Tips for a Smooth Cultural Adjustment
Last Updated on March 8, 2019 by Estrella
You have just moved to another country. And not just a change of country, but also a change of culture. And you have brought your children with you. So in addition to making this transition yourself, you are also helping your children make the adjustment. Is it possible to make this transition time smoother? Yes! Definitely. This article offers some tips for a smooth cultural adjustment, so you can feel at home sooner than later.
How to make cultural adjustment easier
Make the cultural adjustment for yourself first
If your move includes children, it is natural that you want to help them make the adjustment more easily. This can actually speed up your own process. We’ll talk about that in a moment. First, we want to address cultural adjustment for you. Just like other areas of life, if you take care of your own needs first, you have more energy to offer your family members. So what are some ways you can take care of your own transition?
Continue the activities that make you feel good
Think of the activities you do back home that make you feel good. That energize and uplift you. Can you duplicate those activities here? For example, do you practice yoga? Work out in gyms? Hike? Bowling? Listen to music? Go to concerts? Do those same activities here. They will continue to energize and uplift you.
But what if you don’t know where you can go for a yoga class? Or best places to hike? Meetup.com is a great place to meet other people who share your interests. When you go on that site, you will find a wide variety of groups. Photography. Hiking, cooking, walking with toddlers, language practice. There are business networking groups too. After you find a few groups you like, visit them once and see how you feel. If one does not feel comfortable, try another. When you decide on groups that you like, go to their events regularly. Regular because you will then feel part of a group. People will recognize you, and you can start building friendships with those who share your interests. This will help when you don’t already have friends in the new country.
Meet new friends in local language groups
Another way to meet new friends is through language groups. Let’s say you want to practice conversational English. Although you already speak English, you may not have much opportunity to speak it in your country. Finding groups where you can practice helps you to not only improve your English conversation skills, but also meet new friends. Libraries have free groups called Talk Time. Or if you live in Bellevue, there is a group called ELLA.
How to help your children adjust to the new culture
Now that you have taken care of yourself, you have more energy to offer your family. Now let’s talk about how to help your children adjust to the new culture. What did your children like to do in your country? Can you duplicate them? Do they like sports? Do they like to play a musical instrument? Do they like to go to the playgrounds? Once you identify what they like, it becomes just a matter of finding others who like the same.
Meet your children’s classmates and their parents
Here is an example of what one client did with his young son. It wasn’t just the language. His son was having a difficult time adjusting. The little boy likes to play baseball. So my client started going to his son’s baseball practice, chat with other parents, and after a few more practice, invited those families over for a picnic. His son now has new friends, and my client also made some new friends.
Invite your children’s classmates for a party
Here’s another example of how one of my high school classmates made quite a few friends in a short time. Her English was a little bit limited, but enough to converse. She invited several classmates to her birthday party who were patient and polite. Her mother prepared some snacks unique to her culture. Over the course of one afternoon, we got to know her and her family much better. Back in school, my classmate felt a lot more at home, and reached out to befriend even more classmates.
How do I adjust if I cannot work here yet?
So far, you’ve seen that reaching out just a little bit can help you and your family adjust to this culture more easily. But what about professionally? What if you do not have a work visa yet? What do you do during the hours your children are at school, and your spouse is at work? What if you have been working in a job you loved, with co-workers who became friends? Now, that part of your life is missing temporarily. What can you do?
Build professional connections
One way to prepare yourself professionally here is to make new contacts with people in your field, even if you can’t work at the moment. Once you build those relationships, when you get your work permit, you will already have a professional network who can refer you, or introduce you to hiring managers in their companies.
So how do you find these connections? Use social media to find professional networking groups. LinkedIn has groups in various professions that discuss relevant topics. Some of them are local. If the group is only online, you can still join in the conversation. Get to know the members. Some companies have branches nationally and internationally. It only takes one right connection to make the difference. And if the group is local and meets regularly, even better! Face to face interactions add so much more to building relationships.
Now you have some ideas on how to make your cultural adjustment more smoothly. You take care of your needs first by doing activities that feel good to you. You can help your children adjust by bringing their classmates and their parents to a get-together. Maybe a BBQ. And you can start making professional connections by attending networking events or joining in online discussions with groups relevant to you.
If you find this article helpful, here is one on How to balance your life as a new immigrant.
Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking. To schedule a session with her, please email firstname.lastname@example.org