Living and working in a new country and culture can be full of adventure, possibility and excitement. But it’s not always as romantic or easy as it sounds. Just consider these cultural norms in countries around the world. Based on your customs, would you make any mistakes in these situations without any knowledge beforehand?
- In Jordan, a man typically initiates a handshake with a woman, not the other way around.
- In Uganda, it is rude to sniff your food, even if you find the aroma appetising.
- In Argentina, business meetings typically begin 30-60 minutes after the scheduled time, so arriving “on-time” is actually arriving early.
- In Thailand, it is considered rude to touch another person’s head (even a child’s) because the head is considered sacred.
It is easy to make mistakes when adjusting to life in a new place. Locals may be understanding, but it is important to make every effort to respect the cultural norms of your host country with the ultimate goal of “fitting in” in your new home.
The single most important thing is to do some research on the country, culture and community you will be living in for the next several years. You will feel more confident when you arrive, which allows you to focus your attention on why you are moving in the first place – Basketball.
You can do research by going online as well as by talking to people who know the local and national customs of the place you are moving to. You can also contact your national federation and international athletes on your team who may have experience with some of the challenges you will face once you arrive.
When doing your research and asking others for advice, consider looking into the following areas:
- Language. If you are moving to a country that does not speak your native language, it could be very helpful to take some language courses before you arrive or shortly after arriving to help you feel more comfortable and confident in your new home. In addition to the local language, it may be useful to develop your skills in English, as many international sports organisations (like FIBA) operate in English due to the global nature of the sport.
- Living accommodations. Being prepared and having your living situation in place before you arrive can make a huge difference in how quickly you adjust. Find out about the different areas in the city or village you will live in – which area best suits your lifestyle?
- Transportation. Do some research about how people get around in your new town. Will you need a car or is there adequate public transportation available? How much will you need to spend each month on getting around?
- Climate. Find out what the climate is like at different times of the year.
- Immunisations. Depending on the country and region of the world you are moving to, or even visiting, you may need immunisations before you enter the country. This information is typically available online through your country’s ministry of foreign affairs.
Social norms. Knowing how you are expected to interact with others and present yourself can make your adjustment much easier. Speaking with people who have experienced your new country first-hand can provide you with invaluable insight about what behaviours are (and are not) acceptable, and which behaviours may be different from those you are used to at home. Look into accepted behaviors regarding gender roles, meeting new people, alcohol consumption, religious observances and even physical gestures.