But beyond that there's a less tangible challenge to living in a new country. Understanding the citizens of your home country and making sure they understand you. As we're all aware, cultures are different and people are different. Fortunately for us, people are also all people and, also fortunately for us, most people like getting to know other people.
That doesn't mean we shouldn't prepare for the challenge of cross-cultural communication. In fact, some would say it's crucial to have an idea of the mentality and the assumptions made by people in certain cultures. Why? Because you'll make friends faster, you'll be less likely to judge the locals, and you'll know how to communicate who YOU are to your new friends. And beyond that, it might even help you in your future career. People who know how people beyond their own patch of grass think are valuable. Finally, it can help you understand foreigners visiting the US. Instead of thinking they're just "different," you might actually understand where they're coming from.
How to prepare? Why, reading, of course!
This PBS article on "Common cross-cultural challenges" takes an analytical look at the six most common obstacles people encounter when trying to communicate with others. Skip it if it looks too academic and serious for you, but in all honesty it's worth a look. It'll teach you to identify the specific things you differ on with the person you're talking to, and with that knowledge you'll be able to make progress in that communication.
The article breaks down communication challenges into three categories: 1) Different communication styles 2) Different attitudes towards conflict 3) Different approaches to completing tasks 4) Different decision-making styles 5) Different attitudes towards disclosure 6) Different approaches to knowing.
What next? Why, reading, of course!
If you're REALLY serious about this, check out Amazon.com's offerings. Lots of books to help you out.
Of the simpler stuff, we have wikihow's understanding different cultures. Short and sweet.
Finally, we have Oxford University's tips for its students going to study abroad. Also short, sweet, and to the point.
But most important... keep your mind open and appreciate how lucky you are to have the chance to meet so many people new to you.
by Fedor Zarkhin