We are living in a world of increasing changes whether in our environment or when we move to new territories. In business it’s well known that one of the tips is to break boundaries, to reach new markets. In education, internship and voluntary services are increasingly used as ways to help students come out of the comfort of the classroom.
I have observed Organizations like the US Peace Corps and the Korean International Agency in Cameroon and I have witnessed the power of working out of one’s comfort zone. Maybe President Kennedy did not know that by creating American agencies in foreign countries, the concept could impact so many other areas of life. With the coming of Globalization, we have a shift of movement from the South to the North and the South-South Cooperation.
The reality I have faced with other foreigners like me in Uganda made me understand many are not prepared to live out their comfort zone .Though there are numerous books on the subject, I would like to share my personal experience to integrate the Ugandan milieu with the hope it could help those who want to have an experience out of their comfort zone.
- Study where you go. With the growth of new technologies, you can easily have an idea of the place you are going to before reaching there. If you know someone living there, you better ask questions about realities before landing. This applies in any situation where you have to move to a new job, city, group or voluntary position. Read about where you are going to and what you will do there.
- Be goal-centered. You can write simple statements about what you are going to achieve in that new milieu. Use verbs of action to describe your goals and the expected results in a timeframe. This will help you face the desire to quit the place in a time of discouragement, pressure, stress, and depression. Goal-centered people enjoy moving out of their comfort zone because they have results to produce.
- Integrate Social Groups. Universities, Churches, sport groups, Cultural events are good ways to integrate a new milieu. Out my comfort zone, I noticed that social groups help me meet other foreigners and I learned a lot from them. It’s also a good place to know how local people perceive foreigners and particularly how they perceive people from your country.
- Learn the local language. Luganda is the main language spoken in Kampala. The truth is that, unless you show an interest in their language, local people will not integrate you. Actually, I made more friends when I broke the fear of making mistake in speaking. They are so happy when you ask them how to say a word or a sentence in their language. They really make you feel home.
- Be aware of the cultural shock. I experienced my first cultural shock three months after my arrival. I had studied about it and knew it will come. But the difference between the theory and the practice is huge. Coming from a Socio-Capitalism background, I faced the shock of Capitalism in Uganda and I had to ajust to it to survive.
- Understand the values. Values define what has priority in our life. According to C. terrier,values can be personnal (family,work,hobbies), republican (democracy,liberty,equality,solidarity) or religious. You can know your values or someones’ values by answering the question : “what is most important for me?” and ” what is more important for him/her?”.
- Identify yourself. Identification is the process of thinking and behaving like somebody or a group because of common interest.It can means to dress, eat local dishes, share the same point of view on a topic,etc…
- Communicate on your need for integration. Integration consist of being part of the life of a community. I had to explain to some relations that I would like to participate in their social and cultural activities before they started inviting me. Communication also means ask for people’s phone numbers. Sharing on social groups to enquire more about the community.
- Accept that you are a foreigner. This is well known here in Kampala, life is more expensive for a “Muzungu” (foreigner). And one is easily identified as such even with all the effort to integrate groups. At the beginning,it was very frustrating but now, I just remind myself “you are a muzungu. Things could not be less different”…and I give an amount three time less than what was proposed…
- Have fun! This is the last thing I am concluding my article with. I have learned how to have fun despite cultural differences between Cameroonians, Congolese, and Senegalese, different tribes of Ugandans, Burundi, Japanese, Kenyans, and Americans. We have a fun time sharing our differences on various topics. It helps relax and release the pressure of not being home. A good way to fight against depression!
You might not experience a comfort zone situation out of your country, but these tips can help you survive and become productive in any new milieu, job or situation. So take the step ahead and get out of your comfort zone to develop new knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
Read the next article in this series on https://seed4future.wordpress.com/2016/10/27/4-more-tips-to-succeed-out-of-your-comfort-zone/
Hervé-Boris Ngaté, Cross-Cultural Psychologist, and Communicator