When you move to a foreign country you’ll often be labeled an “expat” or a “migrant.” But when you’re setting up a new life for yourself, you might want to immerse yourself fully in the culture of your newfound country. You want to become a fellow citizen.
So how do you transform yourself from expat to compatriot?
Below, we’ll define compatriot and what this includes before explaining what will help you become one.
A compatriot is described as someone who holds citizenship, resides, or was born in the same country as another person. It can also be used to describe a colleague or friend, i.e. someone who belongs to the same organization or group as someone else. Therefore, the word “compatriot” is loaded with a sense of belonging because you’re one of a number of people who share the same country or group.
In contrast, an expat is someone who has left their home country to live in another – they’re living in a country that’s different to the one they were born in or is different to their nationality. Thus, the word “expat” can evoke feelings of not belonging because you’re constantly being deemed a “foreigner” whose country is different to the one you’re living in.
Furthermore, when you venture to a foreign country, it’s often easier to stick with what you know. This means some expatriates never transition from being an expat to a compatriot. After all, one of the hardest parts of moving abroad is becoming part of your new country’s culture.
That’s why it can be tempting to speak to your fellow expats about your new experiences of living in this foreign country. No one else will understand how you’re struggling to adjust to this new pace of life or the local food, will they?
But to really get the most out of your experience as an expat and to become a compatriot, you need to break out of your comfort zone and immerse yourself in the way of life of the locals. Getting rid of any stereotypes or false impressions is the first step to becoming a fellow citizen – and once complete, living in your new country will become a fantastic, life-changing experience.
How to Become a Compatriot
Even if you’re moving to an English-speaking country you’ve visited plenty of times before, it’s not always as easy as it seems to transition into your new life abroad. That’s why you need to allow plenty of time to start living like a local.
And one of the first things that may hit you is the culture shock of your new country compared to your homeland. It hits everyone eventually. However, try not to let it take over, and don’t constantly compare things in your new life to things in your old. Even though it’s natural to say, “Where I’m from, we do things like this,” this isn’t going to go down well with the locals, as you’ll sound like you’re not trying to adjust and are just complaining about their way of life.
Instead, stop yourself from making these suggestions and look at the ways you can adapt to this different way of doing things. Granted, it will take time, but your perseverance will soon pay off.
Another hugely important thing if you’ve moved to a country that doesn’t speak the same language as you is to learn the language, even if it’s only the basics. Even if you struggle to string a sentence together, locals will appreciate your efforts and you’ll probably find they encourage you with your pronunciation or choice of words. You can also try watching the news, reading local papers, and joining language classes to give your vocab a boost.
As you learn the language, you’ll hopefully feel more confident when you’re mixing with the locals, which is another key part to becoming a compatriot. Try to involve yourself in local activities, events, and social gatherings so you can meet new people that are outside your expat clique. Not only will this help you grasp the local culture but it’ll also help you feel much more settled in your life over there. Making friends is often the hardest part and even though you may feel like a fish out of water when you go to one of these social events for the first time, the more you go, the more welcoming everyone will become.
Anyone who says they dived straight into their new life in a foreign country without any problems isn’t telling the truth. Everyone who ventures to a new country needs some time to adjust to their new culture and environment.
After the initial burst of excitement some of the vast differences may start to get to you, but then you’ll start to accept that things just aren’t the same in your new country. That’s when everything will seem to click into place and you’ve successfully made the transition from a guest in a foreign country (an expat) to a fully-fledged local (a compatriot).