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How to get to know your host country

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Published 2 months ago

To ensure a successful expatriation and a pleasant expat life, it is very important to become aware of the cultural differences between your host country and your previous location. First and foremost, understand the context of the new culture you are about to throw yourself in. What is the short history of the region? What is the country’s climate? What about the economic, social, and geopolitical environment? The answers to these questions will help you wrap your mind around the people’s lifestyle, local cuisine, work ethics, and family life. Expat.com gives you some tips on how to collect sufficient and accurate information about your host country to interact successfully with the local population and avoid misunderstandings or even legal troubles.

Browse the internet

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You probably didn’t expect us to tell you that the internet offers numerous services such as a library with a humongous catalogue, a message board, a publishing platform, and a communication tool. You can take advantage of all these and create an up-to-date database with accessible information about your host country. Signing up with websites such as Expat.com not only gives you in-depth knowledge which enables you to make your own judgements about a place and a culture, but also gives you access to a variety of angles and views via the forum and blogs sections. The power of the internet lies in its diversity, which helps you see beyond a few misleading stereotypes formed around a nation.

Study the arts

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Data and raw information can be overwhelming and may make you feel disconnected from the subject. This is why we insist on the importance of art, which engages and connects us not only to our inner self but also to others. Whether it is a painting, a piece of music, a play, or a novel, art brings people together regardless of their different ways to see the world. Following the arts’ scene in your host country gives you access to the mindset and lifestyle of the people, helps you understand social and political behaviours, and makes you more tolerant and more sensitive to differences. To get to know a culture, learn to understand it first; and to understand it, observe it.

Learn the language

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There are some very good reasons to learn the language of your host country: you will have more and quality interactions with the local population; you will have a rapport with colleagues and neighbours, and much less stress due to miscommunication during your time there. Speaking (not necessarily fluently) the language of your new country boosts your self-confidence and makes you more approachable to the local population, who are probably also curious about your whereabouts. Through friendships with local people, you inevitably get an insight into the culture of your host country, as well as the politics and current affairs. Even if English is widely spoken, adding into your vocabulary local words and phrases helps you see the country from a different point of view and shows your respect towards your hosts, who will be more than happy to share inside jokes and teach you some colloquialisms.

Get involved

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Another way to familiarise yourself with your new country is through charity work and volunteering. Every community has its weaknesses and needs — establish those in your new neighbourhood, broader region, or the new country, and help individuals, the environment, or animals by contributing your skills and time to a non-governmental organisation. Volunteering does not only make you a more responsible resident in your host country, but it does also help you get to the bottom of the society’s problems. While many fellow expats waste their energy to complain about the inadequacies of their host country, you are doing something about them and bonding with the local people in a humane way.

How did you get to know your new country? Did you start the process of collecting information before your arrival? Please share your answers in the comments section.