How to Adapt to Your New Country: 5 Effective Strategies

Written by Dr. Russ Gadzhiev

“Life might be difficult for a while, but I would tough it out because living in a foreign country is one of those things that everyone should try at least once. My understanding was that it completed a person, sanding down the rough provincial edges and transforming you into a citizen of the world.” – David Sedaris


“Travel early and travel often. Live abroad, if you can. Understand cultures other than your own. As your understanding of other cultures increases, your understanding of yourself and your own culture will increase exponentially.” – Tom Freston


The world we are living in is becoming more globalized and interconnected. More and more people decide to move to other countries and settle there. They do so for a variety of reasons: career opportunities, new adventures and simply living out their dream of living overseas. In this article, we are going to talk about how you can facilitate the process of adapting to a new country.


Keep an open mind. Expect Differences and Different People


It is understood that things will be different in your country. That is one of the reasons why you have moved, right? You wanted something different. That is why the first piece of advice that I would like to give to you is to be open-minded. If you keep an open mind, you automatically help yourself to embrace the new things around you. Your positive attitude will help you attract and meet new people and help you have more positive experiences in your new country.

Let me give you examples of how open-mindedness can help you. One of the things that strike people who are different when they are moving to a new country is food. So when you see an unfamiliar type of food or if someone is offering you that food that you have never tried before be positive about it. If you feel that you may not like it or that is not something that you would usually it – do not express negative emotions. Especially if someone is offering you something. Instead, say something like that “ I will give that a try – why not?”. Remember to be polite when people are inviting you to their homes and treating you to their food.

One simple thing that we need to remember when trying new things is that we don’t have to like them. Also if you are not open-minded about things, there is a big chance that you will simply miss out on fun experiences and, more importantly, on meaningful connections and acquaintances.

So even though initially, it may be hard (and I know that it may be hard – from my own experience), try to refrain from comparing things and judging them. If you keep doing this you will quickly feel disappointed and you will start second-guessing your decision to move to the new country.

Here is some advice on how to adapt to your new country.


Carefully Observe What People Around You Do and How They Behave


For a better and more effective adaptation (and in order to avoid any cultural clashes and misunderstandings) observe the way people around you behave. What kinds of words do they frequently use? When they talk, do they tend to use gesturing or not? What kinds of topics do they usually discuss in social settings?

When sitting at a table, is there any specific way people arrange their knives and forks? Do they speak while having their meals?

Pay close attention to the way people meet and greet each other. What people do in your home country, may be entirely different in your new country. Is it ok to embrace or kiss people when you first meet them? (Be careful with that part). Is it ok to get close to them or should you maintain a distance between yourself and your interlocutors?


Quickly Learn the Language and Make an Effort to Learn a Few Phrases Every Day


After traveling around the world, I became convinced that one of the most formidable barriers to connecting with people and cultures different from your own is the language barrier. So ideally you should make an effort to learn the language of your new country BEFORE you move. If for some reason, you made a move without learning the language, then there are many things that you can still do to help yourself.

Depending on whether you have a lot of free time on your hands, find a local school where you can learn the language of your new country. In English-speaking countries English schools for adults are common. In some countries, such as Australia, for example, there are free English courses for people who have recently become permanent residents. Do some research and perhaps you will find some schools with volunteers where you can the language for free. By taking up language courses you will achieve two goals – you will start improving your language and you will begin connecting with them.

Once again, I would like to point out – it is absolutely important to have a good understanding and command of the official language of your new country. There are people, indeed, who get by without one, but their quality of life is incomparable to those who can actually speak the language. And it is not about money or professional opportunities. People are social beings and we need to feel connected to the place where we are living. And language is one of the best ways to establish that connection. So do not miss out on ANY available opportunity to learn the language.


Go Out, Explore and Have Fun


It is true that moving to a new country can be quite stressful. You can find some information on our blog on how to deal with the stress of moving to a new country. One of the reasons why people feel stressed when moving to a new country is that they find themselves in an unfamiliar environment. So what you need to do is to familiarize yourself with your neighbourhood, town, and then country! Depending on how safe it is, try and explore the neighbourhood on foot. Walking is always a good way of getting to know a new place. Not only is it good for your health, but it also improves so-called spatial awareness. Your brain is no longer stressed by the new context you find yourself in – simply because it’s not new anymore. So walk around, explore and get used to the new place.


Keep in Touch with your Friends and Family in Your Home Country


Now, this piece of advice comes with a caveat. Of course, it is essential that you don’t burn bridges and completely disconnect from your friends and family back home. Staying in touch with your family and friends is good for your mental health. Some people actually believe that spending too much on Facetime with your family and friends back home can in fact prevent you from adapting to your new country. Others argue that if you maintain a regular connection with your family and friends back home your stress levels in your new country will remain low. Both are right. As far as my personal experiences, I realized that it is better to keep a balance. As long as your conversations with your family and friends back home do not impact your socialization on the ground, it is fine. But if you see that you have to call off a social encounter because you have a scheduled skype conversation with your friends and family back home, that is not a good sign. You should invest most of your energy in connecting with locals. Don’t invest all your attention in your old friends. Find new ones! 


Remember that Rome was not built in a day. Anything life-changing takes time and effort. So just follow our advice, learn the language, do not judge things, keep an open mind, and explore the surroundings and you will see that as time goes by the new country, which has so far felt strange and unknown, is beginning to feel like home. But it takes time – we can’t tell you for sure how long it will take, but the adaptation period will be smooth if you facilitate it.





 Russ Gadzhiev obtained his PhD in history and politics from University of Melbourne. He also holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations from Moscow State University of International Relations, a top-ranking diplomatic school. Dr. Russ is a strong education professional with a history of working in the higher education sector of Australia and proven ability to effectively communicate with learners from diverse cultural backgrounds. He is passionate about teaching and mentoring, writing, curriculum development, research, information management and public speaking. He is fluent in Russian, English, Spanish, and Portuguese. He has lived in Russia, Australia, Spain and Brazil and he possesses first-hand knowledge about the issues that people face when moving to other countries and adjusting to a new culture. 

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