How to quickly overcome culture shock when moving to a foreign country

When it comes to moving overseas, it is natural to shortlist the English speaking countries first to avoid having to overcome too much culture shock. Not having to learn a new language and a whole set of different customs automatically speeds up resettling in a new country. But what if you really want to go live in Spain or Dubai? Or your company is keen to have a presence in another country and you volunteered to be shipped off to China or Cuba?

The barriers of a different culture

The novelty of being a stranger in a strange land quickly wears off as the bumbling foreigner routine loses its appeal. At some point, all parties will start running out of patience. Some cultures are more patient and allow more leeway for learning their culture, but the quicker you adopt their cultural nuances the better. This is no longer your country and as a South African Expat you are very much a minority (no difference there), so it is up to you to fit in and not the other way around.

Begin your cultural metamorphosis before you leave South Africa

This applies even when moving to an English speaking country, as what is considered normal in South Africa can be a definite no-no elsewhere. For example - it is OK to walk into a shop barefoot here (especially if you visiting a seaside holiday town), but in the UK the shops and people are intolerant to barefoot shoppers due to the fear of possibly catching verrucas and fungal infections (mental note: never have anything to do with feet in the UK).

Learn the language

Being able to speak the native language of the country you are planning to move to will make a big difference, even if it is far from perfect. Your attempts will be appreciated and you will find yourself adjusting far quicker to the culture.

Adopt the cuisine

Start developing a taste for the favoured dishes and beverages of your new country. This includes being able to identify them on a menu and order them in the foreign tongue.

Practice the culture

Knowing the ritual and routine of daily interactions and practicing them in advance will help you look less like someone gifted with two left feet at a professional dance competition.