When moving abroad there are inevitably differences that will require adjustment.  This is true even where you move from one English-speaking country to another.  Where you move to a new country with a different language, where the predominant religion is different to your home country or where the political environment is very different you run the risk of culture shock.  This can make the transition seem challenging and it is vital that you prepare for this potential problem.



Prepare Before You Go

Ensure that you understand as much about your new home as possible before you arrive.  By reading widely about the culture, people and traditions in your intended new home you will be more prepared for dealing with what you experience. The World of Expats Destination pages include information on the Social Environment and on the Social Customs of each destination.  This will give you a good idea of the religious life in the country, the nature of the expat community, typical social life issues such as tipping and etiquette, gestures and body language.

Settling In

When you first arrive there may be occasional misunderstandings and miscommunication will occur, but generally most local people are very understanding when it comes to cultural mistakes.  Ensure that you make an effort and deal with issues politely and with a sense of humour and it is unlikely that you will cause major offense. 

Although culture shock is a fairly short term phenomenon it can be a difficult time. Try to adjust to the culture by taking advice from other expats, who have gone through similar experiences and will be able to relate to your experience.  Social media can be a source as well as social groups and expat clubs.  Learning the language (to whatever degree is possible) will help to understand and relate to the cultural differences.

Do not keep the feelings to yourself if you are affected, but talk them through with friends and colleagues.  Your experiences are not unique and will quickly pass.  You should also stay in touch with your friends at home to keep a pathway to familiar voices and views.  Treat the experience as a positive one and you will be able to better manage it and not overreact and view it as an indication of a fundamental problem with your adjustment to the new environment.


Expat Partner

Where you are working and your accompanying partner is not they may have limited contact with other people.  They will need to build their own network of friends and support in order to understand and adapt to the local environment.  This may be through the school gate, expat clubs or other interest groups.  They will also need to share your experiences by ensuring that you talk openly.