Being a US Expat in Asia! Not too Difficult!

The Characteristics that lead an Expat to success

Working in Asia, i.e., in China, in India, is not an easy duty for US expats, however possessing the following cross-cultural skills can make it easy to adapt to the Asian cultures for the US expats.

Strong Communication Skills

The main obstacle for a US expat who wants to work in Asia is language.[1] Lack of communication skills is described as a barrier for the cross-cultural leaders.[2] The language barrier could make a successful manager one of the unpopular managers within an organization. However, being fluent in the local language, i.e., Chinese, is not sufficient. The advantage comes from utilizing the local language effectively and being aware of the nuances of that language. An expat could improve his/her communication skills with strong listening and understanding abilities. Patient individuals pay attention to what his or her co-workers are saying and try to focus on to understand them. Thus, these individuals, the US expats, can achieve a real communication with their co-workers and avoid evaluative tendency.[3]

Cultural Intelligence

The ability to communicate and work effectively in a cross-cultural world could be translated as cultural intelligence. One of the key factors of success for an expat is to be aware of the cultural differences between her own country and the local country. Individuals with a high cultural intelligence have a natural ability to interpret his or her co-workers unfamiliar and ambiguous gestures in a way that person’s colleagues would.[4] Thus, these individuals, expats, can earn their local co-workers trust, which spurs them to step toward to success.

Strong Competency

Competency can be defined as the physical or mental power to do something[5] or the ability to do something well[6]. Strong competency demonstrates our ability to perform well enough our duty, whereas lack of competency results in with failure.[7] Meanwhile, an expat should support his/her strong competency in that particular field with strong communication skills. For example, a multination team’s manager should be aware of that all participants of a team or an organization cannot be as skillful as herself. Moreover, cross-cultural managers should consider that in some cultures, i.e., Asian, or Middle Eastern, even if some workers have desired competencies, they don’t demonstrate their outstanding abilities in public as respect to other team members that don’t have such skills.

Ability to Change

In general, an expat should have a tendency to change and might take the change as an opportunity to improve herself. Cross-cultural workers have a chance to work with foreigners that offers opportunities to them to develop their abilities and improve their knowledge about how the foreigners handle certain issues rather than individuals from their home countries. For example, a US expat’s way of handling a particular problem could be different from her Asian co-workers, but their method could be more effective than the one she employs. In such situations, an expat, who open to change, easily adopt this new method, which can help her to improve his/her knowledge and win his/her co-worker’s respect as well. [8]

[1] Cornelia Geissler, Lothar Kuhn, Daniel McGinn, Developing Your Global Know-How, HBR

[2] Jeanne Brett, Kristin Behfar, Mary C. Kern, Managing Multicultural Teams, HBR

[3] Carl R. Rogers, F.J. Roethlisberger, Barriers and Gateways to Communication, HBR

[4] P. Christopher Earley, Elaine Mosakowski, Cultural Intelligence, HBR

[5] Merriam Webster online dictionary

[6] Cambridge online dictionary

[7] Cornelia Geissler, Lothar Kuhn, Daniel McGinn, Developing Your Global Know-How, HBR

[8] Linda Brimm, What the Best-Cross Cultural Managers Have in Common, HBR