Avoiding cultural blunders when moving overseas
December 12, 2018
When moving abroad, fluency in the local culture is important. Fear of cultural missteps can understandably make people feel apprehensive. This handy guide can help prepare you for any move overseas and avoid committing any faux pas.
Building your intercultural skills
Research your new home before you move. Preparation means you’ll avoid the more common mistakes. Remember that these cultural nuances aren’t just national either, often they’re regional (the difference between Northern and Southern Brazilian culture is quite significant, as one example).
First impressions are crucial, the way you address someone or shake their hand differs greatly culture to culture. In Japan for instance, at a formal occasion you’ll exchange a bow. While it is not expected for a foreigner to be accustomed to Japanese etiquette it can be a polite way of showing respect and setting a good impression. While this can be overwhelming, the internet can provide a lot of information. Wikitravel is a great site filled with plenty of useful advice.
Social media can also help. Allowing you to discover social groups for those moving abroad or getting involved in local activities when you arrive. Meeting new people and offering an easy atmosphere to prepare.
There are other tools available, from established travel literature like the Lonely Planet guides, to taking online or in-person courses.
There are everyday habits, such as greeting people in a business environment, that should be considered when moving overseas. In Malaysia after shaking hands it is traditional to place your hand over your chest and nod slightly. The gesture symbolizes good will and an open heart. Note that men should wait for women to extend their hand first, otherwise raise your hand to your chest and nod slightly. Don’t worry too much though, it’s impossible to know everything. If you experience any uncertainty, ask others.
Observing the traditions and customs of others can help to broaden your understanding. Gestures vary greatly and it’s probably best to avoid these until you know what is acceptable. For example, while a thumbs up may signify satisfaction in the west, in some Middle Eastern countries this can be considered highly offensive.
Learn from the diverse peoples you interact with every day. When you stop and take time to understand them it shows a great deal of respect, don’t be shy to ask questions too.
Navigating your way through foreign cultures can be complex, especially when you don’t understand local rules and etiquette. Proactively asking questions shows appreciation that will help in forming relationships.
Asking questions also highlights your unfamiliarity, so if any mishaps do happen they are easily forgiven or overlooked. The best way to curb any uncertainty is to ask directly, there is no harm in wanting to feel sure of your actions.
Planning to move overseas and need some advice about cultural differences, help with moving your things or immigration procedure? Crown Relocations can assist you, get in contact with us today.