Moving abroad can be one of the most exciting and exhilarating things you do in your life. Taking the plunge and setting up a whole new life for yourself can be very personally rewarding. However, removing yourself from all you are used to can also be very challenging. Adapting to a different society, environment and a whole new way of living can feel impossible at times. It’s easy to get lost in a new and alien place. Suffering from culture shock is a common thing for people who find themselves immersed in a completely new culture and are attempting to integrate into a new society. Other people will not understand your culture and may question you out of curiousity, which can make some people feel uncomfortable. It is easy to become irritated and frustrated when things around you are so different that you find them hard to understand. It is natural to question other peoples way of living, especially when you are so adjusted to the way you have grown up in your own society. Although things may be difficult, it is important to adjust to these differences and find a place where you can be happy. Remember that your culture is within you and you bring it with you everywhere you go.
Here are a few tips to help you on your way.
Learn about the culture prior to the move
It is very important to make yourself aware of what kind of culture you are going to be involved in. To avoid disappointment or unfulfillment, be as aware as possible of the country you are moving to and what kind of culture you will be exposed to before departure. Educate yourself about the countries history and background. Learn about the religious and political beliefs and the social customs. Every country, culture and race are different. Make sure you are aware of the cultures expected and acceptable behaviours. Familiarize yourself with their ‘unspoken rules’, like how to show your thanks, what name to call someone by and where to cross the road. These simple things can be drastically different in other countries, and it can be very offensive to their culture if you do not obey the rules. Some countries are more strict than others, but make sure you are prepared. The internet provides endless information on these subjects, and forums are very helpful as you are free to ask questions and are sure to get some very helpful and educated answers. You can never know too much!
Be open minded
Being closed minded and negative towards a new culture will get you nowhere. If you want to be comfortable and happy, you are the one who has to make it that way. You can read up and prepare as much as possible, but when you arrive to your new destination it is important to fully experience the culture. Explore food markets and clothes stores, go to the local cinemas and shows, check out the bars and clubs, view the scenery, visit the historical and cultural locations, taste the cuisine. Find out what you like about your new home, and try your best to ignore any negatives you find. Another important point is to not be shy. Talk to everyone you meet. Ask them about their story and tell them your own. Friendly people will show you around your new city, give you advice on the best places to go for your interests and point you in the right direction. Be open to everything and everyone around you, take it all in and focus on the positives. This way you will find out more about your new culture, new friends and the new you!
Get active online
The internet is an amazingly resourceful place for meeting new people, finding new places to go and groups to get involved in. With a click of a finger you can create a group for people with interests similar to your own. You can organize a meeting place or an event which will bring people from your own culture together. This will bring you in contact with people who may have taken the same path as you, and will help you share your feelings and emotions with them. Connecting with people will make you feel like you are not alone, and will help with the feeling of being overwhelmed. It will also make it easier to make great friends and be a lot more active when you move to a new country. Do not underestimate the internet, it can change your experience abroad completely.
Don’t forget your roots
While adjusting to your new home in a different country, it is normal to feel homesick. But lucky for you, there are some simple remedies for this feeling. Remember that you are bringing your culture with you. Get creative! Why not decorate your room with pictures and other symbolic objects of your home country. It will give you a nice reminder of where you came from and will give you a secluded and private place to have to yourself. This can be your place of comfort that will always remind you of your own culture, your family, friends and your former life. When cooking for yourself or even a new group of friends, make a dish that comes from your home country. This will give you a familiar taste of home and help the new people around you understand your culture more. There is nothing like the comfort foods from home to make you feel humble and happy.
Stay in touch
With technology today, there is no reason to lose touch with the people from home. Although it is always nice to receive a postcard from someone, it can be far more easy and personal to keep in touch online. Using social media, email and skype means you can speak and even see your family and friends on a daily basis for as long as you want, without any cost. Skype is a free and easy way to keep in close contact with home, and photos from home can be emailed within seconds. Knowing what is going on at home and seeing familiar faces and places will help you feel like you are still connected with your culture while experiencing a whole new world.
Lastly, remember you’re not alone! Millions of people move their entire lives to new countries and suffer from culture shock and miss their home. You are sure to meet some people along the way that are having the same experiences as you. Simply stay positive, absorb everything and enjoy. If you follow these guidelines, you will have no regrets.