Living in a new country is an exciting experience since it encourages explorations in culture, terrain, foods, and lifestyle. However, the differences in culture and customs of different nations bring about frustrations if an individual is not well prepared to adopt and assimilate the new way of life (Ann 2016).
Kelly had high expectations on her new job in Japan which also served as her bridge to promotion if it was successful. Having moved with her entire family, she thought her children would enjoy being in a new environment; her husband would get a new job, and that together they would happily live in Japan.
Kelly did not know how to interact with Japanese employees, her children felt left out in school since most of the kids spoke in Japanese, her husband did not get a job as expected, and the room they were given was too small for its cost and her family. Everything did not turn out well for the family, and they were experiencing the frustration stage of the culture shock stages.
In America, people communicated in English while in Japan most of the people and schools used Japanese which was not familiar to Kelly and her children making it hard to interact and experience the new environment. Thus, the language barrier was one of the main cultural clashes that Kelly’s family experienced in Japan. Women are rarely given leadership positions in Japan such that the employees and client Kelly negotiated with thought she was a man.
While communicating to the employees, only Peter, who was familiar with her culture, openly communicated with her but the rest of the employees were conservative, and they avoided eye contact. Moreover, Michio did not communicate directly with Kelly but with Peter, which made her feel confused making the negotiation process uncomfortable. Japanese employers normally work in teams and have a collective relationship compared to Americans who tend give individual comments without consultations and Kelly had to wait for more than a week to get feedback on their suggestions since she had assumed that they would make individual presentations.
Thus, language differences, the perception of women in leadership, group versus individual working relationships, and expression of interest as seen when the client rejected Kelly’s proposal yet he had said it was good are some of the clashes attributable to culture and customs that Kelly’s family experienced in Japan.
Kelly children thought they would immediately make new friends and start exploring the new country. Kelly thought her proposals would be accepted by potential clients by operating as she used to while in American and other countries, and her husband thought he would get a new job without straining.
However, the children didn’t like the new school since most kids communicated in Japanese, Kelly did not understand her Japanese employees and client, and her husband did not get a job. The expectations of the family were frustrated due to differences in culture and customs of the new country.
Kelly’s family is experiencing frustration stage of culture shock phases. It’s at this stage that people get overwhelmed with language, gestures, and signs that are not familiar (Vif 2015). For instance, foods are served differently, roads are unfamiliar, and classes taught differently for the school going children. Kelly did not understand the gestures of the employees and the client and the house they lived was too small compared to the one they lived in America making life unbearable for the family. The whole family was homesick and desired to go back to America where life was familiar and comfortable.
When Kelly was offered the position in Tokyo, she should have first discussed the situation with the whole family and researched on the culture and customs of Japanese people to avoid extreme frustrations. Also, Kelly should have consulted about the workplace culture of Japanese people so that she would have been able to comfortably interact with her employees and the client for successful results. Prior knowledge of the expected changes in the new country would have helped the family to prepare and adjust without pressure.
Since going back to America would derail the promotion and result in unnecessary expenses and changes such as the school for the kids, if I were Kelly, I would accept the current situation, accept that I did not make proper preparation, and seek for a solution from foreigners who are living comfortably in Japan. As a family, we would identify the things that make us uncomfortable and deal with them without pressure and try to adapt to the new life.
Moreover, we would take Japanese language classes to learn the common vocabularies used by the people, and I would research and consult about the way Japanese carry out their business operations to better understand the employees and prospective clients.
Culture shock is common for people living in a foreign land, and it is important to research about the customs and culture of the foreigners to avoid frustrations. Kelly and her family had high expectations on arriving in Japan, but differences in language, culture, foods, and personal interactions made their stay unbearable. Accepting the new life and learning the customs of the people through research and interactions with other foreigners is essential in ensuring that the lives comfortably in the new country.
Ann, W. (2016). Culture Shock. Retrieved from http://www.harzing.com/resources/living-and-working-abroad/culture-shock
Vif I, (2015). The Four Stages of Culture Shock. Retrieved from https://medium.com/global-perspectives/the-4-stages-of-culture-shock-a79957726164#.2qdq4hvza
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