As an expat, you likely have learned a thing or two about life in another country. Here are some lessons and tricks learned while living abroad in China or Brazil, as well as how to blend in with the locals and thrive.
First off, an expatriate, or expat for short, is someone who temporarily or permanently moves from their home country to another one. This is desirable for many reasons. Perhaps they want a lower cost of living elsewhere so they can live more simply. Or maybe they have to move due to a work relocation for themselves or their spouse. Others choose to live freely and become world travelers. And still others are students studying abroad who decide to stay in that country after graduation.
Expats certainly have a lot of exciting stories to tell, as well as some challenging and scary ones. What have they learned? Here is some insight into cultural lessons.
- The world is much bigger than you are used to: You may have grown up in a particular area in the States all your life. That may have been all you knew before moving to another country. This is when you realize how small and insular your world is and how much wonderment and grandiosity is truly out there. By getting the privilege of living with mandarin Chinese or Brazilian Portuguese people, you inadvertently trigger your inner-adventurer and find a deeper understanding of culture and what role it plays in your life.
- Be patient: Not everything goes at 100 mph like in America. Cars travel slower, meetings take longer to get to the point, mergers and deals seem to take forever, business dinners are not over in 45 minutes, and even the grocery lines move more slowly. Realize that other cultures don’t move as fast as we do. Take it in stride and have patience for the way things are done in your new country. Yes, you will be aggravated and frustrated at first but soon you will settle into the new routine and wonder how you ever survived in the fast lane.
- Culture shock is a very real thing: This is not just a saying. It is real, and it can be painful. You can even experience physical symptoms such as aches and pains, in addition to homesickness and loneliness. You may regret your decision to move. You may get depressed. But stick it out. Thanks to countless online resources, you can prepare yourself mentally for what to expect. Push yourself to get out there and integrate into society. Go to the corner coffee shop. Talk to the locals. Visit museums. You will only find comfort in what you know. So if you take the time to “own” your new city or even just your own little neighborhood, soon it won’t seem so scary. Don’t go off the grid, though. Keep in touch with folks back home and schedule visits frequently.