(Part of the book Moving Out, Living Abroad and Keeping Your Sanity, written by Levi Borba. Levi is also a consultant and founder of Colligere Expat Consultancy).
The majority of the first questions when moving out are about living costs, language, bureaucracy, etc. For this reason, many groups of foreigners at social media will already have a FAQ or index for questions like:
How long it takes to have my resident card?
What is the best health insurance?
Which cellphone company is better?
I will not reply those questions here. Not only because they differ from country to country, but also because it is straightforward to find those answers, since they are the things that everyone asks. The way to find those answers is the same explained previously: ask the locals in social media.
However, there is another group of questions, and those are barely asked. As a consequence of not answering them, so many expats experience frustration and regret. Those are the questions that Breno should have asked before going to Qatar. They are about the cultural shock.
The dutch psychologist Geert Hofstede organized a study of national cultures using group dimensions which should quantify core values of a society. Hofstede’s research examine national and organizational settings, tracing a general guideline about how different cultures would act in social and work environments. The findings of his study let us compare the cultural attitude of different countries, including the one we are living and the one we are moving to.
There are few fields that can cause cultural shock, and four of the most significant are:
1st – The Rules. The approach to rules and regulations can be significantly different between certain nations. Germanic and Japanese cultures, in one side, value procedures, systems and control, focusing on getting things done how they were planned. At the other side, romance cultures like Iberians or Italians tend to give greater value to ad hoc problem-solving, relationship building and adaptation to circumstances. Now you can imagine how misunderstandings can appear when a Swiss border official questions a laid back Latin American student, or an Austrian client can be impatient in a Portuguese café because the waiter is talking too much.
2nd – The Time. This is one of the earliest sources of cultural shock. I experienced it profoundly. The different perceptions of time can make an inexperienced expat deeply frustrated and be a common source of friction. In Latin American cultures punctuality is not that important for social gatherings or informal occasions. An Anglophone that shows exactly as invited, for example, at 9PM for a party or at 8AM for the company breakfast, may find himself completely alone in the room and confused. In the same way, my wife was surprised that in Brazil would not be a problem to arrive to a doctor appointment five minutes late (because the doctor would just call my name ten minutes late).
To understand how society handles deadlines is useful to your professional life too. Contrary to some stereotypes, laid back nationalities like Greeks and Mexicans are among those that make more over-hours in the planet, while Germans are the ones doing less. Try to seek more information about how the people of your new country deal with time, how strict they are with deadlines and if the dentist will still see you if you are five minutes late. This analysis will be very useful to you sooner than you can imagine.
3rd – The Humor. Some cultures, like the Irish or Latin Americans, have humor as a constant component of their behaviour, and jokes may surge even when things are not going well. Others, like the British, may use humor as a conversation starter, to break the ice or even to grant some loans from the US to save their economy (like princess Margaret done in 1965). At the other side, jokes at Swiss business meeting can backfire because they may see it as a waste of time. In Slavic countries, to laugh with people that didn’t get the joke can be understood as you are laughing at them. I cannot recount how many times people asked me in Poland why I was laughing for things like a baby throwing his cap on the floor (it was really funny).
4th – The Communication. As the consultancy firm Expatica explained in their page: Differing communication styles can be a ticking time-bomb, especially in the workplace. Plenty of cultures prefer to engage in lengthy hypothetical discussions with few concrete conclusions; meetings with French colleagues, for instance, might lack structure or even an agenda altogether. Others prefer discussions with a clear and well-defined structure that allows participants to easily compartmentalize everything that was said. People who speak with a great deal of ambiguity or subtlety in their speech (the British are notorious here) may frustrate those that prefer clear and direct communication, though they may also impress their colleagues that have trouble working out complicated situations.
So, here we come to the question made some paragraphs ago: to do a proper research that goes beyond asking about internet providers and insurance plans, you must also know those cultural shock differences. Preferably before you arrive or as soon as you land in your new country. If you are already living abroad, it is still a very interesting exercise and you can discover a lot by doing it.
 Other details about culture shock and differences can be found in this article: https://www.expatica.com/moving/integration/how-to-manage-culture-shock-108735/
 You can see more details of this story at this link: https://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/crown-true-story-behind-princess-20868858