Considerations from abroad: #4 How to integrate when abroad?

Worried about not fitting in? I share my best tips on how integrating abroad after having lived in four different countries - Becci Abroad

So, you decided to move abroad! What’s now?

When you arrive in your new country, everything is so interesting and new. But you also feel a little bit out of place; how do you get yourself integrated in this new culture? I’m here to give you my best tips on how to integrate when abroad!

This is the last post in my small series about life abroad after I have lived in four different counties. If you missed the others, you can read them here!

I share my best tips on how to integrate when abroad after having lived in four different countries myself - Becci Abroad
Don’t be ethnocentric

You know these people that just go on and on about how their country is just so much better than anybody else’s?

Ethnocentrism is a tendency to believe that your own culture is better or superior to another. Usually, it comes about by comparing with the not so flattering part of the other culture. Or by looking at other cultures through the filter of one's own cultural presuppositions.

Comparisons are inevitable and very common when abroad. It is a way of making sense of the things that we experience. I have done and do it myself. However, there is no need to all the time tell everybody how much better your own culture is. If it is so perfect at home, why did you move abroad in the first place?

I share my best tips on how to integrate when abroad after having lived in four different countries myself - Becci Abroad

It is no secret that I’m not a huge fan of Danish culture. Even though we have a lot of great things, I also believe there are some quite annoying parts. Well, there is a reason why I don’t live there, right?

However, when I hear foreigners going on and on about how they can’t find just THAT product that they used to buy at home. Or how they find it annoying that we don’t line up for the busses? I’m surprised to find myself getting annoyed. If such insignificant things annoy… Really? Why did you move abroad? And this made me think; if I get annoyed with foreigners complaining all the time about my country – which I’m not afraid to criticize – how will a person with a large portion of national pride react to ethnocentrism?

Of course, it doesn’t mean that you should just lie and say that everything is wonderful in your new country. Just try to keep your ethnocentrism at a minimum – just an advice 😉 

I share my best tips on how to integrate when abroad after having lived in four different countries myself - Becci Abroad
Adapt to the local ways of speaking

It is an invaluable way of showing respect for them and their culture adapting to the way the locals speak. In my opinion, it is also a way to show that you are interested in integrating and being part of their community.

No secret that I’m loca with Spanish. Thus, I did have trouble both when moving to Cuba, and now in Argentina, adjusting my Spanish vocabulary to the local’s way.

Especially, the Argentine voseo (e.g. the use of vos instead of the regular Spanish for “you” – read more about it here) cost me a lot of troubles. Little by little and with a good amount of effort, I got used to it and now use vos every single day. And it really helps to connect with people. Check out this post for more words you should know to speak like a porteño or slang that is good to know before visiting Cuba.

I share my best tips on how to integrate when abroad after having lived in four different countries myself - Becci Abroad

I also used this language adaption trick when I lived in Sweden. Even though Danish and Swedish are pretty close language-wise, I tried hard to change the Danish words which I knew were hard for Swedes to understand. I found it as my way of showing just a minimum effort of to respect the language of my host country. And it worked pretty well.

I share my best tips on how to integrate when abroad after having lived in four different countries myself - Becci Abroad
Do like the locals

It might seem like a pretty banal advice, and I admit that it sort of is. Thus, don’t underestimate the power of doing an effort of adapting to the local way of doing things.

By doing like the locals, I mean do the same things as they do, try to talk to them (as mentioned above), and try their food and drinks. You will both surprise people by knowing stuff about their habits which makes it easier to connect, and it might help you not stick so much out in everyday situations.

It might come slowly over time without you realizing it. For example, when I just arrived in Buenos Aires, I was terrified by how people would stand on the street waiting for the light to change. One evening, I even told a man that he needed to step in on the pedestrian path or the bus would hit him. He just smiled at me and said: “That’s how we do it here”

Well, yes, it is the porteño way to do it! And little by little, I started doing the exact same.

I share my best tips on how to integrate when abroad after having lived in four different countries myself - Becci Abroad
Meet the locals

To meet locals is properly one of the oldest tricks in the book of integrating abroad, so I don’t want to spend that much time on it.

Thus, I will just mention that it is a very good idea to do a huge effort yourself in finding local friends, for example through Couch Surfing meet-ups (I met most of my Spanish friends this way), Mundo Lingo meetings or Meet Up activities.

Simply, don’t expect every local you meet to be interested in befriending you. You should put effort into this one yourself.

I share my best tips on how to integrate when abroad after having lived in four different countries myself - Becci Abroad
That was all from me for now; please let me know what you thought of these more personal blog post or share your best tips on how to integrate in a foreign country in the comments below!
I’m looking so much forward to hearing from you!
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I share my best tips on how to integrate when abroad after having lived in four different countries myself - Becci Abroad

8 comments

  1. Pablo del Campo

    En la ciudad de Buenos Aires la transgresión es parte de la cultura local (por eso al que casi lo pisa un bondi le debe haber sonado hasta gracioso que le avises que espere arriba de la vereda). Suena “cool” pero es una maldición cuando es llevada a los límites como lo hacemos acá. Y por supuesto, los porteños sobretodo, somos bastante hipócritas al maravillarnos de lo bien que funcionan las cosas y lo ordenados que son en otros países cuando hacemos turismo.

    Integrarse en una ciudad tan grande como Buenos Aires es difícil incluso para gente de otras provincias del mismo país, ni me quiero imaginar siendo extranjero es esfuerzo que debe demandar, pero a cambio de él seguramente la recompensa debe ser buena también.

    Y cuando te sientas abrumada por los boludos/as de acá siempre podés ir a relajarte un rato al club Danés (https://goo.gl/RVi5td) a comer algo rico y ver el río y la zona de Catalinas de la ciudad desde el piso 12. Si vas mandale saludos a “Giaco”, uno de los chefs del lugar y conocido mío.

    Muy buen post, espero que los expats de Buenos Aires lo aprecien tanto como yo.

    Saludos

    Reply

    1. Rebecca

      Es cierto, es muy llevado al límite. Bueno, en general el transito acá está muy al límite en todos sentidos. Como conducen algunos autos (y motos!!) es para mí peor que la transgresión. Cierto, ustedes son muy buenos en criticar a las cosas de acá y ver (pensar, digo yo) lo bueno que funcionar todo en otros países. Sin embargo, para mí también me parece que hay una grand diferencia entre si es una persona de acá que criticar y si el una extranjero que critica. Y es un poco mi punto en el post también, se vuelve más pesado cuando es un extranjero. Por una parte porque un extranjero nunca va a entender 100% la cultura y la historia del otro país (Argentina o dondé sea).

      Sí, obvio que cuesta integrarse en las ciudades grandes como BA pero integrarse de verdad también es un proceso que tarde tiempo – lo cual pienso que muchos extranjeros olvidan cuando van a otros países. Por ejemplo, llevo más que un año en mi gimnasio y es ahora que las mujeres empiezan a hablarme más seguido porque ya ven que no soy una de estas que vienen y después de poco meses se va de nuevo. Y lo mismo en el Chino de mi barrio, ya me conocen y saben que me quedo. Tal vez ustedes en Capital son más reservados, pero a mí me viene bárbaro porque en mi cultura somos aunqué más reservados 😉

      Muchas gracias por la recomendación. Conozco el Club Danés de nombre pero nunca he ido. Un día pasaré y le mando saludos de “Giaco”. Gracias. Me alegro mucho que hayas gustado el post! En serio 🙂 Saludos y feliz día

      Reply

  2. OnTrip.dk

    Hej Rebecca,

    Jeg synes, det er super spændende at læse dine mere personlige indlæg. Det giver mig en indsigt i både det gode og mindre sjove ved at bo i udlandet. Så jeg håber du fortsætter med det 🙂 Hahha ja, hvor ofte har man ikke hørt folk brokke sig over, at de ikke har kunne gøre, købe eller få det sammen i et andet land som i f.eks. Danmark. Jeg bliver også virkelig irriteret, for som du også skriver, hvorfor så overhoved rejse. At møde de lokale, gøre som dem og tale med dem er ofte de bedste oplevelser jeg tager med mig hjem.

    /Annette

    Reply

    1. Rebecca

      Hej Annette,
      Tak for besøget! Jeg er så glad for at høre, at du har syntes om at læse mine personlige indlæg! TAK 🙂 Jeg skal nok fortsætte med at putte nogle personlige indlæg ind hist og her!

      Ja, lige præcis! Det er virkelig træls at høre på, og jeg misser virkelig pointen ved at rejse (eller bosætte sig i udlandet), hvis man ikke er frisk på at acceptere, at ikke alle gør det på “vores måde”. For ja, det er da dét der er det spændende og interessante ved at rejse!

      //Rebecca

      Reply

  3. Jesper, The Biveros Effect

    Interesting thoughts and I have to agree with most of them. Language-wise it is sometimes a bit harder. I still agree that you need to try talking like the locals. For most of us, however, that means trying to learn the basics – like ordering food or saying just good morning. I really like the concept that when you have two similar languages such as Danish and Swedish, you adopt your own language instead of completely learning the other one. It must make it so much easier to fast get around in your new country. 🙂
    Jesper, The Biveros Effect recently posted…Swedish Traditions – Tacos in the WeekendMy Profile

    Reply

    1. Rebecca

      Hi Jesper!
      Thanks again for dropping by! I completely get your point about the language – I must be biased of choosing countries with a language I do already speak 😉 But yes, get the basics of ordering food, greetings and asking general questions is a must (for me at least) if you move to another country but of course it is hard and it takes time to completely learn a language.

      Thanks, I really believe that language is a great way to show respect for the country which you chose to live in. I taught myself to say: “Mitt namn är Rebecca, jag talar inte så mycket svenska, så jag kommer att prata dansk-svenska”, and said that everytime I had to do a phone call in Swedish. It usually made people at the other end smile, and be more understanding of my language 🙂 However, now I wish I had used more time on learning proper Swedish. Hej då! 😀

      Reply

  4. Daniela

    Hej Rebecca

    I had to smile when I read that you’re not a big fan of Danish culture as I’d say exactly the same as far as German culture is concerned. I find it interesting how many differences there for a simple thing like crossing the street. It’s something I already noticed in Europe and it’s very obvious in South America, too. When I lived in Portugal, I made an effort to switch from Brazilian to European Portuguese but soon realized that I simply don’t like it. With Spanish, it’s different, apart from the variant spoken around Madrid, I like everything although the Argentinian and Uruguayan voseo conjugation is really a challenge. However, during my last days in Montevideo, I started to say things like “podés decirme” :-). Well, and I don’t understand people who move to another country but complain about everything and stay in an expat bubble living their lives in English or their native language.
    Daniela recently posted…Uruguay: Impressions of MontevideoMy Profile

    Reply

    1. Rebecca

      Hi Daniela,
      Sorry for the late reply! Yeah, I could imagine that you could relate to my not-being-a-fan-of-my-own-culture point of view 😉

      Exactly! It is strange but all these small differences, in the end, make the big differences between regions. Yes, the language can be a tricky one, and it takes time to change. Ooh, you’re coming over on our side with the voseo now. Haha. I actually still conjugate PODER like “normal” Spanish (so to speak) whereas other words I do conjugate like voseo – damn confusing!
      Enjoy Brasil and speaking Portuguese for a while 🙂 Besos

      Reply

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