How Immigrant Learns to Assimilate into Foreign Culture - Anatole Faykin
How to Assimilate
If you plan on moving to another country or visiting one for an extended period of time, being able to assimilate into the culture can enhance the experience and make your time there more enjoyable and more meaningful. Part of the assimilation process is based on maintaining a healthy attitude, but a larger portion requires you to actually throw yourself into the culture and mingle with those who are a part of it.
Do Your Research
Prepare yourself beforehand.Learn as much about the foreign culture as possible before immersing yourself in it. Feeling prepared may reduce the anxiety you feel once you get there, thereby allowing you to assimilate at a more comfortable pace.
- Don't expect to learn everything there is to know, though. Firsthand experience is almost always a better teacher than secondhand source material. Preparing yourself before you embark on the adventure can give you an advantage, but you'll still need to make considerable effort to assimilate into the culture once you arrive.
Learn the language.You don't need to become fluent, but you should at least learn enough of the language to ask for essential information and hold basic conversations with the locals.
- Note that many languages have both "familiar" and "polite" speech forms, and you'll need to know which is which to avoid offending others.
- Do your best to learn as much as possible, but don't worry if you make a few mistakes. Most people will appreciate the effort you've made to learn the language even if you don't perfect it.
Beware of differences in nonverbal communication.Nonverbal communication can be just as important as verbal language. Gestures have different meanings in different cultures, and if you aren't careful, you could easily use the wrong one and cause a misunderstanding.
- For example, creating a circle by touching your thumb and forefinger together would be considered an "okay" sign in the United States, but in Brazil, the same gesture is used as a profanity.
- If you aren't able to master all of the nonverbal communication cues, at least try to learn which gestures are considered rude or profane so you can avoid using them.
Study the culture.Spend time actually studying the culture itself. Read about it in books or online, watch informative videos, and talk to people who could tell you about the area you'll be visiting.
- Pay special attention to the most common areas of cultural difference: religion, political structure, customs, and etiquette.
- If you have any colleagues who have been there before, talk to them for firsthand knowledge. You could also contact the embassy or consulate of that country.
Maintain the Right Attitude
Humble yourself and keep an open mind.No matter how different the other culture seems, try not to look down on it. You can disagree with the way certain things are done, but ultimately, you must be willing to accept things the way they are.
- Expect things to be different, but don't let those differences worry you too much. Some anxiety is only natural, but too much can ruin the experience.
- Try to avoid letting other people get on your nerves. Even the most courteous countries have discourteous people living in them. Don't let rudeness ruin the experience for you or make you feel prejudiced to the overall country.
Be curious.Passively accepting the unfamiliar won't be enough to help you assimilate to the new culture. You also need to show an active curiosity about the country, its culture, and its population.
- Look at the experience as an adventure and go from there. Instead of isolating yourself where it feels safe and comfortable, continually push yourself to experience more of the native culture and way of living.
- Don't be afraid to ask people questions. Generally, most will be willing to address honest, polite questions since your inquiries demonstrate your willingness to learn and assimilate to their native culture.
Exercise caution.While an adventurous spirit is requisite to assimilation, healthy caution can be equally significant. Avoid putting yourself into positions that could result in physical harm or legal trouble.
- You should also take some basic precautions to care for your needs while you're in this new country. Keep your legal documents (passports, visas, etc.) in a safe place at all times. Know who to contact in the event of a medical emergency or other difficult situation.
Listen and observe.Hearing and seeing are passive responses to environmental stimuli. Listening and observing, on the other hand, are active responses that will allow you to learn about the foreign culture more thoroughly.
- Pay close attention to how native residents act in certain situations. Doing so will probably give you a better idea of how you're expected to behave than any study guide could.
Enjoy the Adventure
Find allies and friends.Making friends can ease your loneliness and allow you to assimilate more naturally and comfortably. Even if you don't get close enough to become “friends,” per se, you should at least find some trustworthy allies you can turn to for help.
- Seek the support of other foreigners, even if they aren't members of your own native culture. When you need to vent or get a second opinion, these individuals can be of great assistance.
- Your should look to the local population for friends and mentors. They can direct you more adequately about unfamiliar aspects of the culture. Additionally, becoming friends with people who are native to that country can help you feel as though you've actually woven your way into the community.
Get a job or take classes, if possible.Depending on the circumstances, you may not be eligible to work or study in this new country. If you're allowed to do so, however, getting a job or taking classes at a local university can help you weave your way into the workings of that country's society.
- If you aren't able to take classes at an official university, you might still be allowed to take classes at community centers and similar locations. For instance, a nearby market may offer cooking classes in authentic local cuisine.
Join a group.Find out if there are local interest clubs you could join or organizations you can volunteer your time with. There are usually fewer legal restrictions regarding these types of groups, so they should be easier to attend than jobs or colleges are.
- If you're interested in sports, try joining an athletics club. If you have a passion for animals, find out if there are any community service organizations that care for animals, and ask if you can volunteer.
- Visit local places of worship, too. If it's culturally appropriate, consider attending some type of service at a local place of worship. Find a place of worship that matches your own religion if you want to become part of it long-term, or attend a service at another type of worship center simply for the sake of cultural enrichment.
Spend time in casual settings.Formal workplaces, academic institutions, and organizations will allow you to adapt to the structured side of the culture, but if you want to assimilate in a more well-rounded fashion, you'll also need to spend time at casual hangout spots.
- Going out for drinks can be a good way to mingle with the locals since people of all cultures are generally less inhibited when they're around alcohol, but proceed with caution. Make sure that you're legally old enough to drink in that country and avoid getting drunk enough to lose control.
Tour the area.Visit some of the major attractions, natural wonders, and historical sights. While this may seem like a stereotypically “tourist” thing to do, it can help gain some appreciation for the way the country's history developed.
- If you don't know where to start, purchase a travel guide or locate a tourist agency. Consider going on group tours if you feel uneasy traveling to different parts of the country by yourself.
- Once you start making friends with more of the local population, you can ask your new friends to show you some of their own favorite spots that may not be in any official travel guide.
Reflect on your experiences.At the end of each day, set aside some time to reflect on the cultural experiences you had. Think about what went well and what went poorly, then alter your attitude accordingly before moving forward.
- Keep a journal of your experiences and reflections. Doing so could make it easier to review the things you've learned and monitor your own progress.
Video: How to Assimilate to a New Environment, While Being MORE YOU!
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