Do I Have the Skills To Adapt to Another Culture?

Have you ever wondered, “Can I adapt to another culture?” 

Well, I shall turn that question around on you and ask: 

  • Have you made changes in your life? 
  • Have you ever adapted to anything new or different in your life? 
If you ever have:
  • Moved to various schools as a student….
  • Tried to make friends in a new peer group….
  • Got entrance into college….
  • Researched your new job before interviewing…..
  • Adhering to company policy at your new job…..
  • Adapted to changing policy at your current job….
  • Mentored someone….
  • Been mentored by someone….
  • Tried to impress your parents….
  • Tried to make new friends….
  • Tried to impress a girlfriend, boyfriend or to-be…..
You have learned something new about someone else and adapted to it to make a better impression.

Before going for a job, you practiced answering mock questions. You may have also researched the company through reading their site or asking any friends who work there for ‘insider tips’ so you could answer questions more convincingly. One can think of ‘inside tips’ as learning part of a mindset or culture of an organization.

Before you had your first date or met your to-be, you asked people about her or him. You wanted to know their hobbies, interests, and philosophy on life so you could impress them that you had something in common with them. Again, these insider tips are part of that person’s mindset, behavior and culture. You tapped into that to impress.

So if we can tap into organizations, colleges, and people in our own culture for insider tips – why is it so scary or different when doing this before going abroad to learn a little more about the people we will study, work or live with? If we already have the skills to research, adapt and make adjustments with people in our own culture to create and maintain a good impression, can’t we take these same skills and use them to create and maintain good impressions abroad?

What do you have to lose? What do you have to gain?

The first impression is that cross-cultural skills ONLY help us when we are abroad. This is a myth. We already have learned cross-cultural skills at home as interacting with anyone else is like interacting in another culture since we have to manage and navigate different approaches to life, mindset, mannerisms and traditions. Doesn’t this take the pressure off? Isn’t this good news?

So, next time you’re facing a challenge cross-culturally, rather than take the situation out of context because it is happening with those from another country or you’re in another country, tap into the skills you used in the past to help you adjust with others in your own backyard. This takes the pressure off and helps you to relax … because you already know how to navigate and negotiate change in your life. 


Whether you are working offshore from India on distributed teams with Americans, moving to the US to work onsite with your international team or traveling to the US on short-term business trips, check out our training programs to build your context and cross-cultural business acumen.

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