Moving to a new country is an exciting and enriching experience. Part of the excitement is related to stark changes in culture. Whether we see cultural differences as challenges to overcome or opportunities to exploit, one fact is universal. A little preparation and conditioning always helps.
The number one tip that migrants receive is to learn the local language. Understandably, this can only happen gradually. Consider your current proficiency in your first language and the number of years it took to reach it. Don’t expect immediate results with a new language. Give yourself time. One starts learning a new language with basic words and phrases to help get around. Consider yourself a level up when you can do basic things such as shopping. It requires deliberate effort to build vocabulary, and much more work to get comfortable with sentence structure. However, the effort really pays off. If you’re a foreigner in a less than cosmopolitan city and you can speak the language, you’ll make friends easily. Proficiency with the local language will make you feel enabled and empowered.
It helps to gain some macro information about your new location. At the top of your list should be the region’s history. Supplement your reading by visiting some museums and historic sites. This will help gain a strong comprehension of what forces shaped the region’s culture. History correlates with many of the cultural dos and don’ts. Other aspects worth researching are the country’s geography, climate, infrastructure, commerce, and foreign policy. These factors affect all residents of a country to some extent. The background knowledge will enable you to make sense of the local media and better understand news stories. When you’re an expat, knowledge really is power.
Learning from best practices is a proven technique not just for organizations, but people. Get a sense of how locals in your age-group, gender, and tax bracket live. Assess how they dress, what they eat, and do after work. Then try to copy those behaviors where possible. Learn from others’ mistakes and avoid making your own. Copying locals will force you to come out of your comfort zone. More importantly, it will help you understand them in a way unlike any other. You will get to have the same experiences that the locals have. Eventually you’ll be able to participate in conversations with opinions based on firsthand information and experience. When you can do that, the locals won’t see you as an outsider anymore.
One of the most important things you take to a foreign country is your culture. As you make an effort to integrate in a new culture, don’t lose your own. Having an original cultural identity is a strong foundation on which to build. The world is like one big village. The locals you meet are more than likely to know a thing or two about your homeland. Meeting outsiders intrigues most people. Use it to your advantage. Look for possibilities to participate in events such as a cuisine swap or language exchange.
At home or abroad, few things are more important than to embed successfully in the new work culture. As with personal life success at work can come from emulating role models. A big part of this is appropriate language use. Recycle words that you find are well-understood and accepted. Absorb best practices, and equally important – avoid doing things that raise eyebrows. Emulate your colleagues in how they treat subordinates and superiors. Never miss a chance to participate in office parties and outings.
Knowing how to manage money is a key aspect of successful expat life. This includes knowing how to efficiently transfer money to your home country. You may have a local bank account, which is great for managing local finances. However, banks can be very inefficient and costly when it comes to international transfers. You may want to send remittances back home to support your family, invest, buy property, and for other reasons. Find an efficient and reliable international money transfer service that can do this for you.
Make a list of experiences which you could not have in your native land, but are possible in your new location. For example if you relocated to a seaside location, try a few water activities. If you moved to a place where it snows, it is an opportunity to try snow sports. Migrating is not just about work, it is about life. The possibility of exploration is what makes expat life interesting.