Culture Shock… What You Know Is What You Perceive!

The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective.
— Al Neuharth


If what we perceive is slightly different than what we know, it creates a sense of culture-shock! One question I typically get asked whenever someone invites me to share my story is, "Did you have any culture shock during your first days in America?”

I tend to chuckle as I answer this question, “Oh yes, how much time do you have?” Let me share one of them with you:

My first day in Provo, Utah was a sunny day after snow - white everywhere. I decided to go out for a stroll to discover my new environment. The walk was quite blissful in the streets of Provo near University Ave. I could see smoke come out of my mouth as I was throwing snowballs left and right.

Suddenly, I saw from a far distance a group of people in their twenties all dressed in black and white. My first thought was, “Oh my gosh, who died today? It must be a very important person!” Where I am from (Mali), you typically see a group of people dressed in black only when mourning.

Therefore, I suddenly turned around and rushed back to my apartment to go put on the TV hoping to see something on CNN. After about 5 minutes into watching the news, I saw nothing. I asked my roommate, “Who died today?” He told me no one died and the people I saw were regular people going to church on a Sunday in Provo. I felt quite silly at that moment!

 Here I am in a black suit impersonating Alex Trebek during a new hire onboarding event!

Here I am in a black suit impersonating Alex Trebek during a new hire onboarding event!

The lesson I learned from this life event is that culture-shock happens in everything. You need to educate yourself about the culture of your new environment. Assuming will only cause trouble and embarrassment.

Let’s relate my story to conducting a new hire onboarding. New hires come to your organization with different perspectives in regards to pretty much everything. If you do not take the necessary time to tell and show them how you do things in your organization, they could suffer many culture-shock experiences. This can be detrimental to your new hire’s productivity.

Here is a list of four topics you MUST cover during your new hire onboarding process to help mitigate your new hire’s culture-shock experience: 

·         Who you are as an organization

·         What you want to be

·         What your business is about

·         How you do things (processes, standards, policies, tools, etc.)

The next time you onboard a new hire, take the time to help them make sense of things so they don’t feel silly. Your new hires will thank you as well.

Share your culture shock story below! We'd love to hear it!