As British Consul in Malaga, Spain, Steve Jones has seen a wide mix of Brits coming and going – some who happily assimilate into Spanish life, and many who simply don't manage it. Yet making the effort can make a real difference in your standard of life and the amount of enjoyment you get from moving overseas. His tips here are based on his experiences in Spain, yet hold true for many other destinations…
1. Don't be afraid
Sometimes it's not easy to integrate – especially when things can appear so different. Jump in and give it a go. You may make mistakes, and even rub people the wrong way. But this can all be part of the learning experience and help you move on. Recognising what went wrong and trying again can be much appreciated by the locals and those in the expat community itself.
2. Go local
Try local restaurants and stores instead of expat hangouts.
3. Learn the language
Possibly the most obvious and important one. Again, do not worry about making mistakes – it's all part of the learning curve. Learning the language can make a massive positive impact on your experience and will show the locals that you are keen to make an effort – and it often leads to them wanting to help you learn more.
Trying to speak the local lingo can be fun itself – and yes it may make for some giggles in the local community – but this can help melt barriers. Try not to take things too seriously – moving overseas can be incredibly stressful – and having a sense of humour can get you out of many situations and help smooth over those times when you put your foot in it!
I always think it's a great idea to volunteer for organizations. Whether it is for the local expat group or a national NGO, this helps you meet like- minded people and help those in need at the same time.
Social contact which is both sustainable and genuine is not always easy – but it's so important to make the effort. Do not cut yourself off. There will be a lot of like-minded people out there who can really help make you feel at home.
Try to take advantage of going to local events, shows and accept invitations. This will increase your interaction with locals, and show you are being proactive. It's also a good way to meet friends and contacts.
It's easy to look back on the UK with rose tinted glasses and false nostalgia. Things are different – which is partly why you wanted to move. So stay positive – try to understand the differences and see them as part of the overall culture.
9. Tap into local news
Stay in touch with local news and the national headlines of the country. This will give you a feel of what is topical at the moment and what's on people's minds. It will help provide a range of topics of conversation if all else fails!
10. Know the area
Walk around the area (security permitting) so you know where everything is and can reference points. It will also give you the opportunity to pop in to local stores and meet the locals.