On immersing yourself into a new culture

Having lived in many different cultures it gets easier. But it’s not a requirement to be able to enter a new culture and enjoy yourself.

Here’s what I learned along the way, and maybe there is something you can take with you on your next journey.

For a start, we’re all a mix of genes – mine, Dutch and Swiss, and consequently to the Swiss I was not Swiss enough, and to the Dutch, I was Swiss.

Grew up not fitting in however hard I tried – thinking I was wrong.

So I left Switzerland, spent a few years in India and ended up in Australia, living in communities with a rich mix of cultures along the way.

Over time it dawned on me: I am not wrong – just different.

Another insight was: There is a way of adapting to a different culture without loosing oneself.

A few years ago I experienced this very consciously when spending some time in a remote Aboriginal community.

I sat in the sand with the women, worked with them and ate with them.

Fitted in where possible and took a respectful distance when required.

However, being culturally inappropriate is unavoidable. There is no way you can learn the subtleties of their complex social system in such a short time.

To my surprise the faux pas were generously accepted, with someone at times gently showing the right way. On the second visit they even gave me a ‘skin name’.

This established a certain relationship to every person in their community. It’s their way of assigning a newcomer a place in their society.

So, what did I do – or not do – that made this journey into a totally different culture such a rewarding experience?

Being in the heart, and having an ability to ‘go with the flow’.

Now, this might sound strange to you. You might wonder how to ‘do’ this.

Try this:

  • Give your thoughts a break.
  • Bring your focus to your body.
  • Rest in it as if you would sink onto a comfortable sofa.
  • Visualise the space in the centre of your chest opening to the world.

You will enter a kind of ‘no-mind’ space where you can be without judgment.


Tomorrow is the start of a ten day trip to China.

I have never been there. Don’t speak the language. Can’t read it, either. It’s a new adventure. No idea of what to expect.

Going into the unknown.

Focus on being in the heart, staying soft and open, dropping out of the mind into the body – and going with the flow.

Planning to ‘do’ just that.

Curious about what will happen and how I will fare? So am I.

I am also curious to find out how you’re doing with experimenting with this technique.