How much should expats integrate?

Ultimately how much an expat wishes to integrate into the local culture of a host country depends on their individual personality and their particular needs and circumstances.

The integration index

The latest HSBC Expat Explorer Survey used cultural integration as a way to measure the expat experience across the globe. In short, the more expats said they were integrating with the local culture, the more points a country / territory scored. Integration – meeting with locals, learning their language, discovering their culture, forging connections across a new community – can undoubtedly bring myriad benefits to an expat’s overseas life. However, we wouldn’t want an expat partner and their family to assume it will be much harder to have a successful assignment in a country where they will struggle to interact with locals and, therefore, find it difficult to integrate with the culture.

No universal rules

After all, learning how to thrive in a more culturally challenging situation – perhaps on what used to be called a ‘hardship posting’ – could be the greatest reward of all for an expat partner. But whatever the situation, Global Connection is on-hand to offer guidance, when and where needed, so that our expat partners do what feels right for them given the circumstances of a particular assignment.

Fast-moving, fluid world

In terms of cultural integration, that could mean many, very different things to a diverse range of people scattered all around the globe, so first, we have to assess the situation. For example, a Spaniard might not need much advice on how to mingle in Buenos Aires or Mexico City, but how about New Delhi or Dhaka? Furthermore, a Chinese-speaking Singaporean may be able to speak Mandarin in Beijing, but they may still struggle to adapt to life there.

The happy medium?

There will always be expats who will be keen to learn the language and seek to interact with locals as much as possible just as there will always be those who are happily ensconced in an expat bubble. But there will also be many more expats residing somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, picking up some language, interacting with locals, but socialising with expats, too. Is that the happy medium? That’s not for us to say. We’re only here to offer guidance, should it be requested, to help them all adapt to life in a foreign land.

Photo: Mike Locke – Flickr

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