Most people believe that international assignments are easy and “first-time” expatriates always start off with an excited and optimistic attitude. On the receiving end in the host foreign company, the managers and other employees have high expectations for the newcomers who bring new skills and insights. Although most of these employees have never been on an international assignment, they usually expect an expatriate to immediately perform as valuable experts. They anticipate that these new arrivals will adjust, make decisions rapidly and maneuver across cultures with ease. Most simply expect the expat to get to work immediately and to perform better than others.
Mangers and executives quickly confront adjustment difficulties when they are relocated to a foreign country. There are a number of reasons for this experience. The vast majority of expatriates do not fluently speak the language of their new host country. They may only have a superficial knowledge of the culture and the people with whom they now live and work. Many have never lived far from their families and friends before they accepted the international assignment. Often, they don’t know specifically what to expect from their new position and daily living experiences. Although they begin to work in a structured environment with tasks that may be similar to what they were doing before, expatriates are surrounded by new co-workers, management styles, business practices and cultural habits that are unfamiliar. Assignees may not know the history of the company or its existing partners, suppliers and customers.