Allow yourself to be changed by a new culture. Work with yourself even in the most vulnerable moments. The most beneficial change happens when you find a way to combine the old with the new.
According to UN, there are about 244 billion people – 3.3% of the global population – who live in another country than the country where they were born. Some of these global trotters move in search of better economic and social opportunities. Others are forced to live their native places to save their lives.
I moved to another country for the sake of the relationship I was in. Soon after that, the professional life became the reason for living in Finland. Years passed and now, the main reason for being here is my bicultural family.
It’s been an emotionally sinuous journey that shook me up to my core. The reward for the bumps on the road are the lessons, which make me say wholeheartedly that I love my life.
Learn to be flexible
Human beings are made out of habits. We absorb behaviours from the people around us. Each culture has preferred habits. What are the preferred habits of the people in the local culture? Which ones can you see yourself adapting to? Which ones can you influence? Which are the ones you can’t influence but you can accept?
Flexibility is a valuable skill if we want to adapt, love and contribute with something greater than us to the local society.
Start something new
Keep your heart open to new friendships. Keep your mind open to new education. Indulge yourself in new hobbies, etc. Gradually, we build new habits around the activities and people we meet.
There is untapped potential in each one of us, i.e., interests, passions, talents. All we need is a supporting environment. Back in the home country, we may have missed some opportunities that could make us understand how far we can go. Maybe in your home country, you didn’t have snow and have never had the chance to try out your inclination for cross-country skiing. Give it a try in the long days of Winter in Finland. You may like it. If you don’t, what other opportunities would you like to try?
Be open to new experiences. You may not like it when you feel stretched, you may feel tempted to quit. If you persevere, you may be rewarded with a sense of being truly alive. If you persevere and fail, look for a new experience.
Avoid cultural stereotyping
Feeling irritated with the behaviour of the locals is a normal stage of cultural shock. It can be healthy to let some steam off with some friends who are emotionally close to you. Yet, try not to make too big of a deal out of the negative interactions with the locals. In the end, everyone is entitled to an opinion and acts to the best of their judgement. Instead, focus on developing relationships with the locals and other intercultural people who respect and appreciate you.
Embrace the core home cultural values that are beneficial to you. Revisit sweet memories. The people back in your country of origin who love you and guided you are your safe haven whenever you may feel confused about your living abroad.
Exert Kindness Across Borders
Think good thoughts, for the greater good of humankind. Seek for the good in others. We all feel the need to belong to a place and to someone. Above all, we all belong the the human race.
When you can’t think good thoughts, imagine how it is to be the other one.
I’d love to hear how the living abroad has changed you.