Culture shock and the Cinderella Syndrome
Oprettet den: Monday, 16. January 2017 - 10:29 / IDA
Whether you are moving to Copenhagen, Malmö, Paris or New York, you and your accompanying family will experience culture shock.
The first 3–6 months after arriving in Denmark, you find yourself in the encouragement phase where everything seems to be going according to plan. You are busy acquainting yourselves with all the new ways and things around you; you are well received wherever you go – and perhaps even praised because you have managed to learn a few snippets of the new language – and everyone is looking forward to working with you and all that you can bring to the workplace.
Then comes the culture shock phase, when your spirits and your energy fall. You are no longer new; the others are perhaps questioning your lack of linguistic progress; no one has yet seen the improvements they expected of the new employee (or they are dissatisfied with all the changes that he/she has initiated), and your spouse is perhaps missing his/her job or family and friends back home. The worst situation is if you and your spouse/partner are on different adjustment curves, so one of you is still in the encouragement phase while the other is in the shock phase, in a downwards spiral. So you are not on the same wavelength when discussing the country of work – one of you is still optimistic, while the other is more sceptical about the stay.
After 6–12 months, you hit rock bottom, before resigning yourself to the situation and discovering a number of advantages to being in the country. You probably now have a good grasp of the job and have perhaps also built up a local network, which can make up in some way for your family and the friends, who you still chat with online and talk to via Skype, but who you still miss having personal contact with. After the initial teething troubles, the kids are probably doing well at school, etc. You are now in the adjustment phase, which, at some point, flattens out and passes into the stable phase.
After your stay: The Cinderella Syndrome
When it is time to return home, you will be hit by culture shock again. It is perhaps not as great as the shock you experienced in the new country, but both you and your home country have changed in the meantime, so you will undergo an adjustment process similar to when you moved overseas. If you have been stationed abroad, you will probably also be hit to some extent by "The Cinderella Syndrome" ("the ball is over and now you must return to your unheated room in the attic").
You will find that you are no longer the only specialist at work – and no longer something special. The company has probably had a change of management, policies and product range since you moved to Denmark, and you are not necessarily fully au fait with these things. As a result, you and your family will probably have to go through the culture curve yet again.
Many companies – especially those that post a lot of employees abroad – are aware of the problems that can arise following a posting.
They are keen both to help their returning employees and to protect the investment of hundreds of thousands of Danish kroner that a posting usually entails (and which, of course, would be lost if the person concerned leaves the company shortly after his or her return). So they will initiate a return programme in good time – e.g. six months before the scheduled return – aimed at making the homecoming of the employee and his or her family as painless as possible.
However, some companies make no such preparations, and leave it up to the employee to deal with these problems alone. So it is a good idea to ask early on in the planning process prior to a posting in Denmark, how your return will be handled.