10 Challenges with Language and Culture for Expatriates Moving From and Into The UK
“A great way to learn about your country is to leave it" Henry Rollins.
Relocating into the UK for business or personal reasons can be an exciting but also a daunting experience for the expatriates moving, with challenges related to language an culture. Language training can make us feel prepared to start a new life as an expat but when reality sets in, there are many challenges expatriates may face.
Einstein said, time is relative. In the UK we have the notion of being fashionably late for parties, but most other things work like clockwork. However, getting into the “ahorita” o “mañana” mindset is a huge wake up call for people leaving British shores.
We say empires have been built on cups of tea, so, how do you have yours? Did you cover this in your English lessons? A good friend of mine almost broke down because he couldn’t get “proper bacon” outside the UK or breakfast is served with hot sauce in Mexico.
Moving ranks high on the list of the most stressful things you can do in your life, now imagine moving to a different country. Things get especially hard when, in Spanish, “address” is “dirección”, but friendly Spanish speakers, who are learning English, tend to ask for your “direction”.
Transport networks in other places can seem otherworldly, let alone the names of the stations. London has tube stops like “Leicester Square” and “Covent Garden” that everyone pronounces wrong but “Nezahualcoyotl” in Mexico City, leaves the most fluent expat feeling tongue-tied.
Language and culture challenge
You’ve taken your lessons and your language courses, and you feel great, you can communicate! But suddenly you realize you don’t know the lingo. Make an effort to involve yourself in conversations. Remember “caro” is expensive, “carro” is car. Rolling the “r” is important. During my first few months and years in Mexico I just said “coche”.
Putting your foot in it!
Ready for today’s English lesson, I noticed that a classroom was full of people, it was a student’s birthday. I heard “Rob, it’s her birthday!” I naturally replied, “Happy birthday!” and went on gathering my course material. The student started crying! The other teachers quickly rushed after me explaining that birthdays are a big deal and that everyone has to hug each other. Cross-cultural words of wisdom I will never forget!
Friends and family
Relocating also impacts your family as well as your social life, learn to create new social groups but stay in touch with loved ones over the internet, with technology nowadays, a quick online videocall is a face-to-face conversation without touching.
Stepping out of your comfort zone and not just for a holiday puts everything into perspective. Dare to try something new, like driving on the other side of the road or celebrate the festive season in a hot climate. Relocating is a true eye-opener!
Relocation for work or business can demonstrate loyalty towards your company and potentially provide more opportunities in the future. Working in a multicultural environment provides new insights and opens you up to new ways of approaching tasks but understanding cultural relativity.
Home is where the heart is.
It’s only natural to miss the things from your old life and the frustration of not understanding or figuring out how things work can sometimes become too much for everyone involved.
Knowing the ins and outs of a language can give you the confidence to interact with others in business and social situations, whereas understanding your culture and how it matches and differs from others creates long-lasting bonds and successful relationships. BiCortex Languages believes that comprehensive expatriation policies include both language and cross-cultural training, allowing companies, expatriates, and their families to easily embrace this new transition and phase in their lives, and help them to overcome language and culture challenges.