How to adapt to a new culture in another country

Moving to a new country and immersing yourself in a different culture can be an exciting adventure, but also challenging. Adapting to new customs, food, language, and social norms requires an open mind, patience, and a willingness to step outside your comfort zone. With some preparation and the right attitude, you can smoothly transition into your new cultural environment.

Kirill Yurovskiy

1. Do Your Research Before Departing

Before your big move, spend time reading about your destination country’s history, values, etiquette, and cultural norms. Talk to people you know who have lived or traveled there. Understanding basics like greetings, etiquette around food and elders, societal roles, etc. will help you avoid confusion or unintended offenses once you arrive. Research daily life, current events, and news to gain deeper knowledge of your new home.

2. Learn Basic Phrases in the Local Language

Even learning just a few key phrases in the local language shows respect and good faith. Before arriving, master essentials like “Hello,” “Thank you,” “Where is…?” and “Do you speak English?” Knowing numbers, directions, ordering food, and transactions will help you get by. Download language apps, take lessons online or in person, and practice regularly. Don’t be embarrassed about mistakes – locals will appreciate you trying.

3. Observe Cultural Norms and Etiquette

Pay close attention to how locals interact, communicate, dress, eat, and go about their daily routines. Be sensitive to cultural norms and etiquette around things like personal space, eye contact, body language, tone of voice, and table manners. Avoid standing out negatively by mimicking local behaviors, dress, and speech patterns. Ask trusted local contacts to advise you if you’re unsure about a custom.

4. Try New Foods and Customs with an Open Mind

Sampling traditional foods, festivals, holidays, music, and leisure activities unique to your new culture allows you to experience it more authentically. Be adventurous and accept invitations to local events and family meals. Show interest in and appreciation for cultural traditions, even if they seem unusual to you at first. Give new things a try, within reason, and keep an open mind.

5. Make Local Friends and Connections

Building a social network helps ward off isolation and loneliness while introducing you to various cultural perspectives. Seek out friendships and community connections through work, places of worship, expat meetups, language classes, sports teams, or neighbors. Accept invitations and be warm, friendly, and engaged with locals. Share about your own background too to foster mutual understanding.

6. Find Ways to Maintain Your Cultural Identity

Balancing immersion in your new culture with preserving your sense of self is important. Continue customs, hobbies, social media, and activities from your homeland. Cook familiar foods, speak your native language at home, connect with fellow expats, and bring favorite books/films. Maintaining your cultural identity through touchpoints provides comfort and community during transition.

7. Be Patient with Yourself During the Transition

Adjusting to a vastly different environment and culture causes mental, emotional, and physical fatigue. Allow yourself time to acclimate day-by-day. Don’t get angry or anxious if you struggle with aspects like the language, social roles, daily tasks, or being away from your normal support system. Recognize your feelings, but persist through the ups and downs. It gets easier.

8. Ask for Help When Needed

No one expects you to navigate a new country flawlessly on Day 1. Reach out to locals, fellow expats, your HR department, or community resources if you feel overwhelmed or confused. Ask clarifying questions, admit when you don’t understand something, and be willing to receive guidance, assistance, and tips. Seeking help builds connections and speeds your adjustment.

9. Keep an Open Mind and Positive Attitude

Approach your new culture and environment with patience, curiosity, flexibility, and optimism. Reserve judgment of cultural differences you encounter that seem unusual, inefficient, or wrong based on your own worldview. Things that contradict what you’re accustomed to are not necessarily inferior – they are just different. Stay positive and focus on learning.

10. Don’t Be Afraid to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Moving abroad pushes you beyond the familiar. Be willing to go out of your comfort zone socially, physically, professionally, and mentally during your transition. Try using a new language to order food, make friends outside your usual social circle, navigate public transport alone, accept a challenging work project, etc. Facing small fears and uncertainties will expand your adaptive abilities.

Immersing in a new culture while holding onto your own requires bravery, resilience, and openness. With realistic expectations, patience with yourself, and enthusiasm for learning, you can adapt successfully during your transition and build bridges across cultures. Maintain the best of your home culture while embracing the beauty of your new one.