Culture shock: through the eyes of our CFO

Culture shock – a feeling of doubt, or nervousness caused by being in a place (such as a foreign country) that is very different from what you are used to” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

Experiencing culture shock is something that many expats can relate to. It is something that we at Foreigners.cz attempt to minimize by helping  expats feel at home. Recently I interviewed a member of the team; Vojtěch Stehno (co-owner of Foreigners.cz) about his experiences with culture shock while living abroad in Kenya, Africa! Read about Vojtech’s learnings and experiences in an unfamiliar place where he was able to put himself inside the shoes of an expat. 1. As the owner of a company that aims to help people settle into a new environment, how does it feel to now be an expat abroad? Well, this is a really good question. I am now in Kenya as an expat experiencing a totally different culture! My work with Foreigners in the Czech Republic provides me with a lot of understanding around different cultures and countries. However, by being here in Africa, I feel that my understanding of cultural differences has expanded even more so! It makes me think of our motto at Foreigners.cz , which is to “Understand different.” I want to bring this experience back home and share it with our team so they can also develop a deeper understanding of difference. What I also realized while living here in Kenya, is that the Czech Republic and Europe in general, offers a high quality of life. We do not realize, that when we say something is “not good quality” in the Czech Republic, it is a “luxury” for people here. The biggest shock of all is that people here appear to still be much happier! They enjoy their daily life without material things. This is stands out to me as one of the strongest life lessons, and I hope it will remain in my heart for a long time.   2. Have you been an expat before? If so where? I lived in the Netherlands, Scotland, and Germany for a short period of time, but it was still Europe. I did have some troubles settling down but nothing compared to Kenya. Right when I arrived in Kenya, I could feel the fear inside of me. Everything was different than what I was use to in Europe and I was often thinking to myself, “how will I arrange this? Where do I go now?…”   3. What do you find is the most difficult thing about relocating to a new place? I don’t know if it is the most difficult but definitely it is the most important; to find a safe and nice place to live! According to Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs,’ it is the second most important necessity that people seek out. I felt pretty uncomfortable upon my arrival in Kenya until I reached my apartment and made sure that everything was ok. From that point on, everything seemed to be easier. I immediately felt a sense of peace and comfort knowing that I had a safe place I can return to at the end of the day! Another difficult thing about relocating to a new place, is trying to accept a culture that is different from your own.  Many of us develop behavioral patterns from childhood and through our subjective life experiences. We find it difficult to look past our own understanding of life. Being in a new country opens your mind to new possibilities and new perspectives of the world.   4. What advice would you give to people becoming expats for the first time?  Try and find some locals you can trust that are willing to help you understand life in the country you are settling in to. Your best bet would be to find some local people who have had experience living abroad. This is why at Foreigners.cz we like to hire people with worldly experience, so that our clients can work with people that they can relate to.   5. Would you like to add anything that we haven’t addressed? Well, maybe a small promotion of our new project. One of the main reasons why I traveled to Dubai and Kenya is to gather resources for our new offering, CzechUniversities.com!! CzechUniversities.com assists international students who are interested in studying in the Czech Republic with the entire university application and relocation process. The program offers students a package that covers all areas for application and relocation. Experienced culture shock yourself? Write to us about your experiences: jamie@foreigners.cz!

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