One of the most intimidating things about beginning a new life abroad is being confronted by a sudden change in scenery. In fact, people often fail to anticipate that the culture they’re moving into is as different as it is.
Culture shock can ruin your enjoyment of a new place, but there are things you can do to make yourself feel at home more speedily.
Probably the single best way to understand and love a new culture is to fully embrace its differences and completely immerse yourself in your new world.
Here are our top tips for getting over culture shock and making a new country feel like home.
Researching a place before you move there doesn’t have to be tedious, and even basic preparation can make your early weeks in a new culture way less stressful and much more fun.
There’s lots of sources of information you could make use of, including guidebooks, blogs and online forums. Reading books and watching movies set or filmed in a region can also help bring the location to life, especially if you make it a goal to seek out some of the areas captured by word or film once you’ve moved.
Developing some basic language skills is also highly recommended. Don’t worry if you’re not a natural linguist – you don’t have to learn a lot. Knowing even a few of the most basic terms and phrases is far better than knowing none. Essentials include asking for directions, friendly greetings like hello, goodbye and thank you, and restaurant basics.
The more phrases and words you can get to grips with the better. Your efforts will be appreciated by locals and can make your first few weeks in a new place less daunting.
For some people there may be few things more exciting than indulging in the celebrated foods of a culture that’s new to you.
But after a tiring, emotionally draining move, it may be tempting to overlook regional delicacies in favour of tried-and-tested comfort foods. But branching out and eating like your new country men and women can help you connect with your new home and lead to the discovery of places and people.
A great way to learn about a culture through food involves checking out the street food and markets on offer rather than going to restaurants that prove popular with tourists.
Street food is usually cooked right in front of you, making for an often exciting culinary experience.
Another good way to have fun with a nation’s food culture is to take cooking lessons. Learning how to cook national favourites with both locals and other newcomers to the country can help you make friends and pick up new skills.
Continually throwing yourself into unfamiliar surroundings can be quite draining, and it’s easy to focus instead on simply becoming well acquainted with your immediate environment. But if you become too comfortable in an area, you may find that you never really leave it. Setting off on impromptu adventures every now and again can help you discover more about the country you’ve moved to and keep your emigration exciting.
Start off by ticking off the country’s ‘must visits’ and ‘must try’s before venturing off the beaten track and uncovering hidden gems and local favourites.
You can even be an explorer while going about your normal day-to-day life. Take a different route to your destination, head down a side road and get lost for a little while. Getting lost occasionally can also help you develop your language skills! ultimately stay safe of course.
This is another thing to get in the habit of sooner rather than later, but anyone who’s looking to try great local food or get lost while exploring near around their new home will inevitably end up meeting and starting to get to know their new neighbours while they’re at it.
There’s more to socialising in a new country than inviting friends from home or getting involved with expat communities. Both are great of course, and it helps to indulge in some comfortable familiarity from time to time.
However, one of the best ways to get to know your new home and become familiar with a new culture and language is to simply get to know locals.
This is where those basic language skills will come in most handy. Simple things like saying ‘good morning’ in the native language as well as friendly smiles can make it easier not to feel like a fish out of water.
The more locals you speak to with your basic language skills, the more comfortable you’ll become with speaking too and your vocabulary will naturally improve.
It’s widely thought that this is actually the best way of all to learn a new language, so added bonus there. Taking language lessons or even helping locals with English is another way to make getting to know people both mutually helpful and fun.
Be sure to accept help and kindness when it’s offered. We often get stuck in new situations without realising we need help so if help is offered, accepting it can be a pleasant way of testing your language skills and making new acquaintances or friends.
While you may not be staying with a local family like a tourist might, it’s still important to establish yourself as friendly among your new neighbours. Offer and ask for help and just generally make yourself part of the community, rather than waiting for the community to come to you.
Speaking of communities, most locations will have town events, celebrations or festivals to get involved in and these can be perfect opportunities to socialise while soaking in some culture.
There’s a trend here; all the best ways to quickly get to know your new home while having fun involve avoiding rigid schedules, trying new things and communicating with new people.
Feeling comfortable in a new home is a two-way street and while it may be hard to immediately assert yourself in a brand new community, there’s no better time to get into new habits than after a big change like moving abroad.
The people you meet are much more likely to be friendly than they are to keep you at arm’s length. Learning the language of your new home is a must and the sooner you start learning the better and more fulfilling it’ll be for you.
Ultimately, the most efficient ways to learn more about a new home abroad are already the most fun, so what are you waiting for?
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