Cultural Integration

Adapting to expat living the right way

Relocating to a new country is not a tough decision for those who have always wanted to live abroad. But moving from expat living to assimilating into a new country, a new culture, and a new bureaucracy may be the hardest challenge.

Expat living

By Expatica

Updated 15-1-2024

Getting caught in an expat bubble can be frustrating. Looming paperwork and red tape in a foreign language can take its toll. Even something as simple as receiving test results or communications from a general practitioner can turn the worldly expat into a frustrated outsider in a new world. How do you make sure expat living isn’t one where you’re stuck in a bubble?

Immerse yourself in the local community

While living in a new place appears to be exciting and mysterious, it does have a catch. When expats tread on completely new ground, they have a habit to stick to the familiar and they often succumb to culture shock. As a result, many expatriates never transition from their expat living to foreign local. Becoming a member of your new society is probably the most difficult part of living abroad.

Most expats find comfort in discussing activities and the challenges of living abroad with only other expats. No one else understands the hesitation to check out the nearby local hotspots, the trouble with assimilating to the pace of living, and the ambivalence towards societal practices than those who are in identical situations. Aim to meet fellow expats and locals in a social setting to forge bonds with your new community.

Nevertheless, to get the most out of the expat experience, you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone; try to immerse yourself in the community. Letting go of false impressions, stereotypes, and the opinions of others means you have taken the very first important step in becoming a local. Turn your expat living into a truly life-altering encounter.

Take your time, but get out of your comfort zone

It is not as easy as it seems to adapt to living abroad. Making the transition from living as an expat to a much more local lifestyle takes time. Culture shock is part of expat living, one that hits all expats and immigrants in a unique way. As expats, we react differently to new environments. Some regress into a solitary life, shunning the unknown world, while others take a proactive approach to meeting locals, making friends, and becoming culturally aware within their new society. Moving somewhere doesn’t mean you need to completely supplant your own traditions and rituals with local ones; celebrating holidays like Ramadan or the Lunar New Year abroad will help you bridge the cultural gap at your own pace.

Embrace your new life

The first reason to move abroad is usually the desire to experience cultures, especially if you’ve never lived abroad before. But after living in a new environment, the little things that you initially regarded as charming might aggravate you. You’re going to compare everything in your new hometown to back home. In reality, you should embrace those little quirks. Everybody that decides on living abroad should have some time to switch to the new setting.

Until you settle into a new comfort zone, attempt to be respectful, patient, and humble. With that said, you are a visitor residing in a new country – at least until you have made the transition from expat to local.