The biggest misconception of travelling or immigrating to another country is that the only thing that is important are the logistics and the immigration compliance a company or an individual need to abide by. However, that is not the case there is a very important social aspect that all expatriates need to consider.

I can recall from my own experience of travelling where my employer culturally integrated me into the new environment.

At first, I had assumed this was a bonus rather than a necessity. As my travel journey continued I realized this could be one of the most important things to learn before deciding to live in a country.

It is not just a task that needs to be embarked before entering country, the social learning is an ongoing journey that needs to be continued throughout the whole stay in a country.

Social and cultural integration

The complexities s of social and cultural integration cannot be learned over night and the expatriates need to have an open mind. There are many players that benefit from this social awareness; the expatriate, the local people, and the country in which that expatriate is from.

The expatriate benefits from an easier transition into his or her new home. This will assist in meeting new people, the working environment, and daily interactions with the locals. The locals have immense pride in their country and culture and it would not be pleasant to meet an expatriate that doesn’t take the time to learn about the most valued part of their life.  

Lastly, imagine that a local’s only interaction will be with this one expatriate and this is not a pleasant interaction. The local will associate the expatriate with the country in which he is from and this can create bad word of mouth about the expatriates’ home country. This may be an extreme example, however, we all want people to think positively about our home country and so we should visit new places as an ambassador of our home.

Zambia as a good example

Zambia is a good example of the above-mentioned guidelines. This is primarily because the Zambian government has integrated these guidelines into their legal system. In Zambia, it is very important to be socially integrated due to the fact that without compliance it can lead to deportation. Zambia has a very conservative culture and it is expected of expatriates to abide by their social standards. For example profanity is seen to be extremely rude and can lead to deportation. There is a zero-tolerance policy and the reason is that these words even if they are not directed at the local person per se can offend an authority figure.

There are some very important customary rituals that need to be followed by everyone and it is offensive to the locals or even the chiefs of the tribes that an expatriate has not acquainted themselves with these traditions.   This can also lead to deportation. To sum this up, Zambia values respect and mostly of the elders and authority figures, it is also a very interesting and conservative culture that would be wonderful to explore. Therefore, it will be an intelligent choice to fully integrate with the social customs of Zambia before visiting the country.

In general, one must see their work placement in a new country to be a learning experience and should be open to learning about the countries customs, traditions, rituals, and general social interactions. This will open many doors of opportunity and can also lead to an interest in the locals to learn more about the expatriates’ home country as well.

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by Ahlam Nasser