Prepare for Success: Working Internationally

With the continued growth in volume of Asian students on campuses in the United States, and the globalization of the job market, we at Naisa decided to highlight the adjustment process many Asian students and young professionals face during their time at college or their new job in the West,as well as, the similar culture shock young Asian American professionals have to contend with when they begin jobs in Asia.

Leaving your family and friends for college or work is both an exciting and stressful time for anyone; add to that moving to a foreign country and having to navigate a, sometimes vastly different culture, and the pressures and strains can take their toll. That’s why understanding the adjustment period and preparing for the stresses in advance can help when one does make the move.

According to research, Asian students and young professionals begin their time in the U.S. with a positive attitude and energy, then become increasingly stressed and homesick due to challenges and negative experiences; and finally adjust to a more realistic outlook. This can be broken down into four stages of culture shock: Honeymoon, Crisis, Recovery, and Adjustment. Asians experience this Culture Shock to a greater degree than other students and professionals from other Western countries, also moving to America. Likewise, Asian Americans brought up in Western culture have a harder time adjusting to the East than those who are migrating from other Eastern countries.

It’s important to state that the degree to which one will experience this culture shock depends on the individual and their styles and attitudes. A person’s acculturation type will often be determined by their behaviors toward American culture and their native culture. Acculturation can often be designated into four types: Assimilation – accepting American culture, Integration – accepting both cultures, Separation – accepting native culture and rejecting American, and Marginalization – rejecting both cultures.

Stresses to Prepare For

Pre-Arrival Stress

Whether it’s securing a job or receiving an offer of an university placement, the stress put on Asian students and young professionals shouldn’t be underestimated. The physical distance, time difference, high financial costs, and difficulty in communication all play their part; as well as the stress involved in the U.S. visa process—with its interviews and lengthy process times, and costs. Add to that the physical rigors of international travel and the stress of U.S. customs, the pre-arrival procedures can quickly accumulate.

Post-Arrival Stress

Language Barriers

With English often being an Asian student or young professional’s second language, the anxiety related to this can affect communication in general and work performance specifically. At Naisa, we have English language programs designed to help young Asian professionals based both in U.S. and Asia, to overcome the stresses of potential miscommunication.

Different Management Structures

While the classroom and educational hierarchy can be very different between the Asian education system and the US, a similar culture shock may occur in the workplace with differing styles and structures of management. For example in Asian countries the manager is the authority figure who is not to be challenged, while in the U.S., normally, work environments are more discussion-based and collaborative.

Sociocultural Stressors

Developing a new social network can be challenging for both student and young professional alike. Loneliness and isolation are not uncommon at the beginning when moving to a new country. But with the support of co-workers, new friends, and potentially a large Asian community already established in the area, many young professionals find the support they need. At Naisa, we have our own network of young Asian professionals sharing their thoughts and ideas on Asian leadership roles, and a variety of workplace-related Asian interests. We have global members from across the US and the West, in Asia and most places in between.

Being aware of and prepared for the stresses and adjustments when moving to another country will help you overcome culture shock more quickly, so you can concentrate on doing the best job possible and enjoying your new surroundings.

naisA Global is a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization dedicated to helping talented young Asian professionals unlock their potential and become great leaders.