Aims and objectives: To compare the communication and practice experiences of migrant nurses in geographically distant, culturally dissimilar countries in Eastern and Western contexts. Background: Considerable research has focused on the experience of acculturation of migrant nurses into geographically diverse locations. However, there remains scant comparative research which considers the ways in which migrant nurses interpret their experience through making “sense” of events encountered in their practice. Design: An exploratory qualitative study was conducted using face-to-face interviews with 36 migrant nurses currently practising in New Zealand and 20 migrant nurses practising in the United Arab Emirates. Methods: The same question schedule was used to explore influences on communication and practice in both settings. Thematic analysis and sensemaking theory guided coding and analysis of data. COREQ guidelines informed the reporting of qualitative data. Results: Qualitative analysis resulted in five representative themes, three illustrating similarities across diverse cultures and two that demonstrate the differences migrant nurses require to navigate across contrasting cultural environments successfully. Conclusion: Cultural value-based differences in both locales caused both systemic and interpersonal sensemaking challenges for migrant nurses that emphasise the importance of orientation and education programmes for internationally qualified nurses. However, cultural conflicts also exist within groups. Orientation programmes should address culturally patterned responses among different groups of internationally qualified nurses. Relevance to clinical practice: Findings demonstrate a need for migrant nurses to be willing to embrace ambiguity in order to acculturate into a collaborative team culture in each of the geographical locations in this study. As registered nurses (RNs) also carry their cultural imprint, orientation interventions targeting the cultural variations of nurses in less standardised orientation programmes may be more beneficial in enhancing acculturation and in turn, staff retention.