Once the excitement of moving abroad wears away, what’s usually left is the daunting process of integrating into a new culture. It can be especially hard for people whose host country is distant from their home country culturally. This is one of the reasons why expats tend to move with other expats. It doesn’t have to be that way, however. Integrating elements from your host country’s culture could enhance the quality of your life in ways you would have never imagined. Festivals and celebrations are the easiest way to start understanding and appreciating the culture of your host country.
Traditional celebrations like the Snow & Ice Festival in China, Holi in India, Oktoberfest in Germany or even local weddings, are deeply woven into the tapestry of the culture. Traditional celebrations are the ideal opportunity to interact with the locals in your new country and be introduced to their culture. Here are three reasons why it makes sense to embrace and revel in festivities and celebrations that represent the culture of your host country
Ideal way to interact with locals and build your social circle: As an expat it is likely to feel overwhelmed by the many challenges life throws at you in a foreign country. During difficult times having a strong support network in a new country could be extremely reassuring. The easiest way to build a support system is to be receptive to your host country’s culture by joining them in traditional celebrations and interacting with like-minded individuals who could become your friends for life.
Receptiveness to your own culture: Moving to an entirely different culture doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate your own culture. Embracing your host country’s culture would also encourage the locals to partake in celebrations and festivities that are unique to your culture.
You could reap the best of both worlds: Across the globe festivals evoke the spirit of good cheer. As an expat one of your biggest blessings is having the opportunity to explore traditions around new festivals while valuing the importance of festivals that define your cultural identity. The added advantage is that joining in during cultural celebrations may offer an easy path to becoming “one of with locals.”
Tips on participating in your host country’s celebrations
Plan ahead to be involved: It’s always great to be a part of every celebration, but some may simply not appeal to you or there may be unavoidable time constraints around the period of some celebrations. For it to feel authentic rather than a cursory attempt to impress locals, you should make a list of the celebrations coming up in your new community. This will help you figure out which ones appeal to you the most so you can make time and prepare (costume, food, etc.) to be entirely involved. It makes sense to research ways to participate and volunteer for the festive celebrations. Few festive celebrations where volunteering opportunities are open to expats are Holi, Ramadan or Songkran.
Engage: Lastly it’s easy to get lost in the funfair of a festival but remember that part of why you’re getting involved is to seamlessly integrate into your new community. That’s only going to happen if you step out of your comfort zone and engage with the locals in a bid to understand and appreciate their culture and its unique aspects.