This is a collaborative post.
Moving abroad is something that many people often dream about. They think of all the adventures they will have and how much they will learn. It’s a fantastic way to also learn more about yourself. Experiencing another culture and language can help you grow as a person in a way that no other experience can do. It isn’t easy to make an international move, however.
Integrating into a new culture is a hurdle that expats have difficulty overcoming. Integrating and adapting to a new culture is important. When you’re integrated into the new culture, you’ll feel like you’re home. Adapting to a new culture while keeping your own cultural identity is also quite a challenge. In this article, we will go over several tips to help you feel at home in your new country.
Before you can attempt to integrate, you have to make sure that all of your bureaucratic obligations are met. If you aren’t 100% legally allowed to do the same things that locals can, you will have a hard time adjusting and integrating.
It shouldn’t be assumed that if you do things the same way that you had always done back home will be enough. Different countries have different legal obligations and it’s up to you to know what they are. Respecting the local laws shows your commitment to being part of the community.
Whatever your healthcare system was in your home country may not work the same as in your country. Healthcare varies from country to country and it’s up to you to figure out how to approach it in your host country. There will likely be some requirements you need to fulfill to qualify for the local insurance system. One requirement might be needing expat medical insurance until you are able to get onto the public system. It may even be required to get a visa so do some research about possible requirements.
Improve your communication skills
Communicating with the locals is one of the biggest challenges to integrating. Learning the language is not optional. This is one of the most important factors to integrate properly and live like a local. Whether you are shopping, dealing with bureaucracy, or trying to make friends, your ability to speak the local language will play a big role in how well you integrate. Be patient as it will take a while, but make sure that you are studying and trying every day. Language classes, online courses, and language exchange meet-ups are great ways to learn.
Language isn’t always spoken. There are communication cues that come from body language and reading between the lines. Try to understand these cues to be able to communicate like a native speaker.
Build a social circle
Building a new social network is also a way to feel like a local and properly integrate. Without these connections, you will struggle to feel like you truly belong. Your social network of friends and colleagues will also be there to help you navigate life in the new country.
It isn’t always easy to make friends as an adult in a different country, but there are many ways to start. The most logical place to start is by inviting your coworkers out for a coffee or after-work drink. Hobbies are another excellent way to meet people since you have a ready-made group of people who share the same interests.
Follow local etiquette
Every culture has a certain way of doing things and swimming against the current may hinder your ability to properly integrate. It could be how they speak to each other, such as using formal grammar with people they don’t know. Or, it can be how work is done. Understanding and respecting these rules will help you fit in better and gain the respect of your new peers.
The way people dress is also part of the rules or etiquette of the culture. Pay attention to how the people around you dress and behave in different settings so you don’t stand out from the locals so much. In most places, it is frowned upon to dress too casually when out and about, for example.
You’re not going to know all of these rules right away so dig in a bit to find out before you make a faux pas. Talk to some locals with whom you have a good rapport and ask them a few questions. You might make mistakes along the way, and that’s okay. What’s important is that you’re trying to learn and respect the local culture and customs.
Homesickness happens to just about every expat at some stage in their integration journey. It’s normal to miss your home, family, and friends, especially in the early stages of your move. Years away from friends, loved ones, and a familiar culture can lead to a feeling of homesickness that can be a barrier to integration.
Homesickness often comes from feeling disconnected from familiar things from home. You can beat this feeling by doing some of the things that you used to do to feel like you’re home. For instance, if you used to go for a run before work every day, then try starting that routine again. Staying in touch with family and friends back home is also important. Although video calls are not the same as being able to hug your loved ones, being able to talk and see them whenever you wish will help
Once you have a social network and a routine that you enjoy, the feeling of homesickness shouldn’t feel too strong for you going forward. Just be patient and it will subside.
Integrating into a new culture is a process that takes time and patience. Be curious, be respectful, and be open to change. Every step you take to understand and adapt to your new environment helps you grow not just as an expat, but as a global citizen.