If you’re are an expat living abroad, you might find yourself living in a type of rarefied bubble – where you mingle with other expats socially, your children befriend expat children at the International School and you might even shop at malls locally known as ‘expat malls’. Before you know it, you might find yourself living your ‘old life’ in your ‘new country’ and not connecting with the rich culture that surrounds you. If you find yourself isolated from your local residents and attractions, here are some tips.
How expat can start living outside the bubble
Learn the cultural differences
Every country has cultural differences that affect everything from the way you work to socialising. For example, in Spain, the bars only start pumping after 10pm, which is when many Burmese people are heading home to their beds. These cultural differences can even affect the way people socialise. In the Netherlands and the UK, there can be quite a divide between work and private life, whereas in the US, people are often quick to invite a newcomer back home for dinner.
Once you understand the cultural differences, it’s easier to start accommodating them and once you do, you are in a far better position to settle into the local rhythms of living.
Actively work at making connections
It’s natural to gravitate towards the familiar, especially if you have moved to a country with an unfamiliar language. However, you need to actively work at connecting with locals – both at work and in all other aspects of your life. Encourage your children to make friends with local children. Children are very adaptable and will quickly overcome any differences. Once your children have ‘broken the ice’, you can reach out and invite the parents over for a meal and start integrating
Learn the local language
Yes, it does takes years to master a language, but many organisations offer courses that enable you to quickly get up to speed with the basics and focus more on ‘conversational’ learning, rather than grammar rules and structure. The quicker you have some conversational phrases in your repertoire, the more confident you’ll feel when you are reaching out to local residents.
Embrace the office culture
If you’ve moved countries for work purposes, it’s important you quickly assimilate the local norms when it comes to doing business. For example, if are a US expat living in Japan, you might feel frustrated at the slow pace of doing business. In the US, most companies’ decision-making is quick and senior managers rely on middle management to ‘run with the ball’ and make decisions. While this can lead to a faster pace of business where you can make the most of opportunities, errors often occur. In Japan, decisions are made by senior management and conclusions are only reached after many meetings and lots of documentation. This minimises errors and helps bring consistency across all levels of the company. Once you understand the reasons behind the differences, it’s a lot easier to embrace them.
Breaking out of the expat bubble is a big part to feeling at home in your new country and letting go of the past, so give it a try – after all, you didn’t move countries, to just repeat your life back home!
If you’re thinking of immigrating and need advice concerning your finances in your new country, contact us today. We’re here to help you unlock your South African wealth and put you on the path to financial freedom in your new home.
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