It is much harder to adjust to a different cultural environment when you are constantly comparing everything to “back home”. There is nothing more depressing than hearing someone constantly saying: “That’s not the way we did it back home”. If “back home” is so great, maybe you should have stayed there. You can not enjoy your expatriate experience if you are dragging your home culture around with you, like toilet paper stuck to your shoe. Give it up and enjoy the ride!
Attitudes toward the style of life you are entering into in your new expatriate experience effect your ability to adjust. You cannot simply say you are going to adapt to your new environment and expect it to happen. You must take steps to make it happen (that is, if you want it to happen). There is nothing wrong with desiring to have some of the comforts and products from “back home”. It is a natural desire, and can actually help in your adjustment to your new country. But not realizing that you need to adjust, or not wanting to adjust prolongs your lifestyle adaptation.
How you adjust to expatriate living depends largely on your reason for moving to your particular destination. These reasons might be family, political, economic, social, or even just fulfilling your spirit of adventure.
Family reasons are the easiest. If you already have family living in your destination country, you will probably find adapting to your new environment relatively (no pun intended) easy. You have a built in support system.
It the reason is political, you probably have emotionally already cut many of your “back home” ties. That makes it much easier to adapt. It is hard to be concentrating on a lifestyle you chose to leave for political reasons. And if the move was based on political persecution, even more so.
If the reason is economics, you have probably chosen a destination where your income will go further. That being the case, you may have picked the spot specifically so that you would not have to reduce your lifestyle. Adding a housekeeper, servant or two, and a gardener can go a long way to make you forget your previous lifestyle. The governments of many expatriate destinations for example, have made it very appealing financially to retirees by providing widespread discounts and tax benefits. Panama’s pensionado (retiree) visa is a good example.
Social reasons are harder to pin down. Only you can be sure of why you chose your particular destination it that is your emphasis.
The best reason for moving to your new destination is to fulfill your spirit of adventure. When you are concentrating on enjoying a variety of new experiences, you do not have time to dwell on “back home”. And even when you think of home, you are probably thinking about how much everyone else “back home” is missing. In that case you probably have left your country emotionally, and can truly enjoy your expatriate experience.
Dr. Lamar Ross, a cultural anthropologist by training, has a special interest in training individuals for expatriate living and providing information on unique travel destinations. He is an author, educator, photographer, internet entrepreneur, and international traveler. He has lived in the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and India and has traveled extensively in 29 different countries.