Settling into a new country as a family 

Moving to a new country is a big decision in itself but choosing to move your family is a whole other matter. Children will need lots of support to make friends while they are grappling with challenges like homesickness or learning a new language or getting used to a new school. 

Culture and language experts say that the best way to settle into a new country is to get to know locals. Not only will local friends help stave off loneliness and give your family a sense of belonging, but they will also help you learn to adjust to a new way of doing things. Here are eight practical things you can do to help your family when you first arrive.

Be open about your own culture, while being interested in others

It’s important to help your kids avoid assumptions and minimise the differences between others and them. Help your kids see local children as similar to them, just with different life experiences that they can learn from.

Living with people of a different culture is not an easy thing to do and will involve lots of adjusting on your part. That’s why it’s common to see people living in groups of their own ethnicity within a city. 

Ask for help

No one wants to be a bother but be willing to ask for help when you need it the most. Neighbours will probably want to help you and will be more likely to ask you for help in return. Maybe it will fast track your friendship and give you an opportunity to organise future catch ups or play dates if they have kids too.

Embrace the differences

Things will be done differently to what you are used to, not necessarily worse or better, just different, so you’ll need to adapt to a new way of doing things.

It’s common for kids to get a sense that “This is wrong” or “That’s not fair” when they enter a new culture, and it may be true because no culture is perfect. It’s more likely though that the issue comes from not understanding the new culture, or the underlying assumptions and beliefs that are leading to the behaviour. For example, cultures differ with many values including parenting styles and expectations, personal space, privacy, humour, dress, punctuality and styes of communication. So if someone turns up ‘late’ or lets their children roam the streets, they are not necessarily a bad parent.

Continue to do the things you love

Make time in your schedule to have fun as a family. Whether it be going on a road trip or joining a local sport team, getting your hands dirty in the garden or whatever hobbies help your family relax and unwind, find a way to make it happen. Having things to look forward to will help you all tackle the exhaustion that comes with adapting to a new culture. 

Find the best accommodation you can

Get the best accommodation you can afford so that at the end of a busy day you have somewhere nice to retreat and relax as a family. You might want to save money but at least at the beginning invest in a nice home. Living in a run-down house with maintenance problems will only add to the stress of adapting to a new culture, so do yourself a favour. 

Be prepared for homesickness

It’s normal to miss things from home, especially your family and friends. It’s important to keep in touch with friends and family, so make sure to phone or video call them regularly but don’t scroll through social media thinking about all the events you have missed. 

Also, help your family be present. Spending time with local friends will help alleviate homesickness and you won’t be stuck inside pining for family and friends back home. 

Observe the culture together 

Culture experts say that what people do and say is not spontaneous but based on an underlying set of values and beliefs. By learning people’s values and beliefs, you can better understand and predict their behaviour. 

Help your kids anticipate common customs in your new community. Once your family is not getting caught off-guard by people, you know you are well on your way to adapting to the new culture. Knowing why people behave the way they do doesn’t mean you have to agree with it, but it will help you to no longer be surprised by it. 

If you want to understand where behaviour comes from, you’ll need to take the time to talk to people and learn about their values and beliefs. The behaviour of locals may seem strange to you, but it probably makes sense to them. 

Learn from your kids

When an adult moves from one culture to another it will often require unlearning behaviour that was learnt in childhood. The process for adults can be longer and more difficult. Children however learn much faster than adults in general, so once your kids have settled in, it’ll be your turn to ask them questions and observe how they interact with their friends. 

We hope you find these suggestions helpful as your family settles into your new community. Let us know if you have other strategies that have helped you make a success of living away from your home country. 

Related Categories

Recent posts