Finding your place in a new country can be lonely and discouraging at times. You no longer have your favorite coffee shop awaiting you on a hard day. Your best friend isn’t there to eat a gallon of ice cream with you, and you might not yet be able to fully express your roller coaster of emotions in your host country’s language. It takes time to build meaningful relationships, and it takes even more time to become fully familiar with your new life. These six keys to immersing yourself in a new culture are a platform that will keep you moving forward in your expat journey.
1. Recognize the differences and then disregard them.
Well, not completely. But don’t get caught up on the contrast between their culture and yours. It can be overwhelmingly foreign at times, and this must be acknowledged, but do not fail to recognize people are people no matter where you are in the world. Set up camp on common ground.
2. Find a sub-culture.
It could be the gym, a church, or a group you found on Facebook. Connecting with people within a sub-culture can help you overcome cultural barriers and be the start of your new social circle. This is an open door to make connections and get involved. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the expat community as well, as long you don’t spend all your time there. You can learn from one another and help one another as you are adjusting.
3. Learn the language.
Don’t neglect to learn the body language and social cues of a culture as well. For instance, in many countries, you shake hands when you meet somebody, in others you kiss, and in others, you bow. Don’t get caught in the awkward situation of marrying yourself off because you made eye contact with a man in a culture you shouldn’t have.
4. Get outside.
Explore the country you’re in! From cafes to parks to local shops and restaurants ya gotta know what’s around you. If you’re not experiencing the country the way the locals are you’re not going to understand the people or what they are talking about. Keep yourself in the loop; get outside.
5. Find a family to adopt you.
There’s no better way to immerse yourself in a culture than to live with a family from your host country. Living with a family gives you the chance to learn more about family dynamics, cultural manners, and it’s the perfect way to practice a language. Having a host family can also be a means of support and stability throughout seasons of culture shock and one of the biggest transitions of your life.
6. Eat locally.
Food and friendship were made for each other… that about says it all.
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