Bad Expat Habits That Stop You From Integrating Into Your New Home
This is a guest post by Marcelo Baudino (find out more about Marcelo at the bottom of the post)
Whatever the reason, the fact remains: traveling abroad creates a ‘before’ and an ‘after’ in your life. Whether the experience is positive or negative largely depends on the habits we develop as expats during our adaptation process in our new country.
What are some of the bad expat habits we can see time and time again? We took a poll looking for opinions from people who have lived abroad. Here’s what they said they should have avoided in order to adapt more easily to their host country:
Compare everything to their country of origin: 38%
We’ve all done it. Why do we compare everything to home? And why is this so bad? It’s natural to use the rules of our own country as a reference since it’s what we know and understand. The problem arrives when we use these comparisons to say how much better our motherland is compared to our host country.
It’s so difficult to enjoy our new home when we’re constantly comparing it to our old one! If we don’t understand the values and behaviors we observe then it’s our own cultural context that gives them meaning, and we could possibly miss the opportunity of learning new and exciting things.
Complaining without understanding the culture: 35%
From my point of view, this is the worst habit expats can develop and regrettably one of the most common. It means judging the host culture based on our own parameters. Meaning, we evaluate the new culture based on what our old one tells us is correct or incorrect, good or bad. In this context, it’s natural that we find the new culture lacking, and feel like complaining.
How can we go about? To begin with, we can work to develop cultural consciousness and learn about our new surroundings and its people.
Staying within the ‘expat bubble’: 12%
It’s clear that understanding and adapting to a culture in another country is, to say the least, a difficult process. But it’s almost impossible when we close ourselves to a tight-knit community of expats. It’s important to leave our comfort zones and immerse ourselves in the local culture by discovering, experimenting and learning new flavors, colors, and people.
Spending all our time chatting with friends: 6%
What happens when expats invest most of their free time talking online to friends back home? A study revealed that on average, students in the U.S. spend more than 4 hours a night talking to friends through Facebook and Skype.
If the international experience doesn’t turn out well, it can erode any attempt to develop cultural sensitivity and even strengthen our stereotypes and ethnocentrism.
Some of the additional comments we received were:
- Not learning the local language well
- Ignoring the need to prepare our families for the challenge of integrating.
- Living beyond/below their accustomed lifestyle back home
- Trying to maintain the same dynamic with family and friends back home
- Feeling disillusioned or frustrated at not being able to understand the new culture
- Not contributing to social activities in their new home (cultural, sports, community service, etc.)
Have you ever fallen victim to one of these bad expat habits? What advice would you give to avoid such situations?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Marcelo Baudino is an intercultural trainer of expats and global professionals. For more information, be sure to check out his Facebook page for useful tips and information on expat living in Latin America.