In Praise of Local Friends
Living overseas can sometimes be difficult, especially if your host culture is dramatically different from the way things are “back home.” Many new expatriate spouses feel overwhelmed and disoriented by the shock of a novel cultural environment. Some respond by clinging to the familiar: they make a point of socializing only with other expats, and maintain minimal contact with local people. Others rise to the challenge of living fully in the unknown culture, embracing the uniqueness of the land and its citizens.
When your world feels topsy-turvy, it’s easy to slip into the welcoming arms of the expat community. There’s nothing wrong with building a support network of like-minded people; after all, no-one will ever understand an expat’s life like another expatriate. However, wrapping yourself exclusively in an expat cocoon won’t do much to smooth the adjustment process: it’s hard to relax if you have an “us versus them” mindset about the local population. The results of a 1998 study suggest that social interactions with members of the host culture play a big part in “increasing understanding and satisfaction with living in a foreign culture.”
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