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How to Adjust to a Foreign Culture

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After tackling all the financial, legal, and logistical challenges of an international move, you may be faced with your most formidable hurdle: culture shock.

Adjusting to the culture in your new international home won't have direct financial repercussions like most of the move, but it can affect your state of mind. Here are some tips for adjusting to a new culture after an international move:

Research what you can online

Researching different aspects of the new culture that surrounds you can be difficult through a simple Google search -- culture can be multifaceted; however, there is some useful information online. Profiles on countries often only provide general culture information, such as the most common language or religion in the country. General information won’t give you a very detailed idea of how to adjust to the culture after a move there. For better cultural information, look for blogs from expats in the country. There are a lot out there, so you may even find some information on the specific region you are moving to.

Learn the language

It may not be easy, but learning the foreign language of your new home will help you better understand every aspect of the culture. If English is the universal language, you'll only have to adjust to some spelling differences and colloquialisms. If English is not the native language (albeit widespread), you still should make an effort to learn. Natives will appreciate your effort, and you will better understand the subtleties of the culture.

Meet your neighbours

The best way to learn about your culture on the most local and specific level is to observe and interact with those who live around you. General information about the country as a whole will not give you good information about how someone in your new neighbourhood lives day to day. You need to leave your home and talk to your new neighbours to understand what the struggles, values, and beliefs are for people who live where you live.

Experience local entertainment

Some of the best insight into what a culture values can be found in what entertainment it consumes. What movies do the best in your new country? Are there cultural performances or festivals that are popular? Attending anything that the culture values will let you see what they see as fun.

Keep some of your own cultural identity

Adjusting to the local culture is positive step towards belonging, but you should not artificially make yourself into something you are not. Maintaining your identity and keeping some values and traditions from home are important. Not everything about a new culture needs to be adopted, and not everything about your old culture needs to be forgotten.

Connect with other expats

If you are in a foreign country, it is easy to feel alone. However, in most countries there are a lot of people in a similar situation, some of whom may be from the same country of origin as you. Using expat blogs and forums, you can communicate and meet with people who have went through the same process of cultural adjustment that you are going through. If you can find someone with a little more experience in the new country, they can give you invaluable advice and perspective.

Make a local friend

There is no better way to feel at home than to have a friend nearby. A neighbour, a coworker, or anybody you meet could be your first real friend from your new country. Once you establish a friendship with a local, you can freely ask about the culture with little fear of accidentally offending anyone. Additionally, a friend will allow you to know more about them on a personal level, which will give you valuable insight on how culture manifests itself in a local’s personal life.

Give yourself time

Adjustment takes time, but when moving internationally, sometimes time is all you have.

For a while everything in a foreign country will seem just that; foreign to you. But you will adapt to your surroundings as time goes on because that is what humans do. Putting undue pressure on yourself to become a local will only make matters worse. Accepting that it will take time and some things will always seem strange to you is key to adjusting to your new culture quickly and healthily.

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on January 19, 2015 - Moving Expert
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