Tips to adapt to a new culture
Most of the time, moving abroad means discovering new cultures, traditions and lifestyles – which involves not only open-mindedness but also respect towards differences. Expats often find it difficult to adapt, especially when they don't know what to expect. Expat.com gives you some tips to help you adjust to a new culture abroad and show consideration for your expat destination.
One of the first things to do is probably to look for all the relevant information before moving. Keep in mind that you're not just visiting the country as a tourist, so you have to make a special effort. Cultures, traditions and lifestyles may significantly vary from one region to another. Browsing online expat guides, magazines and even local newspapers can be a good start. In case you have any questions, you can also find the answers on expat forums. Locals and expats will be more than happy to give you some guidelines for a smoother move. However, having obtained some basic information may not prevent you from a cultural shock on your arrival but at least you can partly prepare yourself for what to expect.
Regardless of your new destination, whether it's in Europe, South America or Asia, different traditions and lifestyles will surprise you. In some cases, you may even be shocked. In Thailand, for example, where most of the population follows Buddhism, respect plays a crucial role in everyday life. Touching people's head or sitting with your feet pointing at someone is considered disrespectful. In Many Asian and Middle Eastern countries, you're likely to be frowned upon when eating with your left hand, which is considered as being impure.
The gap between eastern and western cultures is quite significant even though most countries are slowly trying to westernise. In spite of globalisation, many countries are very keen on preserving their cultures and traditions, so it's up to you to try and adjust. In the United Arab Emirates, for example, Western women are expected to avoid going out in shorts and tops – which may seem surprising given the warm climate. Moreover, holding hands and kissing in public is prohibited!
Depending on where you come from, these new beliefs and traditions may seem strange but the best thing you can do is to face them open-mindedly, especially if you're planning to make a long stay abroad.
Going out to explore the surroundings will probably be part of your to-do list once you have moved abroad. Tourist attractions such as museums, monuments, exhibitions, and cultural sites would be a great start. Also, you probably cannot wait to discover that famous temple you've been hearing about for years, and take beautiful pictures of it to share with your friends on social networks. While this can be an ideal way to record your expat experience and make unforgettable memories, keep in mind that you're not always allowed to take pictures of anything and anywhere.
Make sure it's not prohibited to take pictures on the cultural sites you're visiting and that you are dressed accordingly. For example, avoid wearing any unappropriate type of clothing when visiting a religious site that has a symbolic meaning to the country and it's people. Also, avoid inappropriate postures or pictures of places that are likely to create a controversy.
Learn the basic etiquette
It's expected to get lost in cultural differences while trying to adapt to your new home but there's no secret formula to it. Being curious can definitely help! Start by seeking information from the people around you about their customs and traditions. A big city is probably not the best place to start from but you can take a stroll around the suburbs and get to know their inhabitants in your free time. The countryside can be an ideal place for nature lovers to taste local cuisines and learn about ancient traditions.
Observing people around you can be a good way to understand their lifestyle. You could, for example, discuss cultural differences with your colleagues during your lunch break or request one of your neighbours to accompany you on a trip downtown. Take part in events and festivals and ask about the ideal behaviour to adopt during that period or in specific places. If Friday is a fast day, avoid eating meat in public as a sign of respect for the locals.
We hope that these tips will be helpful during your stay abroad. If you have more suggestions, feel free to share them.