Moving abroad: Why understanding the local culture is important
June 4, 2018
Moving overseas is more than just relocating from A to B, it also involves settling in and adjusting to a new culture. What should you know then about the new culture?
You have a removal company to ship your belongings, your visa is in process and you have already a home at your destination. It seems your international move is going well. However, are you familiar with your destination’s culture? Do you know the non-verbal clues to communicate with locals? Have you an idea about the most important traditions?
Cultural awareness is also important and without taking the time to learn the culture, expats run the risk of having difficulties in adapting to their new environment. If you are moving abroad soon, here some important aspects to learn about your destination’s local culture, which will definitely help you in your settling in:
Learning how to communicate with the locals
Do you speak the local language of your future “new home”? If not, it’s time to start, even if it’s just the essential vocabulary. It will not only help you to settle in more quickly and socialize with the locals – depending, of course, of the language level that you have-, but also to understand the local culture better. A language is not only a communication tool but also a way of conveying many cultural messages.
Talking about communication, don’t forget also to learn the non-verbal communication practices of your destination. Observe the body language: Do locals use lots of eye contact or tend to look away? Are they really animated when they speak or completely formal?
Discovering the local traditions
You might have many pre-conceived ideas and stereotypes about your new country – which it isn’t surprising in the media-mediated world we live in. Stereotypes tend to simply reality, that’s why we encourage you to be open-minded and willing to understand other points of view.
It also helps to research the country’s heritage and attend festivals, religious events and key public holidays. Try to join some local groups, clubs, and societies where you can participate in local activities.
In other parts of the world, the dress-code and what’s deemed as the ‘norm’ can differ quite dramatically. Aim to be respectful of the differences and especially when participating in social activities or work. In many cultures, there are traditional ways of dressing for festivals, e.g. carnival and other cultural events. Wearing traditional dress can be a fun opportunity for expats to cross cultural barriers and become comfortable in their new home.
Trying the local culinary delicatessen
National cuisine is generally tied closely to a country’s identity and for expats, this can be a great learning curve. Just experiment with trying new foods in social settings, eat out at restaurants, birthday dinners, and ceremonies. Not only will you learn about the flavors and tastes, you will also be able to observe the serving style and table etiquette. As soon as you feel confident enough, you may want to hold a dinner party and serve local food. Being a host is always a good opportunity to put everything you’ve learned in to practice.
Discovere more cultural insights in our destination guides!