Written by Stefan Remhof
Stefan Remhof studied International Business.
In his phD-Thesis, he explored individual factors that influence the intention to work abroad.
As globalization is increasing, young talents and future global leaders are enabled to work abroad in the ‘global village’. Their careers become international, and their global mobility can be regarded as an opportunity for career advancement and personal development. Working abroad, however, involves the movement across different kinds of barriers – physical and psychological ones. International mobility decisions are often based on incomplete and second-hand information. When moving abroad, the expatriates may decide to live and to work in a country with greatly differing cultural norms and values. Working abroad therefore requires changing the own behavior: from the accustomed behavior of the own native culture to new cultural repertoires. But how can I prepare for the ‘global village’? How can I adapt effectively to a new cultural environment?
One’s capability to adapt to new cultural contexts is described by the cultural intelligence (CQ). CQ helps individuals to interpret unknown or unfamiliar behaviors or cultural situations as if one was a member of the culture. It reflects one’s interest, drive, and energy in experiencing unknown cultures and ability to adapt cross-culturally.
Culture is a composition of multiple factors, and language is one of the most important elements. Language skills reveal an individual’s ability to speak easily and accurately in a specific languages as required in cross-cultural interactions. To be culturally competent, communication in the language of the respective cultural group is necessary. Learning a foreign language enables expatriates to experience an important part of a foreign culture. Language skills are an essential fundament for social integration of an expatriate in the potential destination. Language skills are also necessary for interpersonal communication and relationships, thus helping to understand the dynamics of a new culture.
Furthermore, social contacts and networks abroad can create a ‘global mindset’, which can be described as a combination of openness to diversity across cultures. Individuals with a ‘global mindset’ are open-minded and curious about knowing other cultures. Social interactions with others from different cultural background enhances one’s cultural knowledge. Cross-cultural and international encounters help to reduce stereotypes and influence positive attitudes toward the new culture and in regard to working and living in a foreign country. Networks abroad in the form of family members and/or friends provide a potential expatriate with necessary information about the potential destination, thus reducing uncertainty associated with the expatriation. Certain skills and behaviors, which are necessary for living and working in a foreign country, may be learned by observing other individuals who are or have been in the same situation.
Finally, international work and non-work experience can be regarded as a good preparation for working in the ‘global village’. Former international experience has a long-term impact on attitudes about foreign colleagues and fellows as well as on subsequent behaviors toward the personal surrounding. So, those, you have studied abroad, are expected to discover other cultures from a learning perspective. International experience may enhance cross-cultural competencies because the individual has gained cultural awareness and knowledge.
The best way to prepare for the ‘global village’ is by learning foreign languages and by keeping in touch with your friends abroad. If you enjoy interacting with others from different cultural backgrounds and if you are confident in interacting with these persons you will have a good preparation for working abroad. Finally, take your chances to study abroad to gain precious international experience to be boosted for your international career.
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