How To Embrace The Local Culture Abroad

When going abroad, there is no denying the fact that one must learn some new manners and create new habits. Basically, you have to start from the bottom, making new routines like which grocery store you are going, what time of the day you do your groceries and what routes do you use to get there. People around you might easily notice from your mannerisms that you are not a local person.

But don’t worry – just because you’re not a local, doesn’t mean you can’t embrace the local culture! Here, I give you tips on how to embrace the local culture abroad.

Act like people act around you.

One way to learn new habits and manners is to copy others. For example, if you see that nobody is paying groceries by credit card, then use cash. Otherwise you might make a huge line behind you. If you see everybody is giving tips in restaurants or coffee shops, give tips as well. Otherwise you might end up being considered as a rude person who lacks some basic manners.

One thing that I encountered and experienced completely different is queuing. Like, queuing up to get inside to some places. No matter in which country you are in, people do it very differently, even between the countries in Europe. As a modest Finn, I neither skip the line nor use my elbows to get in the front. I am used to do lining in a very polite way, having my own spot there in the line, with a maximum of two people standing side to side.

But when I came to Austria, I found that there were no rules when it comes to queuing up here. People just come from every possible direction and they push you from all directions. It is crazy. That happens especially in front of the clubs, but even when lining for sightseeing things. What can I do, as a Finn I respect others and rather stay in the back, even though my international friends are already in the front. They certainly know how to keep their spot in the so-called line, which is rather a huge crowd of people than a line.

Be polite.

Another thing you have to be aware of is that when you’re in a foreign country, you have to take into account that they might use the language differently. Of course, you are speaking in a language which is not your native one. But you have to find a way to be appropriate for the place or people you’re with. The best way to ensure this is to speak politely; especially when encountering people from all around the world. You have to make sure that you are not insulting anyone.

Everyone will learn how to live in a foreign place, little by little. Humans are very adaptive. And it happens without even noticing it by yourself. When I really noticed that I had changed my way to communicate was when I had some of my friends, who have no international experience, visiting me. I have to admit that many times when I spent time with my international friends, I felt the urge to add something to their speech, just to make it sound softer and not so rude.

Our native language, which is Finnish, is so upstanding and also a bit rude. If you translate our way of speaking into English or in any other language, you can easily make someone offended. I often felt ashamed for my friends and they even didn’t notice it by themselves. And another thing that is completely abnormal to do outside of Finland is to remain silent when eating. That is something which Finns love to do; just being silent.

Make sure you have enough time.

There is a whole bunch of things you should learn in relation to social life and social norms when going abroad. For some people, it is more surprising and at the beginning, also very scary thing to change your own behavior, but for me it was not such a big deal. You just have to be brave enough to speak to and meet people as much as you can.

One thing that I find hard to learn is the bureaucracy. It is works differently everywhere. For me, it was a completely mess at first. I needed to register myself to many different places and organize my bank stuff. When I got sick, it piled up. You always have to fill in some papers, find a person who can speak English, send papers out to get some stamps from different person, have a copy of your old papers and insurances…. It was complicated, frustrating and it took time – A LOT of time. So learn from me and find yourself enough time to get out there and travel!


Of course it is important to remember where you come from and where your roots are. But there is no denying the fact that it is nice to assimilate inside the culture where you are living. Somebody asking advice from you when you’re just passing through is one of the best feelings ever!

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I am an undergraduate student from Finland. I am studying in University of Tampere, but currently doing my exchange in Austria, in the city called Graz. I am majoring in lifelong learning and education and my-long term goal is to work internationally on a filed of education.

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