Immigrants have conversation difficulties in their new country and homeland
We all struggle at times to have a conversation. The more challenging a conversation is, the more reluctant we will be to initiate it. This blog post will focus on immigrants and people on relocation who face difficulties even in places regarded as cosmopolitan.
In the past few months, we interviewed people who have changed their living location to another country, whether they immigrated for good or chose to relocate for several years. They shared with us the challenges they have been facing.
In the mid-’90s, if someone traveled on vacation to a different country, they needed a tourist’s bilingual guidebook, a local map, and hope that the local people would be welcoming. Immigrants, obviously, faced massive challenges in learning how to adapt to their new location. Nowadays, relocating or immigrating is still significantly challenging, as exhibited above in a nutshell, but there are many possibilities to cushion the acclimatization process. Smartphone apps offer a wide range of services that can help people overseas; There are numerous apps for translation or learning new languages. Navigation apps for driving, walking, and public transport, such as Waze or Google Maps, or Moovit – help people’s mobility in any location worldwide. Online content can help people get by until they gain the knowledge and confidence needed in their new country. Yet, cultural differences stop people from having conversations. The fear of being misunderstood and sensing discomfort with how other people perceive them as immigrants—may hold people back from initiating a conversation.
New location – new conversation difficulties
Surprisingly enough, the language barrier was the least challenging of them all; “I still feel I would rather avoid some conversations,” explained Alexandru, who immigrated from Romania to New York a few years ago. “Mostly, it’s because of the cultural differences. Originally being from Romania, it is the lacking of similarities. We’re more interactive, while here in the United States, people get home, lock their doors, turn on the TV, and that’s their weekend. So, there’s not a lot of ways to connect with people, and that, especially in the beginning, was very hard.”
Hoa, who immigrated from Vietnam to the Netherlands, shared her experience: “People in the Netherlands are very straightforward. They say what they think, they appreciate your opinion, and are patient to listen to your voice. I had to speak for myself, which was really hard for me to get used to at first. Because the way I was raised was — ‘as long as you keep silent, life will be good.'” Being used to keeping her thoughts to herself, Hoa had to adopt a different mindset, which she admits was quite a challenge. Nothing prepared her for that change, and it took her time actually to speak up.
The fact that people prefer to give up the idea of speaking to someone due to cultural differences and a lack of confidence doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. CommReady’s chatbot helps work on communication skills and prepare for anticipated conversations.
One of the main issues that the immigrants we interviewed mentioned was the fear of being judged by others. This is one of CommReady’s advantages, as the chatbot isn’t by all means judgmental. Users can work with the bot step by step on what they want to say, how they feel about it, and how they think the other person will perceive their message—without being judged.
When Immigrants or people on relocation finally feel they have settled down, started to fit in, and gained confidence in having conversations, they soon find out that their home countries’ families and friends live in a type of culture that doesn’t always suit them anymore. Even short visits or distant conversations can suddenly be as hard and intimidating similarly to what they experienced when they first immigrated. Only this time, it is with the people who used to be their safe zone. Because now that they have completed the acclimatization in their new country, the immigrants question their former cultural characteristics. The ability to conduct conversations in the homeland is a new challenge they did not expect. This phenomenon is known as ‘reverse cultural shock‘; people who go back to their country of origin feel dispatched from the culture they were born into. In many cases, immigrants who want to go back to live in their homeland and maybe even have gone back – found themselves making a U-turn at some stage and returning to what has become their new home.
Old location – new conversation difficulties
Hoa, who got used to living in the Netherlands and learned the etiquette of language and culture, faced a new complexity in her life, which was her safe zone until not very long ago – home. Hoa started to feel how hard it is to communicate with her parents: “Sometimes we have difficult conversations about a specific topic. Their approach is different from mine, so I try to avoid conversations, especially when I don’t want them to worry about me. But sometimes, we do have to face a difficult conversation. They have a different opinion – They are very different from me.”
Aysun, born in Turkey, left a few years ago to study in Germany, and she has second thoughts about ever going back to live in her homeland, despite her family still living there. Because emotionally, she feels much more comfortable in Germany. Recently, Aysun visited Turkey, and speaking to her family and friends wasn’t as easy as she remembered it: “It is actually more difficult than before. I think it’s because I have integrated into the place I live in – Germany. It is hard to confront people in Turkey with any negative topic that isn’t about appreciation. I feel I have a tougher time than before, being now more of an outsider, feeling different about how I conduct my personal relationships. It is quite different from when I lived there —especially more with the family.”
Having conversations, in general, is turning harder for the younger generations regardless of being or not an immigrant or part of a minority. The need for people to regain self-belief and confidence in face-to-face interactions is essential. People can connect online with whom they feel comfortable communicating is an advantage that technology offers. However, it cannot replace those conversations that require eye contact and honesty. Wherever people are living or relocating to, CommReady can support those challenging moments to help them succeed in any difficulties they have speaking to other people. Hopefully, with time immigrants and relocators will be able to look back at the cultural differences they faced with a smile.
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