Understanding a new culture

Hi Everyone,

After spending 23 years of my life in India I moved to a new country after marriage.  I relocated in Belgium.  My first trip on international airways, I was very tensed, excited, apprehensive…. It was a mixed bag for me.

After approximately 8 hours journey I landed in Belgium.  A whole new world awaited me.  Nothing was same for me, the weather, the people, the language, the culture, even the currency 🙂  I had two choices in front of me either embrace the change and move along with it or locking up myself in a shell and make things miserable for myself and my family.  I chose the first one of course.

To begin with I used to feel homesick, missed everything back home.  But as it is rightly said home is where you are I had to understand this pretty quickly.  As a wife of expat working in a foreign land with long “do nothing” hours at my disposal my only way to adjust in a new place is to understand its culture.  By understanding culture I don’t necessarily mean learning its history though having knowledge of history of one’s resident country is an addition only.  I mean understanding people, their ways of work, celebration, reaction to certain issues and so on.  To simplify I would like to quote an example here.  Here in Belgium public display of affection is never considered wrong but to the land which I belong to, being a conservative society any such display of love or affection is still a taboo.

Learning the local language gives an edge in understanding the culture better as it gives a chance to mingle with people around giving an insight into their perspectives.  At this point I would definitely confess that even after seven years I am not that well versed in French.  I am embarrassed to say so.  I still write “intermediate” knowledge of French in my resume 🙂  But I can easily get into a conversation (I am not confident with telephonic conversations though), can write mails to my landlord, fill in basic applications.  That’s it.  There are reasons why I am not fluent but nothing justifies my inability.  So leave it.

So coming back to how to understand culture of a new place, the only way is through people.  When I was new here in Belgium I used to take long walks into the markets, parks just watching carefully surroundings.  Always tried to greet with a smile if ever had an eye contact with someone.  A smile costs nothing but can win hearts and I believe that firmly.  I made myself familiar with basic words of greeting and other very basic words in French.  That helped me a lot.

After seven years I am home, in love with Belgium and its people. Understanding and respecting cultures bring harmony and definitely can put an end to all the chaos world is facing today.

Hope you all agree with me.

 

Source: Understanding

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8 thoughts on “Understanding a new culture

  1. You didn’t mention the time difference, the moment you realize that there is no way you are going to be able to talk to your family or friends on a regular basis, unless you decide to stay up late or wake up early 🙂 I have been in your shoes, the difference is that I already spoke the language. And just like you, I adjusted and today, what felt like a whole different world has become my home 🙂

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    1. Hi,
      First of all I want to thank you for reading my post. Now coming to time difference it isn’t much 3 and a half hours in summer and one hour extra in winters. So I can talk to my family during the day time but yes as you said not everyday as they are busy with their lives and I am with mine, two more members added now 🙂
      Where do you live?
      It’s a pleasure meeting you via this platform.

      Kalpana.

      Like

  2. Hello Kalpana, very beautiful post. 🙂

    Relocating anywhere that has a different ways of doing things can be daunting, but I’m always comforted by the fact that the people are still people. They may dress differently, speak a different language, or enjoy different dishes, but they’re still like me in how they enjoy being with friends, seek out exciting moments, fall in love, and in how they can return a smile from a complete stranger (among others, of course).

    It’s good that you’ve adjusted well to your new home.

    Best wishes to you,
    Kleia

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    1. Hi Kleia,
      Thanks for reading my post. Young have put it rightly. People are same everywhere. Our colour and tastes may be different but we all are people nevertheless. Humanity must be celebrated.

      Kalpana.

      Like

  3. I really enjoyed reading this post. I feel the same way about telephone conversation when not speaking my native language. It’s much harder than face to face conversations. There are no visual cues to help decipher meaning. Thanks for sharing about your experience!

    Liked by 1 person

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