By Kellie Noon, Onno Training
Moving to a new country is exciting. It’s a huge opportunity for new experiences both personally and professionally. But it’s also very tough.
It’s not just the new people and places that we have to get used to. It’s the culture shock and day-to-day differences that we experience that create this balancing act between surviving or thriving in our new life.
Even if you do speak the language (and well), no-one tells you how draining it is and quite how exhausting it can be mentally and the physical drain this leads to.
The world’s diverse cultures and differences are beautiful and what drive travel and tourism. Lots of us dream of packing up and moving somewhere completely new – but the reality of actually doing this really only dawns on many once they’re there and struggling. There really are two sides to this coin, and we seem to only want to see the positive outcome.
The Challenges for Players
Player4Player has already talked about these challenges, listing issues that players are more susceptible to, including; illness, sleep disturbances, lack of appetite, social withdrawal, loneliness, self-doubt and increased stress from relocating. And it will be the same for those that move with them. There needs to be more done to prevent these issues from occurring.
Why is so much investment made in so many areas across football, but something that can have such a huge impact on happiness and well-being left to chance?
For little expense, the likelihood of successful adapting to a new location and circumstances can be increased significantly.
Relocation companies are starting to build in cultural awareness support and training, so why isn’t this being adopted within football? Why isn’t building in a cultural induction to support players and staff, as well as their families, a standard policy?
Why aren’t staff in clubs trained to understand and recognise cultural differences, so that they themselves are prepared for any challenges that their players are likely to face, and better prepared to pre-empt these and then support them?
It might be as little as one afternoon of training a year and you reduce the risk of an unhappy player and all the negative impacts and problems that brings that are difficult, and sometimes too late, to resolve. For a small investment the risk of a much larger financial cost from a player not being able to perform at their best on the pitch is greatly reduced.
The work I do is motivated by my own experiences. I studied and worked abroad for the best part of a decade. I had the most amazing experiences because I was lucky enough to fully integrate into the places I lived. Not to say it wasn’t a struggle at times, and it was only having such a good grasp of the language that it was possible to get through and build a career like I did.
Players are not machines and are human beings with emotions like everyone else.
I can only imagine the difficulty these moves present with the added pressure of performing in public and often having the concern of their families adaption as well.
When I’ve worked in football with players and their families, I’ve seen how open they are to this type of education and received very positive feedback. I also train corporates and public institutions in cultural awareness and language use. It’s interesting and engaging, but most of all – it works and delivers results. It’s not rocket science, it doesn’t cost the earth, and it’s quick to learn.
Let’s all start to look at this together and push forward with ways that we can integrate and take responsibility for this support into player inductions instead of leaving it to luck. Who’s with me? I would love to hear others’ thoughts on the issue.
To finish here are 3 quick tips for players to help you settle:
Language Research the area you’re moving to and get at least some language lessons in before you hit the ground. You need to learn to speak to your colleagues and the locals as soon as possible to help you maintain some autonomy.
Cultural Differences Research the key cultural differences of the region – start with looking at whether the locals are from a collectivist or individualistic culture (is it usual for the needs of the group or individual to be put first?). It’ll give you a good idea of what’s expected in terms of how much you’ll need to fend for yourself or rely on the rest of the team and club for support. Another key area to start with is the communication style – is it direct or indirect? It’s also a good starting point for those travelling with you to get a feel for the city and the people they’ll meet.
Leadership Look at the manager and coach (as well as any other key figures) and consider their leadership style. Do they come from an area of the world that’s hierarchical or consensual? This will help you to pre-empt how they’ll likely want you to engage with your team.
Bonus tip: Learn about the area and what’s happening. Look at the politics. Look at the local religion if it’s a religious country. Take interest in what’s going to be your new home, and find something that resonates with you that you want to learn more about and get involved in.
If you would like to learn more, I share short video tips every week about different countries of the globe – they’re nothing fancy, but they do what they say on the tin and are a great starting point if you want to understand about working with other cultures. You can sign up to get these straight to your inbox here.