10 tips to adapt to a foreign culture


People travelling abroad may be shocked by habits and mind-sets in other countries. The need to adapt to a foreign culture (cultural adjustment) is even higher when you are moving overseas for work. Being able to collaborate effectively with your co-workers and to get on well with neighbours becomes vital. Actually, things are not simple at all. Cultural adjustment is a complex process, consisting of four different stages: the initial excitement when you are very motivated and willing to find out more; the culture shock, when you start to feel irritated and homesickness kicks in; gradual adjustment, when you decide to make the most of your experience abroad; and final adaptation or biculturalism. In the end, you start feeling at home in the “foreign” country and you are able to work and enjoy life to its full potential.

The cultural stress that is a normal part of adjusting to a new civilization can have unpleasant symptoms such as fatigue, craving things from home, feeling the need to criticize everything, feeling lonely, and being worried because of small health problems. You can achieve a smooth transition towards complete cultural adjustment by implementing the following tips and tricks:

1. Analyse your behaviour

It’s important to identify your reactions to cultural differences and to be able to tell truly negative situations from signs of cultural shock. For instance, you can’t stand the occasional cooking smell coming from your neighbours and you are really angry about it. Is it because you are really sensitive to cooking smells or is it just a symptom of a difficult cultural adjustment?

2. Get social support

Sources of support may include people back home, expat groups, colleagues from work, and even locals. If talking about difficulties is an effective way of managing stress for you, don’t become a lonely wolf and confidently ask for help from others.

3. Take care of yourself

Adapting to a new culture is easier when you ensure your physical comfort. Ideas for coping with cultural stress include getting enough rest, eating healthily, avoiding bad habits such as binge eating or alcohol abuse, having your favourite toiletries with you, and bringing a supply of necessary medications.

4. Keep an open mind

It is easy to perceive as “wrong” things that are new to us. Instead of judging what you see, remain an objective onlooker and be ready to see things you didn’t expect after the initial background research.

5. Explore the local culture

Living in a cocoon and tricking yourself into thinking you are comfortable will prevent you from getting the most out of your expat experience. Immerse yourself in the local culture by meeting natives, walking around on foot instead of using a car, trying local food, and improving your language level.

6. Stay humble

Avoid comparing your country of origin to the place you are living in right now. Feelings of inferiority or superiority are never helpful when it comes to cultural adjustment. Try to be patient and respectful of the new culture and to accept its odd aspects.

7. Learn the local language

Improving your language level allows you to increase your communication skills and integrate into the local community. It is well-known that language shapes thinking, and polyglots are considered to have multiple personalities. When you speak a country’s language very well, you find it easier to understand its inhabitants and get into their shoes.

One of the easiest ways to learn a new language is using the free language learning website and app Duolingo.

8. Get familiar with the most common phrases and their meaning

In many languages, certain phrases must not be interpreted word by word. Americans will ask “How are you?” and the French will say “Ça va?” both literally meaning “What are you doing?” However, the true meaning of both phrases is “Hello” and no one actually expects you to give details about your well-being. Research this type of phrases in the culture you are trying to adjust to if you want to avoid awkward conversations.

9. Be patient

According to psychologist Geert Hofstede, culture can be compared to an onion that can be peeled layer by layer. This means that just when you think you understand a word or behaviour, you need to step back and wait some more before you provide an explanation for what you believe you now understand. You may be surprised and find out you still have lots of things to learn.

10. Have a good sense of humour

Don’t be hard on yourself when you don’t get a situation or on people around you when they don’t react as expected. Have you made a gaffe? Instead of burying your head in the sand, just laugh at yourself and the others will probably do the same. It doesn’t matter if you make the international sign whose meaning you think is “OK” and instead you are addressing an insult; make fun of it and in the end people will appreciate your tenacity and relaxed style. However, make sure you don’t make such a mistake amidst an angry gang or consequences can be severe regardless of your sense of humour…

10 tips for saving money while working abroad

Saving money while working abroad is a good idea, whether you need it for an important financial goal like buying a house or because you want to dispose of an emergency fund in case of an unexpected problem. Spending everything you earn is common among inexperienced expats, because there are lots of attractions in a foreign country, from local food to souvenirs for family and friends. People who are not familiar with a place may also pay more on their groceries and consumables simply because they don’t know yet where to find the best deals. Furthermore, there are those who work abroad just to display an impressive lifestyle to friends and family from home, even if otherwise they can barely afford a decent dinner after work. Money management is an important skill everywhere, but it becomes vital in a foreign country where you may not have anyone to help you when you get into trouble. Here are some valuable tips on managing your finances efficiently and even returning home with a small fortune:

1. Research living costs

Before moving to a foreign country, you should identify costs such as housing, food, transportation, utilities, and entertainment. Calculate an average monthly budget and see if living expenses can be covered by your projected earnings.

2. Have an emergency relief fund

No matter where you find yourself, at home or overseas, you should always set money aside for emergencies. It’s recommended to accumulate several months of living expenses, in case you lose your job or have to support a considerable expense.

3. Pay yourself first

The first thing you need to do on pay day is allocate a portion of your earnings to your savings account. The next objective is to pay monthly expenses, and only afterwards should you make unessential purchases. Nobody says you shouldn’t buy a new pair of shoes, but if you’re not barefoot, put money aside first and only afterwards go shopping. Although it’s difficult to ignore today’s consumerist tendencies, you should focus on your financial security first, no matter what.

4. Stick to your budget

The amount of money that goes to your savings account should stay the same all the time, and the budget for discretionary purchases needs to remain limited, no matter how attractive prices are during the sales season. Sticking to a budget is easier when you have someone that holds you accountable, such as a spouse, and you can also try budget apps for your phone.

5. Avoid commissions

Many people working overseas send money back home. However, money transfer services can be quite expensive, especially when you choose the first traditional bank that you run into. It is definitely worth to look for a reliable service without hidden commissions and bank fees before you move abroad. A good alternative for money transfers is Revolut, a digital banking platform that doesn’t charge any commission.

6. Get a roommate

Sharing the room with someone else may not be for everybody, but you never know until you try. Many people working abroad choose this solution with the purpose to save money. Cutting your accommodation expenses to half means you can save a lot more money every month.

7. Learn how to cook

Eating out every night is expensive, no matter what part of the world you live in. Local ingredients may be different from the ones back home, so you’ll need to familiarise yourself with the food of the culture that has adopted you. You’ll be thrilled to see how much money you can save every week.

8. Choose cheap transportation

Options such as walking on foot, riding a bicycle, or taking public transportation are not only cheaper, but they also come with other advantages. You have a chance to explore the area where you live and forget about homesickness and you also get to work in an environmentally-friendly way.

9. Go to a warm place

When moving abroad for work, choose a location with a warm climate. If you go to a Mediterranean country you’ll only have to pay for 3 or 4 months of heating, while in the UK, for instance, you’ll have to support 9 or 10 months of heating costs. A country with a friendly climate can help you save lots of money on fuel costs.

10. Choose offshore financial options

Working abroad can allow you to legitimately avoid taxation. Being able to keep income offshore depends on your tax status in the country where you live and work, and offshore solutions are worth exploring as long as you take qualified advice. Last but not the least; the important thing is not to associate work abroad with a glamorous lifestyle. Many people make the mistake of spending a large percentage of their income on branded goods, luxury cars, and fashionable clothes just to impress friends back home. Your foreign stay should be comfortable and decent, but not luxurious, as long as you want to keep you savings account consistent.

12 ideas to feel more like home when you are working in another country


Ideas to feel more like home when you are working in another country

When you have just moved abroad for work, the most urgent thing you probably have in mind is adjusting as fast as possible: finding convenient accommodation, getting to know the best means of transportation to work, choosing a place for lunch, and having your residency papers in order. Weeks later, everything is settled and things are going all right, but suddenly you feel that something is missing. Homesickness sneaks in and the absence of people and things back home starts to bother you. Most times you can’t just rush to the airport and fly back to your country, so all you can do is make life abroad feel more like home. Here are some ideas that will ease the beginning of expat depression you are probably experiencing right now:

1. Personalise your room

Personalised Room

Four bare walls will definitely not help you feel like home. Decorate your room with some photos of you and your family, and buy something that you like, such as a nice bedspread or a new curtain. Feeling cosy will help you adapt more easily to your new life.

2. Walk more

Man Walking

Using public transit or a car makes you miss beautiful places and street experiences such as a chic bookstore or a friendly coffee shop. When you’re in a car, streets become simple trajectories and you no longer immerse in a city’s culture.

3. Stuffed animals

Teddy Bear

It’s impossible to take your entire bedroom from home with you, but bringing your favourite stuffed animal makes any place feel homier.

4. Celebrate holidays

You think there’s no point in decorating your home abroad for Christmas? You are wrong – we tend to associate holidays with home and just a few decorations can go a long way when holidays find you alone in a foreign country.

5. Eat your favourite food

Although traditional food from home can be hard to find in a foreign country, cooking your favourite recipe however you can will help you fill the void in your stomach and in your heart too.

6. Be open to new experiences

When it comes to feeling like home when you are abroad, the trick is to mix old with new. Trying to feel exactly like in your hometown is impossible and filling the walls of your new room with dozens of childhood photos will actually cause you to ignore reality. The idea is to create a new feeling of home, and in order to do that you’ll have to accept the unfamiliar as well. Which takes us to the next point:

7. Learn the local language

The atmosphere will feel less foreign if you know at least the basics of the local language. No one asks you to become fluent in a few weeks, but not being able to say more than “Hello” and “Thank you” won’t help you feel like home at all.

8. Travel somewhere else

Public Airport

This may sound like a strange piece of advice, but think about that: when you are returning from your travel, you’ll see your new city like home or a place you are coming back to.

9. Get a plant

Potted Plant

Plants are an indication that a room is home. Having to water you green buddy will help you feel tied to your new place. Some fresh flowers work as well if you don’t intend to spend too much time in a place or you don’t have the commitment needed to cultivate a potted plant.

10. Show off your place

Take some pictures or shoot a video of your new room. You can also present it to friends and family during a video chat. Bonus: you’ll feel obliged to clean your room, which will help you feel more relaxed and pleased in the place you’re trying to make familiar.

11. Get help from other people

Having to figure it out all by yourself in an unfamiliar place can make anyone feel unsettled. We all say how indifferent and self-sufficient humankind is nowadays, but the truth is there still are people who would go above and beyond to help you when you are in trouble or overwhelmed. The important thing is to be open to assistance and to know how to accept it. Offering a thank you gift afterwards can be the first step towards a great friendship.

12. Make friends

Speaking of friendship, it has been found that what makes people lead a happy life is having fulfilling social connections. The most important piece of advice when it comes to making friends is not waiting for people to come to you. Make the first step and start networking. The easiest way to start is finding other expats, although meeting locals is also a good method of making friends. Try to implement these ideas, and before you know, you’ll say to your colleagues from work that you’re going home, and not to your place or to your room.
Have you managed to adjust to your new life yet? Tell us about your experiences!

7 ways to learn a foreign language when you’re working abroad


7 ways to learn a foreign language when you’re working abroad

people talking

You are working overseas and you intend to become fluent in a foreign language?
You’re very lucky, because language immersion (or living in the country whose language you are learning) is one of the best methods for improving your language skills, and it’s particularly recommended to adults. Other people are paying for expensive language courses or move abroad for a while just to brush up their Spanish or Italian, while all you have to do is listen to people around you, pluck up your heart, and start communicating in the language you are learning. However, we know that language immersion may not be the main reason why you have moved abroad and most of your energy is probably going to work. This is why we have gathered some tips for you so you learn a new language while working abroad more easily.

1. Spend time with native speakers

Food Market

You may be tempted to stay around fellow countrymen because you’re feeling homesick, but you’ll become fluent much faster if you spend time with locals. Living with native speakers is even better as you’ll spend more time using your foreign language skills. Look for a family with a spare room and even choose someone who doesn’t speak any English at all – this way you’ll be forced to learn faster. You’ll practice your new language in the most unexpected moments and even when you don’t feel like doing it. It may sound scary, but the benefits of doing this are huge.

2. Keep a vocabulary book with you

Vocabulary Book

You’ve heard a word you didn’t understand in the middle of a work meeting? Write it down and find out later what it means. Don’t worry if you can’t spell the word correctly, just use a phonetic guess if you don’t like the idea of asking other people about the spelling and meaning right on the spot. When you have a spare moment, open up your vocabulary book, review some of the words you have learnt recently, and feel happy about your progress.

3. Stop using English

English is extremely popular and you’ll find someone able to speak it almost everywhere you go. However, don’t fall into the temptation of using this language with locals. Some of them may be extremely willing to practice their English, but don’t cave into their desire. Keep on using the local language, even if people reply to you in English.

4. Don’t be shy

Those who are learning a foreign language know very well how it feels to be afraid or ashamed to talk to a native speaker. You are wondering all the time if you are making mistakes and sometimes you need long seconds and lots of “Aaaahs” and “Uhms” just to ask for directions or to make an order at the restaurant. Consider the following exercise – a foreigner comes to your home country and tries to speak in your native language. What is your attitude? You’d probably be thrilled and happy to see someone trying to fit in, especially when your native language is not English. You wouldn’t care about their mistakes and you would be happy to instruct them on the right pronunciation. So, if someone laughs at your clumsiness, it’s their problem, not yours!

5. Be open to opportunities

A friend from work has invited you to the flea market next Saturday and you’re not sure if you want to go? If you are not going there to find a bargain, at least accept the invitation for the sake of expanding your vocabulary. Never miss an opportunity to learn new words and talk to locals. Moreover, learning how to negotiate in a foreign language is always a nice skill to have. If you are feeling safe about going out to a specific place and you are not pressured, the right thing to do is to say “Yes”.

6. Learn by yourself as well

Just living and working in a foreign country is not a guarantee that you’ll achieve fluency in a few months. You’ll still need to use formal learning methods, such as practicing grammar, maintaining a vocabulary book, and listening to audiobooks. The important thing afterwards is to practice what you’ve learned with the locals.

7. Don’t give up

Don’t Give Up

When learning a foreign language, you’ll have your ups and downs. One day you’ll find it very easy to chat with your neighbours and the next day you’ll have a headache reading an email at work. Keep in mind that when you acquire knowledge it takes time for the information to accumulate and sometimes you may need a break or some rest before being able to string sentences together. Whenever you’re having a difficult moment, think of what you have achieved so far and give yourself a pat on the shoulder – you deserve it! In the end, the best piece of advice when learning a new language is practicing A LOT. Speak as often as you can and before you know it you’ll become fluent. Try any possible method and arm yourself with tons of confidence.

7 tips on how to announce your family you are planning to work overseas


7 Tips on how to announce your family you are planning to work overseas

Family eating

Moving abroad for work does not only come with a lot of organization and planning – plane tickets, baggage, accommodation, residency papers, and so on. Actually it starts with one very difficult trial – telling your loved ones you are leaving. Making the big announcement to the family definitely is an issue and you might shed a few tears, while telling people at work that you’re moving away is much simpler. Consider the following pieces of advice and you’ll overcome this obstacle with less pain.

1. Be sure about your decision

This first step is vital, especially when your family is not particularly supportive or they are not used to respecting your decisions. If you think they’ll start nagging so you change your mind, make sure you won’t be influenced by what they say. Know in your heart that working abroad is the right move and your confidence will be obvious in front of your family.

Making the announcement with poor confidence will have negative consequences for you and your family will justly feel entitled to discourage you from leaving. Eventually they will give voice to those tiny doubts you were trying to ignore and you’ll end up making a major change in your life while dealing with uncertainty.

2. Put yourself in their shoes

Self Doubt

You need to be understood, but your family needs empathy as well. Don’t let them think you are leaving without any regrets. There are multiple reasons why they may not like the idea of you moving abroad for work: not valuing international experiences, being nationalistic (it can happen with older generations), being afraid of not seeing someone dear for a long time, or having different expectations from your life. If your family is one with conventional wisdom that will be blown away by your big announcement, you’ll have a bit of a headache and looking indifferent will not make your folks happier.

3. Be an effective communicator

Hands Touch

Nobody wants to get into an argument after making such an important announcement and you’ll need a lot of tact and patience for that. First of all, prepare your speech in advance rather than just popping in and saying your plane leaves tomorrow. Remember that being a good communicator also means being a good listener. Even if you and your family have different ways of thinking, you need to stay calm and support your point of view with eloquence while allowing them to express their opinion as well.

4. Show them how to keep in touch

Keeping Touch Online

Whatever they think about your plans, you need to maintain the relationship through phone calls or on Skype. If your parents are not too digitally-savvy show them how to keep in touch online or over the phone. It’s better to organize a “training” session now rather than explaining how to make a video call on the phone.

5. Organize something nice

Many people who move abroad organize a family event to make the big announcement, such as a dinner or a picnic. Making an effort to break the news in a pleasant atmosphere is a sign of appreciation and a reinforcement of your affection. Moreover, when you organize something for your family you get your foot into the door and the audience will feel obliged to listen to what you have to say. Meanwhile naysayers will have to temperate their objections and abstain from telling how you don’t have to go abroad to find what you need in life.

6. Prove you are mature

This kind of news is hard to make by people who have their own families, and it’s even harder for those who are young and still financially dependent on their parents. The truth is that becoming an expat is not as glamorous as movies depict it. Here are just a few challenges you’ll face: having to negotiate rent, sorting out residency papers, making sure your employer follows work regulations, not having someone to talk to when you’re feeling low, struggling to become fluent in a new language, and feeling homesick. Discuss these aspects with your parents and show them that your plans of working overseas are not chasing unicorns.

7. Be prepared to feel guilty…

… and find a way to cope with it. Your family may support you in your new venture, but this doesn’t mean they won’t be sad. Maybe they’ll say they’re happy for you until the last day and when you say the final goodbyes at the airport, you’ll suddenly realize how sad they are. Sooner or later, regrets surface and can make you wonder if you have made the right decision. Some families are more open to the idea of an international lifestyle, while others will be devastated by the news. However, if you know that working abroad is a good decision, all you need to do is follow the steps above to remain a supportive member of your family even if you are planning to move far away.

https://pixabay.com/en/man-smartphone-mobile-technology-1718099/ Keeping in touch online

7 tips to feel less sad when you work overseas


7 tips to feel less sad when you work overseas

Travelling and working in another country, meeting different cultures, making new friends, and taking advantage of professional opportunities you may not have had in your home country – all these sound very exciting, but working overseas also has a less bright side of the coin – expat depression and homesickness. Those living and working abroad, especially people who are going through this experience for the first time, deal with multiple challenges and sadness is probably the most significant, more poignant than not knowing whether to shake hands or kiss a new acquaintance on the cheek or what time people have dinner in the host country.

The feeling of excitement you experience before leaving is often replaced by confusion in the first days and within weeks you start to feel heavyhearted and melancholic without a clear reason. Everything you feel is normal and millions of people have experienced this before; what’s important is to take action and not allow depression to prevent you from enjoying your travelling and professional experience. Here’s what you can do about it:

1. Behave like a tourist first

If you dive with your head first into work the next day after you arrive, your chances of developing expat depression will be higher. Take a few days before starting your new job and visit the place and its surroundings like a tourist. Get to know the area where you’ll live and find people and sites that will allow you to develop a good feel for the place. First time when you feel gloomy, just go jogging to that nice park where you’ve had a stroll in your first day and you’ll start to feel better almost instantly.

2. Keep in touch with your family

Nowadays it’s cheaper and more convenient to communicate with your loved ones when you’re thousands of miles away. You don’t have to call just once a month in order to avoid huge expenses, and with a good connection to the Internet you can keep in touch with family and friends at any time of the day and night.
Another way to stay connected with people back home is sending them gifts. Looking for presents will give your leisure time a purpose and will enable you to share your experience abroad with your loved ones.

3. Pay attention to severe symptoms

Every person living abroad will experience homesickness at one point, but some people have more bothersome symptoms, such as constantly thinking of home, experiencing extreme stress and work difficulties, feeling helpless, having a low self-esteem, avoiding social activities, and not being able to sleep and concentrate. If you can’t cope with symptoms by yourself, it’s time to get professional help, before the situation gets completely out of control.

4. Do the things you loved to do at home

Moving to a new place doesn’t mean you can simply give up all your old habits. It’s impossible not to feel disorientated when you don’t eat your favourite food anymore or you stop exercising. Maintaining your usual rituals will enable you to stay connected to home even if you are far away. Just write on a piece of paper your weekly activities from back home and see if you can transfer your old schedule to the new environment. Your childhood comfort food may have a slightly different taste if you don’t use local ingredients, but at least you will feel more secure in your new stage of life.

5. Balance old with new

Having familiar things from home is helpful for most people living abroad, but you need to find a balance between placing photos of your family all over the room and not speaking in your mother tongue anymore. Keep around items that remind you of your cultural identity and at the same time be open to new experiences. For instance, you can watch local TV every day, but you can also stream to your favourite radio station from home using the Internet every time you feel homesick.

6. Avoid being too connected

You spend at least two hours every day on Skype, talking to friends and parents? You know every little thing that has happened at home in your absence, such as what your mom’s grocery bag contained this morning? It’s understandable to be interested in the lives of people back home, but you also need to be present in the place where you actually live. You need to develop a sense of belonging for your new location. Make sure you also take a break from social media that keeps you wired to what’s going on at home and instead have a walk on the streets of your new town without being bothered by notifications.

7. Get “adopted” by a local family

One of the main triggers of expat depression is loneliness. Suddenly waking up without your usual support network in an era where people prefer to look down at their smartphones instead of having a talk with a stranger in the bus station can be very painful. The solution is to make a close local friend who is willing to invite you to their family functions so you feel more supported and safe. Depending on your new culture, this can be more or less difficult to achieve, but in the end the effort to get “adopted” will pay off.
One day you may feel excited about the positive feedback you have received at work and the next day your only wish can be to cuddle in your old bed from home with your teddy bear and a jar of cookies from grandma. No matter what happens, remember that your feelings matter and you should always talk to others about your emotions. However, by implementing the strategies provided above your sad days will be fewer in number and you’ll get the most from your experience abroad.