When preparing for a move abroad, it's important to do as much research as possible before packing your bags. Of course you're going to need to research many things, but one of the first things you should research is the culture of your new country. You wouldn't want to move to a country whose culture is so drastically different without a little knowledge beforehand. Read on for tips on how to research the culture of your new country.
Where to look
Before the advent of the internet you would automatically go to your local library to gather research about a certain country's culture, rituals and practices. Now, because of the internet, you can get the information you need without even leaving your house.
If you've already chosen a country to move to, your first stop should be that country's official website. Chances are on the country's official website there will be links to even more resources about that particular country -- resources that have likely been properly vetted and are likely more accurate than other sites you may find on your own.
Once you've done some basic research about the culture of your new country, your next step should be to visit the expat forums and websites.
On the expat forums you'll be able to read discussions from people who have moved abroad to your particular country. You may have to register with the site to gain access, but it may be well worth it for the wealth of knowledge that you will find.
You can also find pertinent information on consular websites and at the U.S. Department of State's website. Consular Information Sheets will have information sheets including travel warnings, regulations and security issues.
What to look for
When you're researching the culture of your new country you should try to cover your all your bases so that you aren't focused on one particular aspect of that country's culture and then blindsided with another aspect once you arrive in your new country.
- Religion - Find out what the common religion is in your new country. Clearly, if you are a member of a particular religion and wish to continue practicing once you arrive, you could research different houses of worship near your new home. The country's official website will list many, if not all, practiced religions in that country.
- Economy - Even though the economic status of your new country might not be considered part of its culture per se, it may effect the way people interact with each other on a day-to-day basis.
- Cuisine - A country's cuisine is a monumental part of their culture. Learn what the national dishes are and what the common types of foods are in that country and region. They may be very different than what you're used to and you may not like it or you may love it, but it's better to have an idea of what you'll be eating ahead of time rather than be blindsided when you arrive.
- Customs and Traditions - Get an idea of what kind of customs and traditions held in your new host country. Some traditions may be tied with religious affiliations others may be tied to the country's heritage. Keep in mind what may be celebrated in one country while denounced in another.
- Gender Roles - The gender roles in whichever country you're considering moving to may be totally different than what you're used to.
- Etiquette - Etiquette changes from region to region - what's rude in one country may be entirely acceptable in another.
Once you've got some basic research about your new country's culture, you'll have an easier time moving and reduce culture shock. Keep in mind that no amount of research is going to prepare you for the real thing so just use the basics that you've learned through your research, use your better judgement and have fun exploring your new country.