A few years back, I was offered an academic scholarship in the UK. I was overjoyed to go abroad and study at a prestigious university. I could hardly contain my excitement from the moment I received the letter to stepping out on the tarmac at Manchester.
Like most teenagers, I only envision the best possible scenarios. In my head, I was daydreaming about visiting King Cross Station to view Harry Potter’s trolly sticking out of the pillar, gazing at the tall turrets at West Minister Abby, and feeding the pigeons at Trafalgar.
What I did not envision was the cultural shock I would experience. Would you believe it took me the better part of the year to understand the hundreds of accents in London! I was thrown by the difference in the slang, the cultural nuisances, hand gestures, and whatnot.
Just like me, most people who move abroad go through an adjustment period to adjust to cultural shock. Once they get used to it, the effects are minimized.
Understanding the new culture and taking its bearings balances adaptation to a new environment and preserving its original identity. Integration in the host country is one of the main challenges of expatriation.
An expatriate experiences different phases while adjusting to the new country. The phases include:
- Honeymoon phase
- Negotiation phase
- Adjustment phase
- Reverse cultural shock
- Countering cultural shock
Most people return to their homes because they can’t adjust to the new culture. That’s why we are going to provide you with valuable tips to counter the challenges caused by the change of culture.
Learn the Language
The language barrier is the first thing you face when you move to a new country. There is no doubt that English is understood in almost all nations, but it is not suitable in the longer run.
Learning the host country’s language is an excellent way of integration, and it can start before the expatriation. It will also help you communicate and reduce the effects of cultural shock and misunderstanding. For example, if an expatriate can speak Filipino after moving to Philippines, it will help them sustain there.
Be Open-Minded and Patient
There will be cultural differences once you move to a different country. Accept the differences and be open-minded. The difference may be frightening at first, but you will take them for granted once you get used to them.
It will take some time before you adapt to the new culture. Don’t be hard on yourself. Allow yourself to make some mistakes and learn from them as you go along.
Adopt the Local Lifestyle
When you move to a foreign country, you have to live and experience the culture. Be curious and experience everything that you have not done before. Taste the local dishes, attend cultural events, and get used to the various codes of politeness.
Being an expatriate, always keep the element of surprise in your mind. The goal is not to become someone else and adopt all the local habits, but to experience the country’s culture in which you live.
Maintain Links with Your Home Country
When a person who experiences different cultures changes how he looks at his own country, that’s natural. However, it does not mean that an ex-pat forgets where he belongs and what culture he practices. The main task is managing to build a kind of double culture.
So, keep in touch with your friends and family that you have temporarily left behind. Call them once a week, chat with them via social media, exchange emails, and return home from time to time. These things also help mitigate the impact of the return from abroad.
Build Social Life
If you are an extrovert, you can quickly settle in a foreign country. You can learn many things from the locals and other expatriates. Make friends with the expatriates already living there; this will save you from isolation and provide you with practical advice.
Furthermore, it will also help you fulfill your basic needs like opening a bank account, registered doctors, health system, selection of insurance, renewal of work permit, etc.
Build your links with the locals also. It will help you know about the country and strengthen your feeling of belonging. Take part in the club activities, school trips, business environments, etc. Locate the expatriate networks and associations.
Take Time Off
Naturally, discomfort comes with the change. It is taking a break from all that is unfamiliar with help. When you feel exhausted, do what makes you happy, like watching a movie, reading books, etc. It will energize you and help you tackle the challenges.
Expatriation is a challenging experience that can ultimately be rewarding personally and professionally.
Expatriation has its own set of challenges, but an expatriate should never forget his objective of expatriation. It will help in tackling the hardships.
An ex-pat can tackle all the phases after shifting to a new country by staying motivated and dedicated. Give time to things, let them sink in, and then everything falls right into place. Adjustment is a slow process, so don’t try and rush things.
Don’t overburden yourself and try to take things one at a time. Learn the language of the host country to communicate with the locals. Be open-minded and have patience. Accept the differences as they are natural. Try and adopt the local lifestyle; it will help you adjust to the local culture.
Moreover, maintain regular contact with your friends and family to remain intact with your culture. Don’t isolate yourself; talk to both local and other expatriates. It will help you a lot. Take out time for yourself so you can figure out things and take part in extracurricular activities, so you become involved in the local community.
The tips mentioned above will help you a lot in your adjustment phase.
Myrah Abrar is a computer science graduate with a passion for web development and digital marketing. She writes blog articles for Asia Relocation, moving to philippines