How Do You Adapt To a New Culture: 6 Tips for New Expats

Moving to a new country is definitely an exciting step to take but it can be also very challenging when it comes to adapting to a new environment. Many people experience culture shock when they move abroad. Now Health International explains cultural shock as a feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar way of life. Moving abroad means moving out of your comfort zone and if the new environment is very different from what you were used to in your home country then you will have to deal with culture shock. It happened to me this year when I moved to Germany. I relocated from Chicago to a small German town where not a lot of people speak English and on top of that they here are very reserved when it comes to meeting new people. I was still used to an American way of life and their culture which is the complete opposite and that’s why the cultural shock hit me even harder. Adapting to a new environment can be hard, especially for new expats and that’s why I’ve decided to write down 6 tips that will help you adjust to your new home. Hopefully, when you finish reading this article, you will be able to look at things from a different perspective and realize that culture shock is just a temporary feeling that will eventually go away. Here is the list of 6 tips that will help you adapt to a new culture:

  • Get familiar with the culture beforehand

  • Be open minded

  • Learn the language

  • Socialize

  • Explore local culture, be curious

  • Stay patient and positive

1. Get familiar with the culture beforehand

The first thing you can do, even before moving abroad is to get familiar with the country that you’re relocating to and their culture. That will definitely help ease the cultural shock in the first place. Get yourself informed about the language, food, landscape, weather… Check experiences of other expats with that country and connect with them. If it’s possible, organize a little trip there before your move. You will get a feeling of how things are running in your new country. The more you know about the culture, the more prepared you will be for your life abroad and the easier is going to be for you to face the new environment.

2. Be open-minded

Moving to a new country is like a big roller coaster. You have to be aware of the fact that you will experience really amazing things, for example exploring all these new places, meeting new people, advancing your career, and so on. However, as an expat you will also have to deal with things like homesickness, loneliness, in some cases language barrier, and sometimes feeling unaccepted by the new community. That’s why it is very important to be open-minded when you move abroad. In the beginning, you will feel uncomfortable just because the unfamiliar might be frightening at first. You have to remember that this will pass as you get more involved in your community and the culture. You will have to eventually accept the cultural differences because only then will you feel better and look at things from a different perspective. Try to understand the context that culture has developed in and you will see things in a new light. It’s better to learn first about something before you judge it.

3. Learn the language

I moved to Germany with only basic German knowledge. I was probably at level A1 when I relocated here. If you live in a small city here in Germany, not a lot of people know English and you have to try really hard to communicate with them (it means I’m waving with my hands a lot and using Google Translate). The first month after I moved here I realized I will have to start learning German again (already learned in high school but forgot everything) and take things more seriously. I booked a few lessons with Lingoda and started using Babble app. After 5 months I’m a little bit more confident but I still have a looooong way to go. That’s why based on my experiences I highly recommend you start learning the new language as soon as possible. You will thank me later. Start by watching movies in that language, watch Youtube videos, listen to podcasts, and apply for some online or in-person courses. It is definitely one of the ways you can adapt to a new culture.

4. Socialize

I’ve already pointed this out many times in my previous blog posts but networking is one of the best things you can do for yourself while living in another country. You will meet people who will stay in your life for a long time and make your new home away from home even more fun. There are a lot of places where you can meet new people today. If the locals are more reserved when it comes to networking, then you can start by connecting with other expats in your town. Don’t be afraid to seek support from others. People who are on the same expat journey as you will understand you and talking to them will get you some more insights into the new culture you are living in.

5. Explore local culture, be curious

One of the best ways to adapt to a new culture and deal with culture shock is to explore your environment and be curious. Ask questions about the culture and show that you genuinely want to learn about it. Travel to different places, try local food, and try to connect with the locals. Learn about their traditions and their history. It will be easier to understand their way of living if you know the story behind it. Ever since we moved to Germany, we’ve been trying to explore new places here and we do these small trips almost every weekend. We already tried a lot of the famous German foods and we are definitely fans of it. After all these trips that we made, I feel more connected to this environment, and even though it was hard at the beginning, I feel much better now.

6. Stay patient and positive

Another tip that will help you adapt to a new culture is to stay patient and positive because this whole process takes time. Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them along the way.

Remember, the cultural shock is a temporary feeling and won’t stay there forever. Take this as a challenge and go step by step. Get yourself informed about the country that you’re moving to, stay open-minded, network, explore the local culture and I promise, it will be easier to adapt to a new environment.

Let me know in the comments down below if you ever experienced a culture shock and how did you deal with it. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.

Lara P.