Successfully adapting to a new life in a foreign country is a task that should not be underestimated. When you move abroad as an expat, you face many challenges: You first have to get used to life far away from home, come to terms with a foreign culture, master the language changeover and find the right balance that allows you to adapt to the new environment and yet not deny your origins…Integration can sometimes be easier and sometimes more difficult, depending on the country you move to. We give you 5 tips to help you feel comfortable in your new home.
Learn the language
Whether you already speak the local language or barely know a word, either way you will stumble across language barriers. Even if knowing English will help you in many countries, learning the local language is essential in the long run. This is not just about the practical aspects: if you speak the local language fluently, integration will naturally be much easier. Expats who make an effort to speak the local language, even though it is not their mother tongue, are usually better recognised and welcomed by the locals. However, if you have no previous knowledge of the local language, you should definitely attend local language courses. Furthermore, there are many ways to actively work on your language skills: watch local TV channels, read the newspaper, take part in various social activities… the list is endless.
Discover the country, your new home town, the neighbourhood.
Arrive in time so that you have a few days before you start your job. Then you can explore the new city at your leisure. In the first few days after your arrival, it is important to find your way around your new surroundings as quickly as possible so that you quickly feel at home. Get a first impression of the surroundings of the new flat: look for the nearest supermarkets, banks, post offices, train stations, bus stops, dry cleaners, sports facilities….
But also take time for one or two excursions and look at the tourist highlights.
Be aware: the beautiful places that others look at on holiday are part of your new home!
Live like a local
To get to know a culture, you have to become a part of it and leave aside any prejudices you may have about it. Curiosity is your best ally in this. Avoid surrounding yourself only with your expat friends. Attend local events, try the local cuisine, get used to new rules of behaviour… In other words, embrace surprises. It’s not about becoming a completely different person and adopting all the customs and idiosyncrasies of the new culture, but about engaging with your host country and having a positive attitude.
Build social contacts
Spending time with other expats who already know the country well can simplify a lot of things and get you good tips: how to open a bank account, which doctors to recommend, good advice saves time and nerves. When the initial excitement has finally died down, you should make an effort to get in touch with the locals. This will help you understand the country better and no longer feel like an outsider.
Stay in touch with your old “home”
Even though you are now far away from home, contact with family and friends in the old home country and also with your employer should continue. Family and friends can be a great support for you in case there are problems or you do get homesick.
Are you planning to move abroad or do you wish to seek support whilst integrating in the Maltese or foreign culture? Reach out for professional support on the matter.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Charlie Chen is studying psychology and is currently doing an internship with Willingness. His research interests are existential approaches and affirmative therapy.