My first article for the Expat Hub was focused on my professional expat experience and the opportunities and challenges that I came across. In that article, I touched on a very important aspect of the expat experience; the social adaptation process in a new cultural social environment.
This time around, I wanted to provide easily to implement tools that I have done myself, that I believe will work, in pretty much any country that you may be destined to live in.
1. Prior to leaving on your expat experience, make a point to schedule within the first week of your arrival an after work social gathering with your colleagues.
Just like going through the induction phase in your new place of work, just like becoming familiar with your new office environment, being a professional expat, you will be consumed with work from the moment you land. However, if past experiences talks for themselves, you must forge a life outside of the demands of the job. You must find a way to have fun and relate to your colleagues on a personal level. You will thank yourself in the weeks to come for having done this.
2. Knock on your neighbour’s door and introduce yourself!
Whether you are arriving alone, with a spouse, with a family, a dog or a cat in tow, it is always important to create a relationship with the people that live next to you.
Too often, with the Internet, we become consumed with wanting to be online, being connected, and chatting with our friends and our family that we have left behind. Yes, it is important to keep contact with them and let them know that everything is alright with you, however it is just as important create new relationships with those around you. Your neighbours can be one of your best bets for this.
I suggest bringing something over (you can ask your colleagues for advice on what to bring) and make the introduction using the local word to say hello. Most of the time, locals are so interested and curious about speaking and meeting foreign people. This will also be a perfect occasion to share your different cultures and learn more about your host country.
3. If language is a barrier, make use of expat groups to meet new people.
Website such as InterNations are a great way to not only connect on a professional level with expats living in your current city but it is also a great way to attend social gathering events. Most InterNations city groups have a host / ambassadors in each major city. These people are great resources and normally have a good grasp of the activities and events happening across the city are quite knowledgeable of the local eateries hot spots!
Another great website is Facebook. You would be amazed at the number of social groups that are created for expats living in various cities. Simply search, for instance, Canadians in Melbourne, and many groups will appear. Click on one you would like to join and wait to be automatically invited to their scheduled activities. Normally these groups organise family outings, social gathering, etc. and so it is a great way to meet fellow expats and also locals.
4. Use libraries as a meeting points.
Although this tip might seem a little strange, having lived in smaller towns in Australia, I must say how I was amazed by how easy it was to connect with locals simply by walking over to my local library.
If this were the case for you, I would highly recommend visiting your library and introducing yourself to the librarian. Most of the time you are able to apply for a library card. Call me old school but in places where the internet is too expensive or the internet does not have a great connection, going to the library is a social activity in itself. You would be surprised by the number of foreigners present.
Most libraries have conversing areas and so introduce yourself to someone and see where it can lead you. Life is full of surprises and deep down people are genuinely interested in what you have to say and are willing to help you.
Those are my 4 tips on how you can smooth over your cultural social adaptation expatriation phase.
Do you have tips that you have received or that you have used and would like to add them to the list? If so, I would love to hear from you.
Continue to travel, to explore, and to grow.