Deciding to leave home in favour of a new country is one of the most exciting things one can do. It is also just a bit scary. Sure, you have to get all your affairs in order, sort out your visas and international travel health insurance, but that’s not what we are talking about. While relocating is significantly different from the details of travelling and finding new ways to enjoy your vacation, some aspects will remain the same for the initial adjustment period.
It is scary if outright terrifying to face a brand new, essentially alien culture, and then have to find your place in it and build a meaningful new life. You can’t just rush in blindly. You need to know what it is that awaits you and how to not only make the best of it but truly enjoy it. If you are considering relocating to a new region, the following will help you navigate your decision before the big move.
Embrace Your Own Cultural Identity
The first thing one tends to do when acclimating to a new culture and environment is to try your best to fit in. Unfortunately, many of us instinctively go about this by trying to blend in and subsuming the cultural norms of our new communities. There’s no doubt that avoiding a culture shock should be your intent as culture shock can spiral into a circumstantial depression that is often referred to as homesickness. Enduring certain levels of homesickness are usually enough to create the perception that you may have made a mistake in relocating.
Finding and embracing your own cultural identity is vital when relocating to a foreign region. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but it does diminish your opportunities to share some exciting aspects of your own culture with new friends and acquaintances. It may also lead to several cultural faux pas and be seen as a bit patronising.
Embrace your heritage with enough sensitivity to the sensibilities of your host community, and you stand to have an enriching experience that includes your culture without imposition on your attempts to make new friends and create a new identity true to who you are.
Expressing delight at the novelty of new customs is one thing; making a fuss is something altogether different. Living in a country where we frequently interact with other cultures, we have come to learn how important it is not to fixate on cultural customs. It is best to avoid coming across as merely an enchanted tourist when relocating for apparent reasons.
Let us use an example, lest the concept is a bit vague. Say you move to France. It would be very tempting to marvel at the fact that children casually consume a small amount of alcohol from a relatively young age. This cultural difference and several others open a door for ex-pats and tourists to showcase almost offensive reactions. However, you should research and uncover all taboo cultural differences to best navigate the ways of your new homeland.
Depending on where you’re from you may even find it outrageous, but harping on about it, making a fuss about it, will not endear you to the locals. Learn to accept cultural paradigms. If you can’t it is somewhat likely that you should consider making another move.
Learn The Local Language
This is unequivocally the most important thing to do when you plan on an extended stay in a new country. There is nothing that frustrates people as quickly as the audacity of a foreigner proclaiming themself to be a new member of the community, but Forcing everyone to speak English in their presence.
Don’t be concerned with your accent in said language, or your proficiency. You will improve with time, and in the meantime, your effort alone is something that most people will find endearing. Do keep in mind that the first words most people will teach you in any language will not make for appropriate dinner table banter!
Beyond fitting in, learning the local language holds many benefits for you personally. It will expand your capacity to appreciate local customs for one. If you don’t speak more than one language, you may not understand the way in which different languages have a unique perspective and facilitate new ways of experiencing the world.
The most important thing to keep in mind when immersing yourself into a new culture in a new country is to remember to take it all in and allow yourself to experience the joy inherent in opening yourself up to a brand new way of life. Being open-minded and willing to learn is understandably vital for ex-pats, long-term travellers, and even students obtaining higher education in a foreign region.
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