When you make the transition to a new place there is a mix of both excitement and nervousness. On one hand, it gives you the chance to meet new people and to experience a new culture. It also allows you to see new places and have unique local experiences. On the other hand, however, it means that you essentially have to start over. You probably won’t have any friends there, you will have to find a new place to live, and you’ll even have to find another favorite takeaway restaurant as well! While some people may be content in not integrating but for most, how to integrate into a new digital nomad base can be an important aspect of moving to a new city or country. Here are some ways that can help you to successfully integrate as a digital nomad.
Do Some Research
You can start the integration process before you even get there! How great is that? By doing a bit of research before you go, you can help your future self by starting out on the right foot. There are some important things that you should research before you go to a new place. These include the language or languages spoken, the best places to live – depending on what you want, cultural elements, how to meet people, and reading articles like this one, or check out our other resources too!
You may be thinking that the language is a no-brainer, but it can be tricky sometimes. For instance, some people don’t realize that not all countries in Latin America speak Spanish. Portuguese is the national language of Brazil. And Belize and Guyana are English-speaking countries.
And regarding where to live in a new place, you should consider where you want to live in the city and what are the pros and cons of living there. Some important considerations are the price, proximity to grocery stores, how international the neighborhood is, and the ease of getting around.
Make sure you have travel and medical insurance that covers you during your whole stay, it will make you feel safer. You can check out some providers that cater specifically to digital nomads like SafetyWing.
Lastly, understanding the cultural elements can help you to know what to prepare for. LIke how warm and friendly the people are or specific taboos or behavior that is considered anti-social. This can be particularly important in Asian countries where the social behavior and even the laws can be very different from what you’re used to. The strict anti-littering and jaywalking laws in Singapore come to mind.
Learn The Language – At Least A Little Bit
Of course, the best way to learn a language is by being in the country that speaks it, but it doesn’t mean that you should only start learning it when you are there. In fact, you should try to learn at least a few things before you go. This doesn’t mean that you have to be fluent, or even conversational. But learning a few important things can help you to feel more confident and comfortable.
But, if you plan on being in a location for a long time, or you plan on going to another country that also speaks the same language, you can definitely benefit by learning a language deeper. This is more important in places that people seldom speak any language other than their native one, or at least not English. So it may be quite difficult in some cases to meet local people if you don’t know the language.
Walk And Ride Around The City
When you first arrive in a new place, it’s very overwhelming and disorienting. The best way to familiarize yourself in a new city is to walk around and to even get a little bit lost! You can incorporate it into your trips around the city for shopping or eating, or you can just go for long walks in your own neighborhood and then start exploring new ones as well.
Additionally, depending on the city, you should also familiarize yourself with the public transport system as well. As it’s likely that it’s how most local people get around the city. And a key component of integrating into a new place is putting yourself in the local’s shoes – more on that later.
Leverage Your Network
It may turn out that you already know someone, or have a friend-of-a-friend in the new city. And having just one friend, acquaintance, or connection can jump-start your integration. Because all it takes is just one person to introduce you into their network which can then open more doors and opportunities. You can do this in multiple ways as well, depending on your network. If you have an international network on Facebook or LinkedIn you can post something there. Or if you are a member of an organization or platform you can reach out to fellow members there as well. Even if you don’t think you know anybody, it certainly can’t hurt reaching out.
Try New Things
Of course, moving to a new place there are bound to be many new things. This is true whether you are moving across the city, country, or globe. And it’s likely that by the time you moved from your previous home, you had your favorite takeaway restaurant, dry cleaner, bar, etc. One of the most enjoyable aspects of moving to a new place can be experimenting and trying to find your new “spots”. And in this process, you should try to experiment as much as possible! Don’t be afraid to move outside of your comfort zone. You’ll never know what you are missing until you try it, after all.
While this can be seen as primarily for things like restaurants, bars, and cafes, it doesn’t have to be! Perhaps your new digital nomad base is famous for its skiing but you never fancied yourself as a skier, it would be a great place to give it a try. Trying out the local experiences can also be a great way to learn new things and do as the locals do, as well as a possible way to meet people too.
Be A “Yes” Person
For mental health and maintaining a balanced lifestyle saying no is essential. If you stretch yourself too thin trying to accommodate everything and everyone, you are going to harm yourself in the end. However, when you first arrive in a new place it may actually be a bit difficult to say yes. You may feel like your out of your comfort zone or you don’t belong there, but if you say no to invites and other opportunities that come your way when you’re new to a city, you may be missing out on important opportunities to build a social group and to integrate.
Find Comfort In Solitude
When you’re very new to a city you may not have anyone to say yes or no to, so the onus is on your to take action. And doing things alone can seem daunting at first. Especially if you’re in a strange place. But this is something that you can only feel comfortable with the more you do it. If you don’t practice doing things alone, you will never feel comfortable doing it. And it can be satisfying and empowering to do things alone as well. And once you are more comfortable doing things alone you won’t be dependent on others and it can feel quite liberating.
If you keep yourself closed off it’s going to be difficult to integrate into any society, no matter how different or familiar. And you may find yourself someplace that is very different than what you’re used to. And for some this may be quite difficult at first. When things are different it can be hard to maintain a positive attitude, especially if it’s uncomfortable.
But by being open to new experiences and learning about these differences in culture and cuisine you can begin to feel more at home there. Not only can it include things like trying new foods that you wouldn’t ordinarily try, but also asking questions and learning more about the culture. It’s important to keep the context local as well and not compare things to back home. Such comparisons, which are often overly romanticized anyway, can often cause frustration or disappointment that they are not the same.
Meet Local People
Hanging out with and talking to locals is one of the best ways to feel integrated into a new place. It gives you the chance to make a social connection as well as learning about the local experience.
You can learn a lot from local people. You can get an idea of social norms without having to make the mistake yourself and be judged for it. You can also get tips on how to best experience things. Which includes local insights into sights, restaurants, experiences, etc. that are off the beaten path or how to best experience something that is famous and frequently visited. Lastly, it can also bring more of a sense of belonging in the community when you can have such interactions. This is pretty much what integrating is all about, right?
It can be difficult to meet local people, however. It’s pretty unlikely that you will be randomly approached in the street and asked to join someone’s social group. If that does happen, great! But usually, it will require you to reach out and take an initiative. A good way to meet local people is through an event or group. These can include social groups, concerts, sports groups, or even a book club. A great place to start is looking for these groups online or on social media – which is pretty important for digital nomads.
Copy The Locals
If you don’t yet have any local acquaintances, friends, or colleagues, you can learn a lot about the cultures and customs just by watching. To avoid being judged and shunned it’s best to follow the local norms, which will also help you feel integrated. So you can pay attention to how they act, how they dress, etc., and apply some of what you noticed to yourself and your actions. By showing that you are interested and respectful of the culture can go a long way in integrating into a new place. This is because you are more likely to be accepted in the culture by respecting it.
Stay Connected Back Home, But Not Attached
Keeping in touch with your friends and family that aren’t with you is very important. However, there should be a balance between spending time either on the phone or virtually with them and building a network where you physically are. This can be difficult as it’s getting increasingly easier to communicate with people around the world. But this can also provide a crutch that will prevent you from fully experiencing and integrating into wherever you are.
Create Some Short-Term Goals
To help guide yourself it can be beneficial to provide some goals and to stick to them. This can be helpful as building a new life in a new place can seem quite daunting. To help make the task easier you can start off slow with small things like becoming acquainted with the neighborhood, finding a good coworking space or cafe, etc. And then you can plan slightly more difficult tasks like learning the language to eventually join new groups or something similar. By breaking it down into more manageable tasks, integrating yourself won’t seem like such an impossible task.
Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself
Did you set some goals but didn’t achieve them? Don’t beat yourself up. That happens. We are only human after all. The important thing to consider is that it takes time, a lot of it, to truly feel at home in a new place. And how long or short the process is can be due to many factors like how different the place is compared to your previous experiences. If you are too critical about not living up to your expectations, it will only make the process more difficult.
There is not a one-size-fits-all method of how to integrate into a new digital nomad base. You will have to see what works for you depending on your previous experiences but hopefully, these tips can provide you with a good place to start.