Moving to a new country has many adjustments, some more than others. Whether it be language, the way people socially interact, or just everything, new culture means new. This “newness” can be quite “shocking” to adjust to, hence the term “culture shock”.
So how do you adjust?
Well, it takes time, but if you really want to adjust and everything become natural, then check out these tips I have compiled together from my own personal experiences.
1. Do Not Compare: One of the biggest mistakes I see expats make is they are always comparing the new country to their homeland. Their mind is constantly saying, “We don’t do it like this in__________!” I have made this mistake, and still at times have to remind myself not to compare. You have to let the comparisons go, and embrace the new country as it’s own.
2. Try New Things: Try the food, try the local transportation, check out the common hang out places, try the clothes, try EVERYTHING!
3. Forget Stereotypes, Ask Questions: It is not wise to use stereotypes as a lens to view the functioning of people of the new country. In fact, it is best to NOT take those for rock solid facts, until you see it done…more than once. Better yet, ask questions! Ask lots of questions! There’s nothing offensive in asking native people questions about their country and culture.
4. Find Your Getaway Spots: Most places will have a “spot” where you can go and feel at “home”. It may be a restaurant, a mall, or just some random place that reminds you of home. Whatever it is, find it and go there when you need a taste of home, just be careful it’s not everyday or the only place you go.
5. Make Friends With the Natives: One of the most import things is to make friends with the native people. Too often, expats lean towards hanging out only with expats because that’s where they are comfortable. Doing that, you will never completely adjust to a new culture. One of the best ways to learn things is to experience it in relationships.
6. Learn the language: This is one thing I wish I had invested more in when I first came to India. I am honestly still working on it! This is key and important for interaction anywhere. People anywhere will always be faithful to speak in their native tongue, so not knowing the language will make you the odd man out. Learn.The.Language.
The other night, I was reminded of what it means to renew your mind. Dani and I joined two friends for a game of badminton, which I think prior to, I had played only two other times.
I grabbed my racket with confidence, thinking, “This should be easy.” Then a few minutes later, I found myself swinging and missing, swinging and missing, swinging and missing…Now, let me explain something here, I played volleyball in school, so the process of swinging at a flying object to hit it over a net was not a new concept to me. Except for now I had about a foot and a half longer arm to hit with.
After embracing the embarrassment of not being able to play this game while the other three played quite well, I became annoyed. Annoyed and frustrated thinking, “Okay, what is going on? Why can I not hit it?” It was then, that I realized I was playing badminton like I play volleyball. I was waiting to hit the birdie with my hand, rather than swinging sooner with my racket.
I had to renew my mind, change my thinking pattern from playing volleyball to fit how badminton is played (at least the swinging part). In Romans 12:1-2, the Bible talks about how we are “transformed by the renewing of our mind”. I have seen in my own Christian life the powerful this is. Often times when we want change/transformation in our lives, we pray and ask God to change us, then sit around and wait, and wait…and wonder why nothing is happening. It’s because we only see transformation when we renew our carnal thinking to think how the Word of God shares. So, instead of living in fear and worry, we live in faith. Instead of thinking we’ll catch the flu each year, we realize we are already healed in Christ Jesus. Instead of thinking as soon as we sin, is God mad or upset at us, we realize He loves us and His love is unfailing (Jeremiah 31:3). We change our thinking to line up with the Word of God.
See once I renewed my mind to think and play like badminton, the more I was able to swing and hit the birdie. The more I renewed my mind to the game and left the volleyball thinking behind, the more transformation I saw in my ability to play. This is the power of renewing our mind that leads to transformation in our lives.
It was July 28, 2015 and I was getting ready to board a long 15 hour flight from Dubai to Seattle. I was exhausted, heartbroken, and really wanted to do nothing but sit down and go to sleep. The past few weeks had been frustrating as I embarked on a battle that left me with nothing but discouragement. Dani was supposed to be on THAT flight with me. He was supposed to be sitting in THAT seat next to me. THAT was his seat. I had picked them out for us. As I was in line to my flight to Seattle, I called Dani and told him I loved him and would see him soon. I called my parents and told them I loved them and was excited to see them. It was one of many bitter sweet moments, where I was departing from one place with the people I loved to the other place with the people I loved. It.Was.Hard.
As I moved forward to the check-in counter dazed and un-focused, the stewardess politely told me, “Excuse me mam, but your seat has been changed. You have been moved up to Business Class.” My heart and face lit up, as right now, that was some of the best news I could hear. I had always dreamed and prayed of getting to sit in Business Class on my long flight with Emirates. Their seats become beds, and at this point, I needed a bed. As I boarded the plane happy, I informed Dani and my parents that I had been bumped up to Business class. I was excited to see my new seating arrangement, as I had always walked past these seats thinking how lucky these people were to have a bed. I found my seat 11F, snapped photo after photo, took part of their complimentary beverages, and felt like a queen. I checked out every inch of the seat as it was the coolest flight I had ever taken. Finally making my nest, I settled down in my seat awaiting take off. Then I said to myself with a smile on my face, “Now I am blessed.”
Now, let me tell you what was right and what was wrong about this statement. Let’s begin with the wrong. Weeks before I had never once acknowledged how blessed I truly am. I had been looking forward to this trip of taking Dani to the US with me to meet my family and friends and see Colorado. I had never once imagined he wouldn’t be on the flight with me. I had forgotten I was blessed even in my most discouraging moments. I had forgotten about all of the good and wonderful things and people God had placed in my life. I had waved my white flag in defeat, and I was tired. When I said this statement to myself, God immediately told me, “No, you are always blessed.” This blessing to be bumped up to Business Class was just a reminder. It was a small thing, which would only last 15 hours!
This leads me to the right of this statement. I am in fact blessed and favored of God, the Bible tells me so (Luke 1:28, Psalm 5:12, Proverbs 8:33-35). This flight upgrade was just simply my Father reminding me that He is always taking care of me, in my worst and my best. It was a reminder of the goodness and love of God even when we feel like everything is going wrong. God truly is love all the time, and He will never change (1 John 4:16, Hebrews 13:8). You see, I had hung my head in defeat because of earthly circumstances, when in fact I am always and already victorious because of Jesus (John 16:33, 1 Peter 3:18, 1 Corinthians 15:57, Romans 8:37). Not seeing those victories on Earth doesn’t make God any less good, but I had not paid attention to all of this because I allowed hurt to outweigh truth. I permitted my hurts and my fears to dictate my joy and happiness rather than my victorious God.
So, why am I writing this blog? Because I want to share on thankfulness and share what I am thankful for as we all gather with our families for the holidays. Many times, we allow our circumstances to block all of the good going on in our lives. We tend to forget how blessed we are and how good our God is. I will be sharing on this in my next blog Part 2.
When moving to a new city or a new country, we are going to have things we love and “love less”. Taking that step to move to India three years ago turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be. The first six months were the most difficult, as everything I knew was now completely opposite and everything I did was wrong. In that time, I honestly got really frustrated and wondered if God had told me to go to India. I remember though one night, God spoke to my heart and told me to write down what I loved about India. So, I began a list, and now my heart is so used to India that coming back to America is more strange! My point is, when we move and experience a great amount of change, there will always be something to complain about, but more than that, there will always be something to love and be thankful for. So, here is my condensed list (in no particular order) of some of the things I absolutely love about India!
1. The People: I love the Indian people and how they are so kind, and are always so hospitable. Seriously, there is nothing like going to someone’s house (whom you barely know) to pray for them, and being fed an entire meal just because they want to.
3. Colorful: I love all of the colors that Indians wear, paint their houses, cars, etc etc. There is nothing dull or plain about fashion in India!
4. Footwear: Flip-flops and sandals are worn all year round. I absolutely love flip-flops, and love being able to wear them all the time! And yes, I have a legit flop-flop tan.
5. Food: I love biriyani, rice with dahl, bajis, idly with sambar and chutney, dosas, and pretty much any food including ALL street food. I always prefer to buy street biriyani and eat it with raita than to go to a five star restaurant. Baji time starts at 4pm!
6. Transportation: I really love autos. I love the entire process, having to find one, bargain to have the driver use the meter or bargain a price, and then the entire ride to my destination. The buses are a high favorite of mine, especially when your bus comes and you and the entire crowd push to find a spot to sit, stand, or lean. Getting off is usually a challenge, but it’s always fun!
7. Indian Time: I never thought I would say this, but I love Indian time. I love the relaxed and worry-free life. I used to be the one who would show up early to everything, but not anymore! Now, I get there when I get there.
8. Power Cuts: Okay, yes they can be inconvenient, but that’s the beauty of it. There is nothing like the power going out, stopping all work and progress, that only allows you to sit and enjoy life in that moment. We get so busy at times, that we forget to actually smile, laugh, and enjoy the life we have with the people around us. Power cuts are always there to remind us.
9. Eating with Hands: This is a skill that takes time to learn when you are used to a fork and a spoon. My first attempts usually resulted in my plate spinning in circles as I struggled to mix my rice and sambar. I love eating with my hands and being part of the Indian way of life. When I go places, it makes me smile when people will hand me a spoon to eat with (because they are so sweet and want me to feel comfortable) and I am able to say no thank you. I can eat with my hands, and I don’t know how else you can eat Indian food than with your hands!
10. The Architecture: Since I was a little girl, I would see movies of India and how the houses and buildings were built. It always captured my heart, as I thought those were the coolest buildings. I still love driving down the streets of Chennai and just looking at the buildings and how amazing the designs are.
The list could go on and on, but I am just so thankful for India and its’ incredible people who bring smiles to my heart!
If you aren’t familiar with the public transportation in India, then you are certainly missing out. The times that I have spent in crowded buses and autos are unforgettable and priceless. Why, you may ask? Well, let’s just say there is no adventure like a crowded auto or bus and devising ways in your mind on how exactly you are going to get from your seat to the exit of the vehicle. Life is just never dull or boring when you take the public transportation, and I absolutely love it!
On the other side of the public transportation, there is the money factor. Autos are not always the cheapest form of transportation, especially for a foreigner. Now, autos drivers are supposed to use the meter for calculating the fares, but it’s likely you could run into some hesitation from the driver to use the meter. Sometimes the drivers will tell you their meter doesn’t work, or they may just not want to use it. However, I am not wanting to talk about a controversy here, as much as give some background so that my story makes sense.
After a full day of being out and about and ready to go back to our homes, Dani and I were looking for the nearest auto to take. As getting an auto is not always the easiest thing to do, we talked to a few drivers before we finalized on one. However, the auto driver was not the only one that needed to be negotiated with.
Since I am the type of person that usually tries my best to follow rules, I don’t always like it when an auto driver wants me to give him more money than what the meter fare charges. So, I usually go for the auto drivers that will just agree to the meter from the beginning. This particular day though I was in for a shock. As Dani and I were searching for autos and talked to a few, we came down to our last option being that we were incredibly tired and just wanted to get back to our homes. While Dani was discussing with our last auto option, the driver agreed to the meter but asked Dani if we could give him 30 rupees more. Dani bargained him down to 20 rupees more, and I wanted nothing to do with it. I argued saying, “This guy is just trying to take advantage of us!” I didn’t want to give the driver any thing more. I have been taken advantage of many times without even knowing, and the last thing I wanted was this man to not follow the rules. After some persuasion, Dani talked me into getting in the auto so we could just go home. I reluctantly got in, and then our discussion began. I asked him “Why are you giving him more? What’s wrong with just following the meter?” Taking some time to just think about things, he gently explained that he doesn’t mind giving more when an auto driver willingly uses the meter and then practically begs for 30 rupees more. So what would that money do? Well, it could feed him or a family member of course.
Realizing that the 30 rupees was equal to 50 cents and that in reality, I can spare way more than 50 cents, the rules just seemed to fade. This man was needing help financially for whatever reason. Maybe he needed to pay his rent, maybe he needed to buy food for his family, maybe he needed to pay for his auto so he could continue making money, just maybe. I don’t know the reason and probably never will, but this auto ride taught me a lesson I will never forget. Did we pay him the extra money? Of course. If someone is willing to take me to my nice home for a low price and asks for a small amount extra, I honestly don’t have a problem. I don’t have a problem helping other people in the world make their life work.
If you have ever flown before (especially internationally) you have learned that there are several ways to make your trip smoother in the airport as well as during the flight. Here’s a list of things to do and not to do that will help make flying for you much easier, less chaotic, and more fun.
Do book your flight in as advance as possible.
Do book your flight with plenty of layover time. Nothing like missing a flight and waiting at the airport extra hours waiting for a possible re-booking.
Do try to book your flight on a Tuesday, as those are TYPICALLY the cheaper days to fly.
Do check-in online for your flight 24 hours before departure.
Do NOT wait until you are at the airport to weigh your luggage.
Do check the airline website on baggage allowance, weight allowance, and of course carry-on bag allowance. Nothing like a sweet surprise at the check-in counter that your carry-on is too heavy and you’ll have to pay $130 to check it. Been there. Done that.
Do check with all airlines involved in your journey to see if they comply with the same rules as mentioned above.
Do NOT try to take water with you through security.
Do NOT try to take lotion with you through security. Those things will be tossed.
Do print out your flight itinerary the night before.
Do have your itinerary and passport/driver’s license in your hand when you go to the check in counter and through security.
Do wear comfortable shoes, because we all know that your gate is going to be the very last gate at the furthest terminal.
Do wear shoes that are easy to take off and put on, especially since going through security you are going to have to use your mad skills to balance on one foot while hopping through the line and trying to untie your shoes.
Do be courteous and allow others to go in front of you in the security line if you are going to take longer.
Do put all of your liquid and gel items in a 1 quart plastic bag the night before, and DO put that bag at the top of your carry-on bag so you can easily access it.
Do NOT forget to take your hunting knives and fishing hooks out of your bag from last week’s camping trip. Yes, that has happened.
Do NOT argue with security. Be polite.
Do eat something before you fly or bring snacks in your carry-on, because who knows when you’ll get food on the plane (if you get food).
Do bring socks and a sweater on the plane, it will be cold, you’re flying at 30,000+ feet.
Do bring a book or two, your ipod, laptop with movies, or some form of entertainment (especially for domestic flights, and in case the tv on your international flight fails to work).
Do help the shorter people put their bags in the overhead compartments.
Do bring earplugs in case it’s noisy.
Do NOT get annoyed at the poor mother trying to keep her baby calm on the flight.
Do offer to help that mother.
Do NOT argue with the flight attendant.
Do smile at your flight attendant.
Do drink a lot of water on your flight. Yes, you will have to go to the bathroom, but walking around helps to prevent kankles.
Do get up and walk around. Your ankles will thank you later.
Do take your shoes off if possible.
Do NOT wear tight socks! Your ankles will not thank you later.
Do keep your seat belt fastened when you are sitting. Make it easy on the flight attendants.
Do NOT kick the seat in front of you.
Do NOT freak out at any point during this whole process, especially if there is turbulence. That will not do you any good. Just chill, relax, watch a movie, and remember that it’s way safer to fly than it is to drive a car.
Do find out where your next gate is at asap rather than running through the airport frantically at the last minute trying to find it because you were too busy trying to connect to the very sad and overloaded wifi connection.
Do ENJOY your flight the most you can. Just think, it’s probably one of the few times you can just relax.
Flying can be fun, and it doesn’t have to be chaotic like you see on Home Alone, Non-Stop, or Snakes on a Plane.