Published: Monday, June 10, 2024
Sirva Communications

Global Mobility practitioners typically focus on preparing assignees to effectively navigate cultures outside their home country. Understanding this need affects how differences between people are perceived and helps build empathy and adjustment in the host country. The same can be said for helping assignees acclimatize to cultural differences within their own country.

Recently, Eric Davis, supplier networks specialist in Sirva’s intercultural services group, participated in The Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research (SIETAR) USA Annual Conference to discuss ways of helping assignees who are moving within a country. His topic focused on how to navigate and address the differences in people and cultures when moving domestically, and the unexpected culture shock.


When it comes to moving within a country, there may be many variances within regions or states, including:

  • Languages
  • Dialects
  • City infrastructure
  • City vs Rural
  • East vs West
  • North vs South
  • Coastal vs inland
  • Level of Income
  • Pace of life
  • Ethnic representation
  • Climate differences
  • Family customs
  • Cuisine
  • Dance styles and music
  • History
  • Religion
  • Politics
  • Hierarchy

Sometimes these elements might not seem like obvious differences, or things that need to be considered for assignees when moving within the same country. However, it’s important to remember that while the country is not new, the assignee is mostly familiar with the regions or locations they have lived in.

While the surface culture of a country may have many common ideals from one region to another, we may see a considerable shift in deep culture that may make two locations very different.



There is often an assumption that a country’s culture is the same wherever you go because individuals will often have access to much of the same, or similar, surface culture – things they can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell, such as language, food, clothing, pop culture, media outlets, shopping, educational systems, etc. Additionally, a nation will have a uniformity of laws governing regions or states allowing people to enjoy the same liberties across the country. This leads to an assumption that adjusting to a new area within the same country will be easier than what is faced during an international move. 

What assignees and organizations often overlook is that while culture may look the same on the surface, the unseen deep cultural forces, such as values, beliefs, and history, that have shaped a region can differ vastly within a country. These unexpected differences can impact an assignee’s ability to successfully adapt during an intra-country move just as much as if they were moving internationally.



Given the differences in culture that can be encountered within a country, why isn’t cultural training a benefit included in domestic move policies?

The fact is domestic cultural training is not common. Organizations allocate resources for domestic moves in a different way, often focusing on the tactical aspects of the relocation only, not considering the adaptation of the assignee and accompanying family to the new location. Other reasons for not considering intra-country cultural training may include:

  • Assuming that the assignee will just figure it out.
  • International moves take priority in the organization.
  • Assignment success rate metrics may be more difficult to explain, so the risk/reward is unclear.
  • Budgeting doesn’t factor in intercultural training for intra-country moves.

Developing the competencies to be able to celebrate differences, understand various viewpoints, and have the skills to adapt to a new location is just as critical for assignees moving within their home country.



As we contemplate today’s workforce trends, it is important to understand that assignees need to be prepared to successfully adapt to differences in culture whether they are moving internationally or intra-country.


For more information on how Sirva can help prepare your assignees for cultural adjustment during a domestic move, please contact your Sirva representative or email us at


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