Expatriating and the Workplace - Social Differences Can Cause Isolation

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As an Expatriate, when you move to a new country to start a job, you may not always be prepared for cultural differences to expect on the job.  The area that this can be of most impact is in your social life.

Often times, we end up in a new country, and the office is a natural, and very easy, place to look for new friends, advice, and comradery.  However, the social culture at work could be vastly different than what you're accustomed to at home. The result, often times, is that a few weeks into your new job, you may notice that you feel isolated from your co-workers - on the outside - and not understand why this has happened, or how to change it.

One of the biggest areas that you may notice this social void can happen during lunch.  Specifically, you'll notice quickly whether or not you have anyone to eat lunch with on a regular basis, or whether you're on your own. And, the cultural view of lunchtime plays a big role. 

In Europe, it's quite normal for people go out for lunch for up to two hours.  Sometimes, if an employee works near home, they will go home for lunch.  In other words, meals are an important time to be social.  If you're on the outside, and have no one to dine with, this may feel very isolating.  In America, we tend to go out for 5 minutes, grab something to go, and eat at our desk.  Lunchtime is more about filling up with energy to make it through the rest of the day, than it is about being social.  If you're accustomed to lunchtime being social time, this cultural habit can, again, leave you feeling dazed, and on your own.

When you transition to a new country, it's important to both take in the traditions, and be patient in making new friends. If you're in a place where people eat at their desk a lot, you might try suggesting lunch out one day with someone on your team that you find friendly.  If you come from a place where you always ate at your desk, and everyone else eats out, then you should accept these invitations as a way to get closer with your new colleagues.

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Heather Markel has 1 articles online

If you're looking for more ideas on how to transition to a new place, make new friends, and find new activities, check out http://www.howtofeelathomeawayfromhome.com/relocationsuccessstrategies
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Expatriating and the Workplace - Social Differences Can Cause Isolation

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This article was published on 2010/04/02