How to Prepare for a Non-English Speaking Country - Tips to Help Relocating

How to Prepare for a Non-English Speaking Country - Tips to Help Relocating

Relocating to a non-English speaking country brings an exciting, albeit challenging, set of opportunities and experiences for international students.


The main hurdle, understandably, is the language barrier that might limit your ability to seamlessly navigate the unfamiliar cultural landscape of your host nation.


Today, we will explore practical strategies and provide handy tips on how to prepare for a non-English speaking country, enabling you to better integrate into the community, communicate with ease, and enjoy your new surroundings.


  • Learn the Language


Learning the language might seem like an obvious starting point, but you'd be surprised how many international students skip this step or underestimate its importance. As an international student, you're not just visiting; you're moving into your new student accommodation, and being able to communicate, even at a basic level, will significantly enrich your study abroad experience.


The important part of the process is you don't need to be fluent before you get there. Instead, focus on learning common phrases and conversational language. For instance, how to say hello, ask for directions, order food, or express gratitude. 


Knowing these will make day-to-day living smoother and show respect for the local culture.


For example, if you're moving to France, words like "Bonjour" (Hello) and phrases like "Où est la gare?" (Where is the station?), "Je voudrais un café" (I would like a coffee) and "Merci beaucoup" (Thank you very much) are great places to start.


There are many resources available for language learning or local language classes in your area. You can also look for language exchange programs where you can teach someone English while they teach you their language. 


Remember, language learning is a journey, not a race. The goal is progress, not perfection. So, grab your headphones, download that language app, and get started!


  • Practice Speaking


Practising speaking the local language before you move is crucial. You can kickstart this with language learning apps like Duolingo, Babbel, or Rosetta Stone. They make learning interactive and fun; you can go at your own pace. Remember, you don't need to become fluent overnight; knowing basic phrases can help tremendously.


Try setting mini goals, such as ordering food or asking for directions in the new language. Practice speaking out loud, even if you feel silly at first. You can even chat in the mirror, talk with a roommate in your amber student accommodation or record your voice on your phone to get used to hearing yourself in a new language. It's all about gaining confidence.


If you want to take things up a notch, language exchange meetups, whether in-person or online, can be a game-changer. Websites like Tandem or HelloTalk connect you with native speakers eager to exchange their language skills for yours. 


Imagine a French artist teaching you French while you help them polish their English. Win-win, right? 


Real-life practice will go a long way. Try speaking to the local barista or supermarket cashier in their language once you're there. It might be scary at first, but locals usually appreciate the effort, and it'll help you dive into the culture. So, get speaking, and make those linguistic mistakes your milestones!



  • Research the Culture


Researching the culture of your new home can give you a huge leg-up before you even land. Dive into their history, customs, and celebrations - this will help you appreciate the richness of the community you're about to join and reduce the chances of accidental cultural faux pas.


For example, let's imagine you're relocating to Japan. Japanese etiquette is incredibly nuanced and deeply rooted in their history. A bit of research can help you avoid basic mistakes, like sticking your chopsticks upright in your rice - a big no-no as it resembles a funeral ritual.


Or perhaps you're moving to a country like Spain. Understanding their "la siesta" concept, an afternoon rest or nap is essential. Businesses often close in the afternoon, reopening later in the evening. If you're unaware, you might be puzzled why shops are closed or why dinner time is much later than you're accustomed to.


To truly understand and respect the culture, dive deeper. Watch local films, read books by authors from the country, try cooking traditional recipes, and most importantly, talk to locals. This research will enrich your understanding, ensure a smoother transition, and prepare you for the adventure ahead!



  • Connect with Expatriate Communities


You know, moving to a new country where they speak a different language can feel a bit like landing on a new planet. Suddenly, everything from reading street signs to ordering coffee becomes a challenge. But don't worry, you're not the only earthling here! Expatriate communities are your own little earthly colony in this new world, and they can be a lifesaver.


These communities are basically groups of people who've packed their bags, left their home country, and set up camp in this new land just like you. These communities get it, they've been there, and they've got your back.


Picture this: you're a student from the U.S. who's moved to Japan. It can be pretty overwhelming, right? But what if you found a group of American expats who've been living there for a while? They've already walked in your shoes, figured out the local customs, cracked the language barrier, and can guide you along the same path. They'll be your go-to source for tips, advice, and maybe even some homesickness-quelling hangouts.


To connect with these communities, you can start online. Look for Facebook groups, check out forums, or join platforms like Meetup or InterNations that arrange get-togethers for expats. Your university will probably have international student associations too, which can be super helpful.


While it's nice to have this support system, don't let it stop you from diving head-first into the local culture. Use the expatriate community as a stepping stone, not a barrier to immersing yourself in the local culture. 



  • Stay Open-Minded and Embrace Cultural Differences


Entering your host nation where the native language is different feels like stepping into a captivating realm full of thrilling opportunities and rich cultural encounters.


What might be considered normal in your home country could be perceived differently in your host nation. For example, while punctuality is greatly emphasized in countries like Germany and Japan, 'time flexibility' is more common in Southern Europe or South America regions. Initially, you might find these cultural disparities challenging, but with an open mind, you can appreciate these differences as unique aspects of the local culture.


Likewise, try to embrace the local customs and traditions. If you're in Spain, why not adapt to their late dining hours and enjoy a leisurely dinner at 10 pm? Or, if you're in Thailand, learn the art of the traditional Thai greeting, the "wai", and show respect to the locals in their way.


Food is another area where cultural differences can shine. Whether it's the spicy delicacies in Mexico, the raw seafood in Japan, or the variety of cheeses in France, tasting the local food is an adventure.


Embracing cultural differences isn't just about understanding others; it's also a pathway towards personal growth. You might need to improve in the local language, but learning simple words and greetings will help you connect with the people and respect their culture.





1. How can I quickly learn the basics of a new language before relocating?


There are numerous language-learning platforms, like Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, and Babbel, which provide foundational training in many languages. Regular practice, even in short bursts, is key. Try to spend at least 15 minutes daily practising.


2. What if I can't speak the language fluently before I move?


Don't worry; nobody expects you to be fluent before moving. Try to learn common phrases and keywords to help with basic communication. Once you arrive, immerse yourself in the language as much as possible - you'll pick up a lot this way.


3. Should I hire a tutor or attend language classes?


This depends on your learning style and availability. Some find it easier to learn from a tutor or a class where they can interact and ask questions. Others prefer self-study through online courses or apps. You can also do a combination of both.


4. How can I practice the language if I don't know anyone who speaks it?


There are many online platforms that connect language learners around the world. Tandem and HelloTalk, for example, let you chat with native speakers. You can also find language meetups in your city or even practice with language-learning games and apps.


5. Will English be enough to get by in a non-English-speaking country?


This can greatly depend on the country and the specific region within that country. In urban and tourist areas, English is often widely spoken. But learning the local language can significantly enhance your experience and make daily life easier, especially in rural areas or non-touristic cities. It's also a gesture of respect towards the local culture.




We hope this article helps you to identify and understand tips on how to prepare for a non-English-speaking country.


How can Amberstudent help you?

Amber serves millions of students around the world by providing the best and most rewarding experience for booking student housing. We are upgraded with the latest COVID protocols and would be more than happy to assist you in booking your student accommodation. Please tune in to our Facebook and Instagram to stay updated.


Author's Bio

Archit is an avid writer who is keen to get his doctorate. When not writing, he can be found reading, taking the metro and then questioning this decision, and haunting local bookstores.

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