Expat Culture and Customs

Adapting to a different culture and people’s attitudes is part of the challenge of moving abroad. Read through our tips to get an idea of the importance of cultural awareness and to find out about resources that support expat communities.

expat culture

Culture shock is something that all expatriates may experience.

So you will be living in another country, and you have done some research about the new place. You may already know your Visa requirements; you may have made some property arrangements, or you may even know what steps to take to open a bank account. Are you forgetting something?

Think about when you start meeting people in your new location: Will it be appropriate to give them a handshake? Or will they expect a kiss on the cheek?  …Or a kiss on both cheeks?

Culture shock is something that all expatriates experience once they move abroad. Once you start spending time in a new country, you may find many aspects of your culture differ from the new one, and you will probably have to adjust some of your expectations and behaviours in order to blend in. 

Many expats experience emotional shifts as they find themselves struggling to assimilate new behavioural patterns. Cultural transition can be a struggle, but here are a few tips to help you adjust easier to your new host culture:

  1. Learn. Culture shock may come from any situation and it is almost impossible to predict, but learning as much as you can about the new culture can help you to be prepared. Find out about your new environment both before your arrival and while you’re there; the more you learn, the better.
  2. Speak. If you are moving to a country where a different language is spoken, try to learn at least the basics. You can start by trying to pick up a few simple phrases, or consider taking up a language course. Learning a different language can be exciting and very useful to help you communicate throughout the new country.
  3. Keep in touch. Staying in contact with your friends and family at home can give you some comfort while away.
  4. Stay healthy.  Remember to stay active and eat well. Staying healthy physically as well as mentally will help you to deal better with culture shock.
  5. Keep an open mind. Attitudes that are popular in your country may not be well received in your new location. It’s not a case of right and wrong. A respectful and open-minded approach will help you to understand the cultural differences and embrace the change. Interact with the new culture and make new local friends!

Expat communities and support

Remember – you are not alone. We live in a globalized world, and expats communities are growing worldwide at a very fast pace. Wherever you go, you will most certainly find other expats and international groups that support foreign communities. Keep an eye out for online blogs, social media groups and other events; you will be likely to find something of your interest.

Integrating with expat groups might help you to gain some cultural knowledge of your new place, as well as it might provide an enriching environment to interchange views and ideas with people from other places.

As you get used to another place, the experience may go from exciting to overwhelming, but just bear in mind that the struggles you face initially will diminish over time. Moving abroad is one of the most enriching experiences anyone can have, so, embrace the change and enjoy it!

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This article serves only as a reference and is intended for informational purposes only. Nothing in this article constitutes legal, tax, financial planning, health or medical advice including diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Any reference to products or services offered by Cigna are available except where prohibited by applicable law and subject to terms and conditions.

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