Respect Your Morals When Moving to a New Country

Moving Internationally

Moving to a new country can be intense and life-changing, especially if you’re moving somewhere where the culture is entirely different from your own. You may find yourself facing a moral dilemma, in which you aren’t sure when to respect the morals you’ve grown up with and when to learn to change them. 

If you’re moving internationally and feel like this fits your situation, here are some tips on respecting your morals and learning about a new culture at the same time. 

Educating Yourself On Your New Country

Before moving, do everything you can to learn about the country you’re moving to. Even if you’re visiting somewhere for a short period, you should learn some basic things about the culture and climate there, including: 

  • Languages spoken 
  • Cultural traditions 
  • Food available 
  • Housing situations 
  • Transit 
  • Crime statistics

You’ll especially want to check out the safety of the area you’ll be living. If you’re a woman, check out some studies on the country you’re moving to and how they generally view women. This applies to any minority group as well. Some countries may have more of a culture of racism, homophobia, or transphobia than others. If you’re LGBTQ+ specifically, make sure you look into whether or not your sexuality is even considered “legal” in the country you’re moving to. 

If you do not speak the language of your country of choice, you may want to learn to hold a conversation in the language before moving. Even if you know someone there who speaks English, you’ll need to have a basic understanding before you travel. It is safer to learn a bit so you don’t get into a situation where someone can hurt you. One effective way to prepare is to learn a language online, which can provide you with the foundational skills needed for basic communication.

You may have to use the language at the airport, in taxis, restaurants, stores, and even on the street if someone comes up to you. You can buy a small language book to bring with you to study while you travel. Apps like Duolingo are also great for learning languages quickly. 

Defining Morals

So, what are morals? Morals are the essential rules we set for ourselves based on our values. They can range from a specific boundary to a religious or cultural practice that we cannot break. They are also our internal rules for what is “right” or “wrong.” Everyone has different morals, and culturally, morals are often more similar in your own culture than in different cultures. 

For example, what is “right” to someone might be completely “wrong” to you in some cultures. 

Here are some examples of morals for you to define for yourself: 

  • How you should dress 
  • Your opinions of religion
  • How people should act in public
  • Your acceptance of public displays of affection or not 
  • Social norms that you partake in 
  • Ways of living that you believe in 

For example, you may decide that dressing modestly is extremely important to you. However, in cultures where women dress extremely modestly (covering the head and face as well as the body), you may find that to be extreme. What does modesty mean to you personally? Where do you draw the line for yourself? Are you able to be accepting of someone who values the same thing in a different way? 

Defining Boundaries

Boundaries are limits we set for ourselves in conjunction with our morals. Boundaries do not dictate the behavior of others, but merely what we accept in our own space and with our own body. Here are some common boundaries: 

  • I will not let someone kiss me in public 
  • I will leave the room if someone yells at me 
  • I will not sit next to someone who is coughing 
  • I will end a relationship if someone treats me bad 

Boundaries may be more culturally specific as well. Some cultures and religions require the people in them to partake in social norms and have boundaries related to a moral code. These boundaries may seem strange to someone outside of the culture. These include: 

  • In some cultures, women shouldn’t speak to men without prompting. 
  • In some countries, you must bow before speaking to someone. 
  • In some languages, certain gestures or sounds may seem threatening or rude. 
  • In some cultures, you should not approach others.
  • In other cultures, you should be warm and inviting. 

If your boundaries don’t align with the norms of the culture of the country you’re moving to, you may feel like you have to violate your boundaries for others. This causes a moral dilemma that some people do not understand how to navigate. Keep reading to see how you can respect your morals and another culture at the same time. 

How to Be Mindful of Another Culture

To be mindful in your new culture, all you need to do is define which boundaries of yours are strict, which are moveable, and which are not important to you. 

If someone does violate your strict boundaries, you can state, “I am not comfortable with this,” and leave it at that. You don’t owe someone a reason behind your boundaries. You are allowed to leave a situation that makes you uncomfortable. 

If you are invited to something culturally or religiously significant, and you’re unsure how it will go, research it before accepting the invitation. Find out if you truly feel comfortable or if you feel you may be put in a situation that goes outside of your comfort zone. 

Learning about a new culture or community can be highly enlightening and even fun. However, you should never put yourself in a situation that could be unsafe or that makes you feel unwelcome. Just as immigrants or visitors to our countries should feel safe, we should feel safe wherever we go as well. 

You do not have to change yourself or your own culture, either. A beautiful part of learning a new culture is being able to share your own. Let people know what you value, what you’re used to, and why it’s important to you. Let them do the same. It’s a beautiful way to open your mind to the many facets of life and humanity in morality. Interested in learning more on morality? The team at BetterHelp has assembled a variety of resources for you:

We hope you found this blog post Morality and Moving Internationally: How to Respect Your Morals useful. Be sure to check out our post How Not to Stress Out When Moving Out of State for more great tips!

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