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Cultural awareness is a critical component in the success of any international assignment – similar to a compass for navigating the unfamiliar society in which the employee must now live and work. Thus, intercultural training is an invaluable tool to global employees. It prepares the employee and family for immersion in a foreign country, providing them with an understanding of what, for many, is an alien culture. It also provides the means to adapt to that culture.

Without intercultural training, the employee and family are left to find their own way through business and social situations that may make or break the assignment.


Each foreign assignment that your company is considering represents a financial commitment of approximately $1,000,000. And that’s if the assignment is successful.

But what if the assignment fails?

Conservative estimates place expatriate failure rates at between 30% and 50% and at triple the cost of a successful assignment.

Early repatriations are so tremendously expensive because they incur additional costs over and above the actual cost of the assignment:

  • Finding and relocating a replacement
  • Lost productivity during the replacement period
  • Losing a key employee, and that employee’s experience, often to competitors.

Almost half of returning expatriates end up resigning upon their return because they feel out of touch or because of distress about the failed assignment.


The most frequently cited reasons for assignment failure – the employee’s or family’s inability to adjust, or their lack of the skills necessary to be successful in the host culture – can all be minimized or overcome through intercultural training either pre-departure or upon arrival.


Working successfully in a new culture often hinges upon the ability to adapt to different ways of building relationships, inspiring trust and cooperation, and motivating others.

Intercultural training provides global employees with critical information about how to deal with cultural differences and strategies to manage those differences to their advantage. A typical business curriculum includes:

  • Intercultural Office Dynamics
  • Value Differences in the Office
  • Roles of Men and Women in the Office
  • Daily Office Protocols

  • Negotiation Techniques
  • Managing Teams, Projects, and Meetings
  • Marketing and Sales in the Target Country or Region
  • Effective Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication Strategies
  • Building Business and Social Relationships
  • Business and Social Protocols: Host, Guest, Gift-Giving

  • Source: ERC International Survey (162 Respondents)

For the accompanying family, being prepared for cultural and lifestyle differences can greatly impact the success of an assignment. Family members who can adapt to their new home are often happier with the relocation and can provide important emotional support to the employee. Families who have experienced a successful international assignment also become tremendous advocates for the company’s relocation program. Curriculum for spouses and families includes:

  • Understanding the Adjustment Curve
  • Adapting to Culture Shock for Parents and Children
  • Daily Living
  • Value Differences
  • Language and Communication Differences
  • Understanding Non-Verbal Behaviors
  • Dining, Social Protocols, and Etiquette


In relocating an employee to a different country, a company will spend far more on taxes, housing, and relocation costs than on a cultural training benefit.

According to a recent study, intercultural training accounts for less than 1% of the total cost of an international assignment. It is one of the least expensive benefits in a well-rounded global mobility program. Conversely, cultural training is one of the most valuable tools with which you can equip your global employees, delivering a significant return on investment.

So, for 1% of the cost of the assignment, your employees can start their new lives with confidence, well-equipped to navigate the unfamiliar country that they are about to call home.

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