Dedicating yourself to live and work abroad where every angle you look at is something totally strange involves a lot of sacrifices. Many expats are afraid of facing the strange environment in their newfound homes, perhaps fearing that they’re incompatible with the local life and cultures. This could be the reason to explain as to why in many major cities around the world you’d find certain neighborhoods nicknamed ‘Expat Quarters’ due to the high number of expats, diplomats, etc who live there.
But why should we be afraid of embracing the local life of our host countries if we go there to make our lives better? Instead of living in isolation, it would be important to find ways of assimilating into the local life. It could be learning a local language, a survival skill, trying out a local food preparation, participating in charitable activities or attending local festivities.
If you have no idea of where and how to start, find some local clubs and become a member. A good example can be joining The Rotary Club which can give you a chance to participate in local Rotary meetings and community projects. Also, inquire from your embassy representative if there’s an association of fellow expats from your country living in the same area. These normally organize monthly meetings for members to discuss the challenges that they face or organizing upcountry trips to top attractions in the country.
As much as you are a member of your country’s foreign residents’ association, try as much as possible to make friends with the local community. Having a local friend can be very useful in gaining extensive knowledge about your neighborhood and the whole country at large. Local people know the best place to hang out in the city, the best restaurant for local dishes, the most interesting national park, the cheapest markets with low-priced items, where to get assistance when you get into trouble, where to find the bus to a certain place and the shortest route to your home.
Having an extensive knowledge of your new host country can be helpful in case you’re stuck. Instead of having to stay in gated communities all the time, try finding ample time to walk through your neighborhood (for the first time with a friend), visit a local market, go to the beach, places of worship, theaters, restaurants, museums or a local bus park. These are the best places to observe and learn how life in your newfound country moves on.
Of course, you won’t adapt in a matter of days as this will take some considerable time, to some it can even take up to a year to fit well in the society but this shouldn’t derail your efforts as you have to start assimilating as soon as you land in. Due to the rising literacy levels and the ever improving technology, the world is now becoming a global village, that is why you shouldn’t be afraid of integrating with the locals. Regularly stay in touch with your friends and relatives back home and share with them your adaptation progress to your newly found life. Remember to always tune into a local TV or radio station for updated news stories of the day so that in the case of any trouble in your area, it doesn’t catch you unaware.
Nevertheless, always keep your important personal identification and travel documents in one place. You may need to travel with them wherever you go within that country. And in case an incident happens within that, the authorities will need to verify your identity and immigration status. So put all the anxiousness aside and find ways of blending in with the local life. Living in solitude just because you’re an expat will only make matters worse, you’ll continue being a stranger until you decide to assimilate.