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When You Should Adapt to a New Culture

The signals were all around me. After a few months of being in India, my wife and I were invited to a dinner with a group of other expats. We had intentionally avoided these kinds of gatherings at first because we knew they could be addictive and also prevent us from really diving into the culture.

When It Makes Life Easier

In India, women are expected to dress more modestly, yet it is also often too hot for jeans and pant-suits. It is often much easier for women to wear Indian dress in their day-to-day lives as it colorfully addresses both the modesty and heat issues.

A separate example is househelp. If you come from a culture where you could never afford someone else to do your cooking, sweeping, mopping, driving, etc., it might be hard for you to accept someone doing all of this for you. But in cultures where these things are the norm for even the middle class, it can make your life considerably easier.

When It Is Significantly Cheaper

If money is no object for you, then you can continue to enjoy your imported meats, cheeses, and wines. However, for most of the rest of us, we have to be a little careful about how much we spend and shopping exclusively at the import store is not the way to live smartly. Local food is most likely cheaper and probably without harsh preservatives.

When You Are Not Being Understood

Sometimes your speech needs to be altered slightly when you are speaking with someone from a new culture. This might be as simple as slowing down, cutting out idioms, or slightly altering your accent. Be careful not to speak in a “broken” version of your native language to locals as this might be considered insulting. Picking up on new words or phrases (like preponing in Indian English) can also make you more understood.

When Their Way Is Better Than Your Way

It takes a certain amount of pride-swallowing to get here, but you may find things that are exceptionally better in your new place. Maybe your neighbors are over all the time, knocking at your door at 9pm and delivering food. Instead of complaining about the lack of privacy, you might start to appreciate their warmness and hospitality. Even their toilets might offer you a new and better alternative if you are willing to try it.

When It Helps You Learn

If watching movies is simply a pastime for you and not a deep part of your personality (see below), why not switch it up and watch some local films? Why get the Guardian or New York Times delivered to your door when you can see what the local perspective is? Why not take a season off of watching the NFL or the Premier League, and get caught up in the local sports?

Neil Miller is a US American who has been living and working with India since 2010. He currently lives in Chennai with his wife and children and writes regularly about several topics on India at Learning India.

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