How to Adapt to Living in a New Country

Do your research before hand

If you are going to move abroad, you need to understand the place that you are moving to. When I say ‘research’, I am not referring to answering questions like: how to get an apartment, how to get a visa, how to get around…because I think those things are obvious. When I say ‘research’, I refer to knowing the history of the country, region, and city. In addition, the politics and media; trying to figure out what are the predominant political parties and platforms, who are the local news stations and newspapers, and what kind of stories they are sharing. For example, there are many regions across Germany and France that can be characterized by extreme right-wing politics and racism; as a foreigner, you would want to know ahead of time if you are moving to a place that isn’t accepting of foreigners and how that could impact your decision on where to live.

Pick up as much of the language as you need or want to

You can’t force yourself to become fluent in a foreign language, trust me I’ve tried. If you have enough of a foreign language to go grocery shopping, talk to a doctor, and ask for help than you are doing alright – you’re doing the minimum. If you are not motivated or interested to learn how to have complex conversations or use expressions don’t sweat it, and know that it is just not for you, because that passion for learning a foreign language is something that is either there or it isn’t. Simply put, in order to live in any foreign country you are going to need to know some of the language, but don’t force yourself if you don’t enjoy it – if you don’t need it. The difference is, if you are trying to move somewhere for good, you 100 percent need the language. However, if you are just studying abroad, don’t make learning a language an obligation, treat it as something you want to do and you will learn more that way.

Don’t try to live the exact same way you did before

If you can find the exact same brands and products that you use in your home country in your new host country, that is great, but really don’t count on it. Living in a foreign country requires more than just changing your spending habits; it requires changing your daily habits or even your concept of what is polite and impolite. For example, I find it awkward to not greet acquaintances and family with a hug but with bises (kisses) instead; but in France that is just the way it is so I have to respect that.

Find things that you genuinely like about your new host country  

You’re not going to be able to like the differences that you face while living abroad unless you can find things about your new host country that you genuinely like and / or prefer, in comparison to your home country. It can be the availability of public transportation, the food, the educational system, or anything else that you can really stand by. For example, no matter how much I like the U.S., I can assert that both Germany and France have substantially better, more accessible, and safer public transportation in their medium sized cities in comparison to medium sized cities in the U.S. That is something that I genuinely love about these countries and miss in the states.

Don’t try to force the adaptation process

You can spring for the French look with the trench coats, the booties, or the skirts all you like but in the end, adaptation is a long process; it doesn’t happen overnight. Adapting to a new country is not about having certain things or a certain appearance; it is rather often a change in habits, lifestyle, language, and even, way of thinking. Some Americans have mastered German or French and have lived in Germany, France, or Belgium for decades, have dual citizenship, and still cannot say that they are 100 percent adapted – that they feel German, French, Belgian, or European. If you plan to live abroad for a long time, you may have to accept that you will never feel fully integrated into your host country, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t adapt, feel at home, and enjoy. You just can’t force the adaptation process, take it day by day and it always gets easier.

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