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20 Tips to Feel At Home In a New Culture


Heather Markel is a Culture Transition Specialist. She works with people relocating for work on the unique needs that arise when transitioning to a completely new culture. Heather speaks six languages, and has lived and traveled all over the world. We asked her to share her ideas on the best way to become comfortable in a new culture. Heather writes...

If you don’t invest some time into creating the ideal life for yourself transitions to foreign cultures can lead to feelings of frustration, depression and loneliness. This can be true both of moves abroad or relocations within the same country. We often give priority to the packing, shutting off the phone or setting up a new bank account, yet we forget to focus on our emotional and personal needs. These needs end up having a much bigger impact on our well-being than the short-lived bureaucratic frustrations.

Here are 20 tips I’ve gathered to help you transition successfully to a new place:

Your expectations and judgments...

One of the leading causes of disappointment when relocating is failed expectations and perceptions based on other people’s experiences. We all have them. “Paris is the most beautiful city on earth!” “My new boss will love my work!” “Everyone in that city is snobby and rude!” Take the time to get in touch with all your thoughts, judgments and expectations about your relocation. Then you can figure out the underlying needs being expressed, such as the desire to be happy at work and make caring friends. Once you know this, you can create a plan to take care of those needs.


Make new friends...

This sounds obvious, but it’s not always an easy task. Cultural and value differences may make getting close to people an unusually laborious experience. The best thing you can do is let go of trying to find friends who are exact duplicates of the ones you have back home. It’s important to develop friendships with locals that will be around for a long time so that you don’t scramble to re-create friendships every few months.


Start networking...

Try to do some of the social work before you leave. Networking, and seeking contacts, at a minimum, is a process that should be started before you move. By reaching out to new contacts before you relocate, you will have already begun the process of forming a new network that will make the transition process easier for you.


Avoid too much time on the Internet and phone...

Facebook, Twitter and Skype are a few examples of outlets that are a blessing and a curse. It’s easy to find yourself using any of these technologies at late hours to stay in touch with your wonderful friends and family back home. Beware. If you spend too much time with them, you won’t allow yourself to live in the present. This can lead to isolation and loneliness. By spending time with people down the street, you’ll create a wonderful local group of friends with whom you can share the good and bad times.

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