How Do I Survive in a New Culture? Tips from Expat Kids

expat kidsSurviving in a New Culture

I recently had the privilege to discuss expat life with a group of 12-year-old experts. The topic was survival in a new culture. I asked these expat kids what advice they would offer to other kids moving internationally.

This diverse group included kids on their first international post and some onto their 4th or 5th new home. Regardless of which passport these kids carried, their survival techniques were surprisingly similar.

Here are the main pieces of advice these young people  wanted offer to other new expat kids.

It is important to adapt

The only way to survive an international move is to adapt in some way. Learn the local language and try to understand the culture.  Specifically to Southern China, they suggested learning how to bargain and cope with undue attention.

Find a good group of new friends

Most of the kids said they had found it surprisingly easy to make new friends. They said it was easier to join groups at an international school than it had been at their own national school as most of the kids are used to new people arriving and others leaving.

A peaceful mind

One kid spoke about the need to have a ‘peaceful mind’ in other words being slow to become angry. He said it was important to take your time to figure out how to react in new situations. Wise words from someone so young!


Be a quick learner

 Learn how to learn quickly. Watch what other people do and copy them.


Don’t be too picky 

“You cannot be too picky, especially about food”.


Focus on things you have control over.

These kids are too young to have had much say in the lifestyle of their parents. They were often surprised when they found out they were moving and usually sad and upset about leaving friends. However, they had learned to focus on things they could control. Many said they were enjoying the chance to learn English in an International school. A little worrying was a couple of the girls who had decided to focus on controlling their weight and focusing on diet. Perhaps a good reminder to those of us with international kids to monitor what they focus on, and ensure there is a healthy balance.

Be open to new things 

All of the panel spoke enthusiastically about the things they never thought they would be familiar with, but now felt they were. High on the list were English books, from the kids who were non-native English speakers. Others mentioned different types of food they now loved as much as food from their home-nation.

All of the kids were positive about their experience overseas. They all had found new friends, were learning new languages and traveling to new places. Their advice is great for kids and adults alike. We all need to learn to ease off being so picky sometimes!

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