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Morphing Into a Foreign Culture

Cindy King

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There are many differences in cross-culture behaviors between different cultures. When people live abroad for a long time some of them become multicultural. They can take on different aspects from different cultures.

Of course, some people never change.

It is amazing the number of English speaking people who I meet in France, with children at school and working for French companies, who do not take the time to integrate the culture and learn the language.

An English lady I know still insists on using an English pronunciation for French cities after living here longer than her home country.

Adapting Your Behavior

Integrating into a foreign culture takes time. It is often also a process of adapting some of your natural behaviors to fit in better with the other culture.

As a North American, here are three things I have learned NOT to do here in France:

  • Smile too much
  • Take the initiative to open friendship too fast
  • Direct conversations

I often adapt my behavior and communication style to fit in better. It leads to better communication.

  • French people respond differently to smiling. When I forget to stop my smiling, the reactions from French people have been more negative. I can create more meaningful communication if I curtail the smiling here.
  • French people also tend to have a very coded process for who can become a friend or not. Friends are a more serious connection here than in North America. You can easily miss the connection if you go at a different speed.
  • Direct conversations are always interesting in different cultures. This is one of the main cultural behavior scales. North Americans are used to a very direct style of conversation. In many cultures this can be perceived as rudeness. Another communication killer.

What happens when you live abroad more years than you have lived at home.

Getting Used To Changes At Home

As a North American who has lived abroad for almost 30 years, the one thing that baffles me the most in communicating with North Americans today, is the politically correctness movement and its consequences. I did not live in North American through those changes.

My own culture has stayed still in time and also morphed a little. I find myself sometimes adapting to the new North American culture now.

On a personal note, I grew up in the Bahamas.

Just about everyone from my local local high school left the island we grew up on.

We all moved to different cultures.

It's been a long time now. Our island has changed into something different than what we knew. And it is interesting to look at how we all think of as “home".

People with multicultural backgrounds often find themselves wondering where “home" is after a while.

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Cindy King is a Cross-Cultural eMarketer & International Sales Specialist, aligning businesses with different cultures. She has over 25 years field experience in international business development.


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