How to Help Foreigners Adapt to US Workplace Culture

Creating a supportive environment is essential.

Creating a supportive environment is essential.

Adapting to life within a different department of your workplace can be difficult, let alone when a foreign country is your landing spot. Besides getting the hang of standard workplace procedures, foreign workers must master accents and colloquialisms, which can seem intimidating. Don’t let your colleagues flounder at the workplace. Help them learn about the U.S. in a supportive atmosphere.

Address workplace expectations before the first day of work to prevent confusion. Schedule a hassle-free time to go through the employee handbook with foreign employees. Pay special attention to etiquette, dress code and time management policies.

Ease into the transition. Gradually increase exposure to new concepts as milestones are achieved. Bombarding your colleagues with Americanisms isn’t helpful and can even induce culture shock. Don’t become the pushy American who can’t relate to others.

Break out of the cubicle for real world interactions. Visit a variety of American eateries for lunch. Attend seasonal festivals and fairs. Spend time at malls, museums and sports events. Taking learning outside the workplace builds camaraderie. It also allows for practical application of concepts such as greeting strangers and tipping etiquette.

Praise efforts to adapt to U.S. culture. Show that you recognize the dedication it takes to learn unfamiliar customs. Compliment actions such as volunteering for work events. Displaying good manners can encourage your colleagues to keep trying.

Bend a little. Insisting that grammar is perfect or hammering home every popular expression gets old -- fast. Besides, America is a melting pot and its people are not robots. Make corrections without being condescending or nitpicky. Always remember that you’re not the ultimate authority on Americana.

Make it a family affair. Workplaces that embrace their foreign employees promote positive corporate culture. Call upon U.S. colleagues with foreign workplace experience to share their stories. Encourage foreign colleagues to compare and contrast work life in the U.S. and their homelands. Incorporating foreign practices into your workplace can help everyone feel valued.

Remain accessible and upbeat. Let your colleagues vent without taking offense. Adapting to U.S. workplace culture won’t be an overnight undertaking. Approaching it as such will only cause grief. Providing your home contact information can help your colleagues feel supported around the clock.

 

About the Author

Mika Lo has been producing online content since 2005. The majority of her work has been published in areas such as parenting, lifestyle and health. Lo has also assisted with the development of community and hospital-based patient education programs, including creative discharge classes for new mothers and assisting underprivileged patients with medication assistance and information.

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