Volunteer Capital Centre (VCC)

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

How to fit into a new culture

When many of us go to a different place we sometimes find it difficult to fit in. A different place can be another part of town with your relatives. It could also be going to college, University, summer camp or a different work place. There are some of us who are lucky and have great personalities like extroverts who can mix in any crowd. On the other hand there some of us who can’t but want to be like extroverts and have outgoing personalities. To make it easier for us to mix with the others and to change our status from the outsider to the insider. Mixing with people who are from a different culture is not as hard as we make it out to be. I will focus on how to mix with people who are totally different from you. In that you have left home and in you are in a different country whether you are volunteering/ interning abroad and gap year. You can be from Europe or America and move to America or Africa, Asia and Australia to find how people are different. The best part is our difference is what makes all our cultures special. Here are tips to make you be better at socializing with other individuals of a different society:

Give yourself time to adjust to the new environment. Don’t give yourself unusually high expectations. If you need time to adjust to the people its ok take your time. You don’t have to be the loudest or give your opinion on every subject. If you prefer, when in a new crowd keep quiet first, read and learn the new people who you are going to be with. After sometime when you have learnt the people’s personality you will be able to join the conversations. Also people who you are with will give you time to adjust to them. They won’t expect you to be yourself at the first meeting. Be patient with yourself and with the new people you are with.

Facebook, twitter, and MySpace are one of the greatest social mediums. Knowing what your friends are doing , the photos, and comments being posted is good. But, however good those companies are they are bad for socializing. If you are on your phone all the time commenting on your friends updates and photos you won’t have the time to be mix with the people around you. People find it hard to talk with you if you are on your phone all the time. When you are in a crowd put your phone aside, and talk to your friends who are with you. It doesn’t have to be facebook or twitter; it also applies to playing games on your phone, and listening to music. These are regarded as anti social behaviors. The social mediums are cool but shouldn’t be used when with other guys. They should be used when you are alone.

Since you are in a new environment, you are meant to adapt to it. With the new people you are with seek first to understand rather than being understood. This will be the fastest way to make friends and to fit in. if you find them doing something you are not used to or never thought it was possible. Try to understand the meaning of the acts and the habits. After you understand their behaviors you will be able to appreciate it more. The locals will try to make you comfortable and try to make it easy for you to adapt to their culture. If you both make allowances for each other then it will be easier for both of you.

This must be the best way to mix with other people. It’s also the easiest thing to do. When you are with new people there is always something you can complement people about. It can be there outward appearance or their habits that you could complement. There are things where we all like to pay extra attention to like for example if a lady emphasizes on her hair that should be the thing we should complement. It’s in our nature to be more responsive when we are complemented. The thing is to find what the people who you are with emphasize on.

Background information
Getting information from past volunteers helps you to find out what you will experience. There are many people who have been where you are going. Research previous volunteers, contact them and ask them for advice and opinions. This will help you prepare well. If you can’t contact an ex-volunteer abroad member, there are various blogs on the internet that could help you. You could learn how to dress appropriately in the country you are going to.

It is always easier to talk to a cheerful person as opposed to a person who isn’t. Smiling to people makes it easier for people to approach you. It’s something we normally over look but smiling to people goes a long way. People will respond better towards you if you are smile more. Having a cheerful attitude helps the time and work more fun. Being cheerful is contagious, and you will have a more profound effect on your stay there.

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