Integrating into a new culture can be one of the more challenging aspects of living in a new country. Yet for many, a change of culture is precisely what motivated their move. A new life abroad can quite literally catapult you into a very different way of living, which often holds much appeal to those living in the throes of western society.
Having moved to a new country, there will always be some people who prefer to create their own bubble of home comforts, a home-from-home or choose to seek out solely expat communities.
However, it can be quite refreshing to adapt fully to the culture and lifestyle of a particular country. Immersing yourself in a new way of life can bring many benefits to your overall wellbeing and satisfaction with life, but as with most things, there are a few hurdles to overcome to get there.
While there are certainly many actions you can take towards integrating into a new culture, the following areas are worth prioritising for effective results.
Choice of Location
Before you even move, you will need to carefully plan and research where you will move to. This is one of the first steps to set you up for a life fully embedded into a country’s way of living.
If you really want to live like a local in your new country of residence, moving into an expat community will be a step in the wrong direction. No matter how enticing it is to be where the majority are, you will almost certainly find it more challenging to live like a local.
If you are to truly embrace the lifestyle and culture of a new country, you would do well to reside in a local community – in a traditional house with amenities and social activities fitting of the local culture.
Another action to take, perhaps before you have decided on the location, is to extensively research the country and culture you would like to move to. What may seem like a fairy-tale in your head, could be completely different in reality.
Become fully educated on the culture and get a sense of the lifestyle – try it on for size! You might also like to visit the country and speak to some other international residents who live in the way you would like to. There are lots of online groups and ways to connect with such people.
Done thoroughly, this little step could help you avoid some potentially embarrassing situations – for example, where you may unknowingly cause offence to someone. The damage here can be hard to undo and may set you back in your transition to local life.
Learn the language
This may initially seem like a task to do when you have moved, but this is in fact, one of the earliest actions to take. You will never be able to completely adapt to a different culture if you cannot connect and converse with the local residents. Not speaking the language has the opposite effect of what you are trying to achieve – it will further separate you and create more barriers to success.
You don’t have to be fluent before you move. However, being able to get by with some key phases will do wonders for your early integration, and stress levels! Focus on the verbal as a priority and the written can follow later.
Be patient and give this task the time and resource it deserves.
Join Local Events
As soon as you are all moved in, make sure to prioritise getting to know your neighbours. Don’t wait for them to introduce themselves to you, be courageous and pop over with a traditional gift that might be appreciated.
Visit the local area and join any events happening in the community and find out about any up and coming activities in the surrounding locations.
Moreover, immerse yourself in the local sporting scene – either by watching or playing. This is an ideal social activity to easily make local connections.
Get Acquainted with Local Cuisine
One thing that brings communities together is food! Try local delicacies and purchase local produce from the market to cook at home.
The more you familiarise yourself with the traditional dishes and produce, the easier it will be to relate to the locals.
Ideal Mind Set
Finally, it takes a certain mindset to make this huge change. Those who approach this challenge with an open mind, flexibility, patience, and curiosity are likely to find it a much more enjoyable process.
For example, if all the locals use bicycle or mopeds as their primary mode of transport, consider giving this a go too.
Be organised and take creative approaches to any difficulties you face as these are also likely to bring you more success in living a local life abroad.