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The Journey of Acculturation

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Stages of acculturation...

Stage 1

We enter the new situation with some level of emotional excitement, often surprise, caution, or enthusiasm:

  • “What’s going on here?”
  • “I suppose we can get along with these newcomers.”
  • “Here I am, in the land of opportunity”
  • “I’ll show everyone how easy it is to work for a woman boss.”

Stage 2

When things turn out to be much more difficult or different than we expected, frustration, anger, or even depression sets in. We have an intercultural breakdown. It is easy to get stuck in Stage 2:

  • “I don’t think I’ll ever get across to these people.”
  • "These people are barbarians, worse than I could have ever imagined.”
  • “I can’t believe she would say a thing like that.”
  • Working with them is hopeless, I’ll never figure it out.”

Stage 3

Finally, we negotiate workable agreements in order to collaborate and produce new results:

  • “I’ll try it that way if you’ll explain it to me.”
  • “You can take that time off, if we can find another way to meet the deadline.”
  • “We agree to speak English on the job, but we prefer our own language when chatting with each other.”
  • “We both need to listen very carefully to each other and ask more questions.”

Acculturation is not a one-time journey. We and our organisations will march through it again and again, when new people arrive, when working environments change, when we start new tasks and share new ideas. Once we know the three stages and recognize the one, we are in, it becomes easier to make the journey more rapid. With acceptance and practice, cultural conflicts become easier to resolve and our differences become interesting and useful. We are on our way to valuing differences, empowerment, and the payoff of multicultural synergy.