At first glance, a culture shock and the current corona crisis have nothing in common, at second glance surprisingly much. – Granted, when I decide to study or work abroad, I usually have the opportunity to prepare for the new situation. That was not possible in this form in the case of Corona.
New situations create uncertainty
Nevertheless, the situation, which is completely new for everyone, can be compared to entering a new culture. Many things are different from what we were used to before. Which rules apply now? What may I do, what not? A feeling of uncertainty creeps up on people. Many people sense this feeling of disorientation also in the current crisis.
First of all, there is the little researched virus itself that endangers health and, as an invisible and unpredictable enemy, seems to lurk everywhere. When I feel ill, where can I turn to, when can I go to the doctor, how does the quarantine work? How can I prevent my family, my parents or myself from becoming ill?
Changed conditions at the workplace
At the same time, the working environment has changed completely: many people either work from home or familiar processes have changed. There are safety regulations to be observed, new teams are being formed, working hours have changed and processes been reorganised.
Working from home in particular is a completely new experience for most people, which initially raises very practical questions: How and where do I set up my workplace at home? How do I arrange childcare during the day? How do video meetings with colleagues, supervisors and business partners work? How does all this work with technology?
Many of these questions and uncertainties arise in a very similar way when people take up work abroad. They are not familiar with their host country. Nothing is routine, neither in private life nor at work. So they learn step by step what rules life in their host country follows. Just as we are all currently learning how to readjust our lives in the corona crisis.
Emotional state of emergency through social isolation
The sudden contact ban makes it possible for us to experience emotionally what a culture shock can feel like for people. It is precisely this feeling of social isolation that many foreign workers experience in the host country. They can only maintain contact with their families and friends at home virtually. What they lack is the physical closeness that would provide comfort, especially in difficult times. At the same time, they have made hardly any social contacts in their new home country and live in great isolation.
If, on top of all these worries, there are worries about their own health or that of relatives and friends – as is currently the case in the corona crisis – some people withdraw even further or become depressed. This emotional state of emergency is the real culture shock.
Building social bridges
If you are one of those people who retain their optimism even in a crisis, you could share your positive energy with those who are suffering from isolation – with a phone call, a message or another creative idea. In the same way, we can also approach foreign colleagues and neighbours in ‘normal’ times and establish personal contact. Now that you know what social isolation feels like.
If you are looking for more individual support in your personal or professional situation, I would be happy to support you with online coaching via video call. Feel free to contact me by email or phone.
Systemic Coach & Trainer