Being a transplant to Charlotte myself from Atlanta, GA, I totally understand the potential culture shock. Originating from Detroit did not adequately prepare me for Atlanta in 1991 either so before writing off a city as horrible, unfriendly, or full of cliques, it might prove useful to give these issues some consideration:
- Dress– Dress for acceptance not necessarily success upon initial arrival to your new job. Coming into work every day like you are already the CEO of the company is a sure fire way to stand out, but not in a good way. When you arrive to a new environment, you need to learn the ropes which mean partnering with natives to get their feedback and assistance. Nothing will hinder that process more than you being viewed in a negative way. Some native North Carolinians view snazzy dressers as arrogant and attempting to walk into leadership roles. That perception will alienate you from much needed on-the-job training and networking circles. You don’t have to compromise your style to the point of being uncomfortable, but be prepared to tone it down a notch and roll up your sleeves to fit in. When people view you as approachable, barriers come down. If we were in China, we would take off our shoes before entering establishments without hesitation or thought, so why are we so resistant to various cultures within our own country?
- Language– Every city has its own language. The word folk is taboo in many northern regions however to Charlotte; it is as common as grits and shrimp. Learn not to take offense to expressions and terms that are native to whatever region you find yourself in. Don’t even think about correcting anyone native on the appropriate usage or term. Learning to say soda instead of pop is not that big of deal when you stay focused on the much bigger picture.
- Homesick– We have all attended meetings where someone frequently makes the comment ‘well, the way we did it back in such-n-such’ and everyone starts rolling their eyes. Be prepared to offer input and make suggestions without always making reference to your previous city or company location. The number one thought on everyone’s mind will be that if that place was so wonderful, why aren’t you still there?
- Volunteer– It can be very tempting to isolate yourself from the masses upon arrival to a seemingly already cohesive group. That is a bad personal and professional move. Find areas of interest and volunteer. The goal is two-fold. One: You are keeping yourself active, involved, and supportive of causes that you are passionate about. Never allow opportunities pass you by to make an impact on issues that you deem worthy regardless of what city or state you are in. Education, healthcare, elderly, animal rights, domestic violence, and cancer research are all human issues that impact the world; not just the city you were formerly associated with. Two: As you volunteer, previous perceptions of who you are and what you are about are going to change. Natives will get the opportunity to formulate correct perceptions of you based on the raw you; the real you when management is not looking and that will become the basis of new relationships both in and out of the work place.
Not every city intentionally wants to be the next New York or Atlanta. Some cities are forcibly expanded due to politically motivated media coverage to grow and attract certain businesses. The current residents had no idea of what type of impact that type of media coverage would bring, and quite frankly, they may not be excited about welcoming all the disadvantages of becoming a mega-city. Let’s be honest. Who wants congested traffic, more trees cut down to expand roads, raised taxes to cover more school buses, and overall stretching of existing infrastructures? Whenever a city expands, there are risks of higher crime rates, and the inevitable property value issues as people fluctuate into areas attempting to reside in homes they may not be able to afford.
No one can change the dedicated idiots of the world. People who have those positions do so with high seniority and there is nothing you can do about it. Diversity, tolerance and respect begin within. Racism, prejudice and cliques are a part of life. But, the great thing about life is that we have the power of choice and if you choose to embrace change, it typically embraces you back.
Welcome to Charlotte folks!