How to Adapt in Foreign Cultures

Published Originally: January 21st, 2020
by Oksanna Shulgach, ATP Student Ambassador
Studying at: 
University of Roehampton

Finding What’s Important

Through the past few years of traveling, every time I’ve entered a new country It’s been met with delicious smells, confusing vocabulary, and beautiful new sights. Every person is different when it comes to what they find interesting or important while traveling, to some it may be museums that are interesting or to others it may be local coffee shops or even finding beautiful hidden spots in nature. Ultimately, I think that only by traveling will you be able to learn what really is important to you in these new places you travel to or move to.

Fully Immerse Yourself

Once you discover what you enjoy the most, then that becomes your strength in adapting to new cultures. There are a variety of ways to immerse yourself but it all depends on personal preference. In an article by Planet Expat, having an open mind, exploring, or even learning that cultures lingo or in some cases new language are just a few of the ways to immerse yourself (Planet Expat, 2016).  Personally, I’ve learned that either by doing research or stumbling upon them, finding local spots often hidden to the usual tourist eye is a way I’ve found to feel immersed. Talking to locals is also a great way to get insider information and especially to find some of these local spots. Though also these conversations can be used to find out the best ways to blend in, and you may even make a new friend! It all boils down to finding out, like listed above, what makes you feel comfortable whether it’s grabbing a coffee at a local shop or finding a quiet park, doing that thing in whatever new place you end up will help you feel more at home.

The Honest Truth

Now coming into my second semester at university here in London, England, I’ve learned a hard truth. Adapting to a new environment takes time, it doesn’t happen overnight. As much as I would have liked to have immediately felt comfortable and at home, the truth ended up being more than a few moments of homesickness and feeling out of place. We are all outsiders until we make ourselves insiders, no one can do that for us. I still have moments of feeling out of place but I have to push those thoughts aside and instead think of all the new things I have learned from my time here that makes me more like a local and less like a tourist. It may take a long while before I fully blend into this new culture, but I’ve also learned that the parts of my American culture that I’ve brought with me are part of what makes this a unique experience. Getting to compare the way things are done or said in England versus America have been some of the fun ways I remember my culture and feel less homesick. It will definitely be a process, but you’ll get there. So my advice to you is to just push through and get out there, soak up this new culture but don’t feel like you have to give up your own. The two can go hand in hand.

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