organisation, join In2motivation's new course: Cross Cultural Communication Training.