How to Adapt to a Foreign Culture?

Adapting is hard. Period. Whatever it is – new school, new diet, new city, new flat mates or family members – it definitely means stepping out of your comfort zone and accepting changes in your life and in yourself. Trying to get comfortable in a culture that is almost the perfect opposite of the one you grew up in, however, is a challenge that will change you forever.  It will change the way you talk, the way you think, it will teach you to see beyond the obvious and even affects the way you love.

I will not even say that in the end you will see that it was not that hard after all. Nor will I try to minimize the level of hardship one goes through when values clash. The reality is that all of a sudden, you might feel like the voice of one crying out in the wilderness. You think you know all the truth, yet there does not seem to be anyone around to hear it, nonetheless accept it.

This experience will make you question who you are and whether you even truly knew yourself. It makes you go back to the very pillars you have built your self-interpretation on. It puts your patience, your confidence and maybe even your kindness to the test. And it will be a test the like of which you might have never had to undergo before.

However, there is a silver lining to every cloud. It takes time and dusting yourself off many times, before you can stand up straight and confident, both, as an individual and a conscious navigator in the “new” culture. Once you do, you have grown in ways and to an extent, you could not have even imagined before.

So instead of an ordeal, choose to see adaption (no matter how forced it seems at first) as an opportunity. Defining yourself in a completely new surrounding might actually be the very push you need to figure out what you want from life. You can go back to the basics and shape the kind of person you really want to be.

There is no better moment to try everything you have ever wanted to try. You are no longer constrained by the role you had back home or held back by judgement from people (or society) whose opinion inevitably tended to affect your decisions. That means you have no reason to fear failure. No one knows what to expect from you anyway, so there is no way to disappoint anyone (unless you  cannot stop being too harsh on yourself, of course). Is it not a liberating feeling?

You already are the foreigner, an outsider. You are going to be different anyway. So you might as well reinvent yourself as you are no longer bound by “the ways” of your culture of origin nor by the common models of the receiving culture.

By that I do not mean complete anarchy, but quite the contrary, actually becoming able to excel in both (no pressure, though), while not letting any culture define your uniqueness and individuality. You can change your career; start a new hobby; fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a board game champion; or anything else in that matter. You can be weird, you can be different, you can be YOU!

Have you ever been discouraged from doing something just because someone thought you did not have the talent or the dexterity? And consequently you never actually explored your options in that area? Well, guess what, no one knows nor cares here. You are free to do whatever you want to develop and enjoy yourself.

Even if you are not quite sure what makes your eyes sparkle, you can play around and find out. In the worst case, you will have funny stories to tell. In the best case you have found the most precious thing of all – yourself!

Saying that, I am off to my very first singing class here in Brazil. I have not sang, like really sang, since the very high pressure choir practices back in high school in Estonia, can you believe it? And I no longer feel that I should not ever sing because I am not good or technical enough. Now I can just go and practice for the joy of it, just as I frequently did as a kid. And I doubt that I would have ever taken it up again if it was not for Brazil!  🙂


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