The aspect of culture adaptation is nowadays an important topic due the continuous population migration, globalization and international education. People move to other countries to gain work or study experience, improve their living standard or simply explore the country and expand their horizons. Sadly, many of those don’t recognize the importance of various culture values which are crucial for your successful stay abroad. To ensure the genuinity of this post I will only share tips I have learned on my work, study experiences through six countries.
1. Forget the stereotypes and prejudices
Although some stereotypes might turn to be real later on, experience it yourself rather than rely on it from the beginning. Don’t judge someone by their appearance, religious belief or prejudices coming from the media. Why? Because you also don’t want to be judged by someone who does not know you. Additionally, it’s never a good way to start a conversation with someone with preprogrammed judgement in its head.
2. Be polite and positive minded
To approach someone politely with a positive attitude, i.e. when asking a local for direction, it’s often the key to success. You can also test this tool in your home country and wait for the reaction. (Probably much better than approaching someone with an rude attitude and expectation to get help)
3. Learn the local language
If you plan to live in a different country, you should learn at least the basics of the spoken language. If you think that English will bring you everywhere, don’t rely on that. It’s often much harder to connect with locals without trying to learn/speak the local language. I have had these experiences in Spain, France and Russia. Although thanks to the cross-cultural experiences that many young people aim to achieve, you might probably meet someone that can understand you, but don’t take it for granted.
4. Approach locals
To be a part of the community, you should look for contact with locals, there are many ways to connect if you really want it. You can meet them at work, school, language courses, tandem groups, sport groups, public events you can even look for them in different facebook groups. Look for people that show similar interests as you. It might be easier to approach locals in bigger cities than in small villages at the countryside, but this also depends on the country / culture itself. I have had the experience that in more isolated areas, locals often have prejudices (maybe fear) against incomings.
5. Respect the culture
Respect is something that nearly everyone deserves. As an expat, visitor or traveler showing respect shows your humanity and understanding towards the local culture. If you plan to visit a famous cathedral in the town, be sure to follow the dress code, in some countries, women have to be partly covered. This is just one of many ways that shows your respect. In some countries you might face tough situations, poverty, dirt, different political system. Be aware of that and don’t complain about it.
6. Don’t give up and make the best of it
Moving to another country without knowing anyone is tough. Apart from the initial excitement you will need to find accommodation, work, friends. No one said it’s easy, particularly if you struggle with the local language. You might meet many people who want to live at your expense, that’s why you should be able to communicate and have some idea how things work out in the country. The initial excitement and curiosity might easily turn into a culture shock and later into the depression, that’s when you need to stay focused and positive minded. Never forget the reasons why you have moved to this country and what your goals are. If you make mistakes, learn from it and move on. International experiences always enriched me somehow and I bet the same applies to you as well.