It typically begins with so much excitement and high expectations. You got your visa and your wish of relocating in search of greener pastures is finally happening! The first couple of weeks in your new environment is spent wallowing in the euphoria of a dream come true until the reality hits you – everything is different!
It starts to become apparent that you may require some necessary adjustments in order to fit in. Your excitement and high hopes start to get eroded by anxiety and frustration. You begin to hibernate and isolate yourself because you simply can not relate to your new enviroment. Does this sound familiar?
According to the New World Encyclopedia, the word “acculturation” was first used by John Wesley Powell in 1880 and later defined in 1883. Powell defined “acculturation” as the psychological changes induced by cross- cultural imitation. Simply put, it is the process of learning to live successfully in another culture.
If you haven’t already underlined the words “psychological changes induced by imitation” it means acculturation wasn’t as painful for you. “Imitation” is exactly what it is because you are constantly trying to act, speak or sound like someone else (the host culture), until it becomes part of you.
How can you make this struggle less stressful?
The Adoption Process and Your Progress
Different scholastic anthropological writings have summarized various strategies of adoption. My focus is on these four because I evolved through these different phases somehow.
In a lay man’s language they can be described as follows;
1. Assimilation: minimal or no contact with one’s culture of origin, and an acceptance of the host culture.
2. Integration: high involvement with one’s culture of origin and the host culture.
3. Separation: an acceptance of one’s culture of origin and a minimal involvement with the host culture.
4. Marginalization: a rejection of both the culture of origin and the host culture.
Thought provoking isn’t it? In case you were wondering how you are doing, if you relocated at an older age like me (Twenty or over), chances are you were already well grounded or at least grounded to a certain extent in your culture of origin before relocating. Therefore, you tend to retain your culture of origin while you learn the new one. Younger folks, however, fall in the #1 category for the most part. Partly because they are not so grounded in their culture of origin prior to relocating, and coupled with their hunger for acceptance.
From experience, it is also possible for individuals to evolve through the different stages while still in denial that they don’t fit in. At first, such individuals hold on to their culture of origin and reject the host culture. They marginalize at some point (reject both cultures due to their frustration), and eventually integrate if they come in contact with the right people to guide them in the right direction.
The point is, whether you choose to hold on to your culture of origin, the host culture or neither, is a function of how easy or stressful it will be for you to get comfortable and how open you would be to opportunities. PS: separation or marginalization are out of the question unless you are not ready to stay in your host country.
How To Better Handle The Struggles
Let us fast forward a few paragraphs and apply the information you have just learned to your career life.
The million dollar question is what is the solution to a less stressful adoption that unlocks opportunities?
Discussed below are some tips I have learned along the way while struggling.
- Get rid preconceptions; such beliefs, ideas or opinions have the power to influence how you feel about yourself or what others think of you and therefore limit you. You have to STOP reading meanings into every comment, question or look because of negative preconceptions.
- Change your mind set: perspective is everything. Get into the habit of looking at the bright side of every situation. I once had a recruiter tell me he couldn’t pronounce my name because it was different. I responded by saying “different is good, I don’t like to blend in”. Later, he told me my resume actually stood out just like my name. I did get the job and the rest is history.
- Integrate: I strongly recommend adopting the integration strategy if you relocated at a fairly older age, unless you don’t want to associate with your culture of origin for some reasons. My advice is hold on to your culture of origin as long as it makes sense, while you learn the host culture. It will be a lifelong battle that may never be won if you attempt to separate or assimilate. According to a journal of social psychology volume 142, 2002, issue 4 on acculturation, stress and depressive symptoms among Korean immigrants in the US on a study of 157 Koreans in the United States, “immigrants reporting abandonment of Korean identity, traditions, and values scored higher for depression”. Does that surprise you? Well, I’m not.
- Accept who you are: last time I checked, being different is not criminal. Accept the fact that you are different in certain areas but don’t be rigid about making adjustments. One major issue faced by most newcomers is the language barrier – English language in North America. Either there is a complete lack of it or it is not up to par (especially if English is not your first language). This is this first barrier that has to be broken to make things happen for you. You need to be able to communicate what you want in life. Learn the language, the right pronunciations and the accent if possible. I once volunteered at an employment service for newcomers and a man who relocated from China at 40 gave his experience on how he watched the news 24hours a day to learn how to speak English and also to learn the Canadian accent. If he could do it you can too. Determination is all it takes.
- Find a career coach: find a career coach to guide you and help you transition, especially one that can relate to your situation. Sometimes a little push and re-assurance is all we need to keep believing in ourselves, and that is what coaches do.
- Network: Come out of your shell, make friends and connect with people at every given opportunity. At birthdays parties, barbecue, weddings, job fair etc. Volunteering is also a very good way to put yourself out there. The more people you tell about what you want the higher your chances of getting assistance and direction.
If you are newcomer wherever you are around the globe, welcome to the land of opportunities. Remember the grass is greener where you nurture it and not necessarily on the other side. Now that you are here, go forth and be what you want to be!
If you are not new, hope you are able to share this with someone who knows someone who is new!
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