Things that foreigners should avoid

As foreigners living in another country almost everything around us is different. The food, the cultural habits, the ways to communicate with people, the colloquial words particular to each country, the music and even what people consider funny.

When some people move from their country of origin or the one they had lived in for most of their lives, to a new country, they start complaining about the things that do not fulfill their requirements. The issue here, is that those requirements are based on their own country’s rules.

For those who live in a different country and  for their friends also, here is a list of the things that are to be avoided if your desire is to adapt to the new country you are living in.

1. Don’t compare the food
The food is going to be different. If you are expecting to eat the same food that you ate in your country, you’ll be disappointed. Even if the restaurant’s name is the name of your country it is very likely that the products they use are different from the ones back home. You’ll get used to the new flavors before you even notice, and when you actually eat something from your country you’ll enjoy it 10 times more!

2. Learn the language
Even if you learned the language before your arrival, when you first get there you will need some time to adjust and learn the new lingo. Every country has specific words that you will have to learn in order to be able to fully participate in the conversations. Challenge yourself and always be prepared to learn something new. People know your first language is not the same one that they speak and they will understand if you make mistakes. Don’t be afraid to speak, practice is what you need to become an expert!

3. Avoid speaking your language in front of natives
It is rude and people don’t like it when you speak in your own language and they can’t understand you. I know that whenever you find someone who speaks the same language that you do, you want to stay in your comfort zone. This really annoys the people who don’t speak the same language that you do.

4. Your customs are different from the ones here
In your country there are many little habits that you do and probably don’t even notice. When you move to another country you start to realize that you do things differently. When you are living in a system with different rules you have to follow them. Being different is nice and every now and then is cool to show how you do it in your country, but not always. Show your friends that you care about their way of doing things and that you respect their culture.

5. Complaining is not nice
This is the most important thing to avoid as a foreigner. Don’t complain! People that complain about the new country are annoying. There is a reason why you moved. If you miss your country, that’s perfectly understandable and we all go through the same. Complaining and comparing your country with the one you are living now and stating all the facts why your country is better is not the way to go when you are trying to fit  into this new environment. Talk about the good things from your culture and share about your country while also emphasizing good things about your current country of residence.

Explore, enjoy, have fun! You have the opportunity that few have, which is to live in another country and get to know another culture by experiencing it. Being a foreigner can be really fun. How it turns out to be is up to you!

I know there are many more points to avoid when someone is living in another country. What do you think I’m missing? Do you have friends that are foreigners and do some of these things?

Saying hello: not as simple as it sounds

Different ways of greeting people. Or in this case a statue.

Some people like greeting their friends by shaking their hands, others by waving from a safe distance and others with a kiss on the cheek. If this last option sounds weird to you, that’s because you are probably from the United States of America.

I am originally from South America, more specifically, Argentina. Down there we are used to greeting our friends with a kiss on the cheek, and if you are from a province far from the capital it is probable that you would say hello with two kisses.

The American culture varies in different aspects from the Latin American culture. I want you to think for a second how many people you talk to in one day. Can you imagine yourself saying hello to all of them with a kiss on the cheek? You might be thinking about all the germs that would be transmitted from one person to the other if you were to implement this custom in your daily life.

In Argentina, if you don’t say hello using this cultural habit, people are going to categorize you as the rude person who doesn’t know how to interact with humans. A little extreme, right? What happens when we translate this old tradition of saying hello to the person every time we see him/her to the American way?

When I moved to the United States almost three years ago, I had to adjust to some of the cultural views that pertain to this country; some of them I am still working on till this day. The American way to say “hello” is also something that I am still learning. It’s actually relieving not having to kiss every person that I see on the cheek. I didn’t like the idea very much of having contact with the other person to be polite and say hello.

Now I am facing the other side of the equation. I find other people not saying hello or goodbye. They say what they need to say without wasting any time and then leave. Why? Is it awkward to say hello to the same person several times during the day?

Here in America, saying hello has to be from the distance and without giving too much importance to it. If you put a lot of thought into your introduction, the person might think that you are boring and that you may take a lot of their valuable time.

The funny thing is that as I am acculturating to this beautiful country, I sometimes find myself not giving much thought to this act of respect: greeting people.

While “Hello, how are you?” might be the words that we hear the most, they are also words that have almost lost its meaning.

So, what is the right balance between these two extremes? If we combined these habits I would say the outcome would be very positive and it would generate conversations that we might be missing simply because we do not put the time to listen to people and make them feel important. Mixed cultures often end up being a new way of living that could revolutionize a community.

Saying hello and being polite are going to bring you more benefits and will open more doors than you could ever imagine. Dedicating the right amount of time to those around you could change your worldview and strengthen your relationships.