I have worked with dozens of expats and accompanying partners over the years, and I don't know a single one who has seamlessly adapted to the new culture's leadership, team work, and communication style. The hiccups may be minor, but there will be hiccups.
To improve your professional wellbeing no matter where you are, start thinking about the tips below. If you're accompanying your partner on assignment, and you don't have a work permit in your new country, you might think about how these apply to your past jobs, or if you can use these for volunteering.
1. Ideally, you love the job you were hired for. Loving your job will help with motivation, getting up on Monday mornings, and persevering through tough times. If you don't love your job, list at least 5 things you like about it, e.g. the commute is short, your office space is comfortable, your colleagues are friendly, the benefits and salary support your family, etc.
We sometimes tend to see only the bad things. Focusing on what you like will help you feel gratitude and satisfaction; integral elements to wellbeing.
If you can't find anything you like about your job, knowing your strengths might help you find a new one.
2. Know your strengths and what you're good at Many of us don't have time to stop and think which parts of the job we love and which ones we don't enjoy. Generally, when we perform tasks that play to our inherent strengths, those tasks are easy for us. They come naturally, we do them well without having to concentrate too hard, and that often makes them enjoyable. If you're someone who loves a challenge, you will find enjoyment in problem-solving or having to work to achieve a level of competence. In that case, you may be good at various things, but after a while stop enjoying them, because maintaining the level of competence you want to show becomes more and more difficult to maintain since you have to keep working at it.
Continually working outside of our comfort zones increases stress. Learn more about yourself and take time to reflect what triggers stress for you. Personality Type instruments like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® help you figure out what your inherent strengths are. Armed with that awareness, you will be able to devise strategies on how to bring them into your work more effectively, which will help improve wellbeing.
3. Maintain positive and supportive relationships with your colleagues Very few jobs today operate in complete isolation. You don't have to be in sales to come in contact with other team members, customers, or vendors. To understand the cultural differences of your new colleagues and professional network, you must first become aware of your own cultural preferences. Only after understanding your own programming and framework will you be able to compare what is different to you, and contrast what is different among them. Think of your culture as wearing glasses you were never aware of. Moving to a new country will force you to take those glasses off and see people and things differently.
As with the second point, you have to know yourself before you can start understanding others. Learn about your culture and the one you are now living in. Ask yourself, your friends and family how they would describe your home, and then ask your new colleagues about how they do things. Asking why-questions may be seen as accusatory or condescending, so it is most helpful to come from a place of genuine curiosity and willingness to learn.
Being cut off from your usual cultural cues will be disconcerting and cause anxiety. All of a sudden you're the odd one out. If you start questioning your identity, your wellbeing will suffer.
You don't have to change who you are. But when the way you've always done things back home does not yield the same results, you have to adapt and add new behaviors to the mix. Well - only if you want to be effective, that is. Over time, seeing progress in how successfully you're fitting in will improve your well-being.
Image by tdlucas5000, Flickr, Creative Commons License.