Expat Living – Why you should learn the local language

Expat Living – Why you should learn the local language

9 Aug 2022

Living in a foreign country alone you will probably experience issues of loneliness early on. Expats often find it struggling to fit in at the early stage of an overseas assignment. Some may opt for sticking to the expat community and mingle with fellow expats. However, this will prevent you from understanding and immersing yourself in the culture of your host country. Learning the local language may be the key to breaking the barrier with locals and fitting in.


Your assignment likely involves a large degree of relationship building. Speaking the lingo unlocks the mysteries of local culture when moving to Asia, so you’ll avoid those awkward silences that come when making cultural missteps. The right greeting and a little small talk will set you up for success.

Expand your network by language fluency 

Language fluency opens new doors. For expats, the language barrier is one of those obstacles that are hard to overcome when living in a new place. Rome wasn’t built in a day, take your time to learn the local language. It offers a window into the culture, so every conversation is potentially a more enriching one. Whether it’s a restaurant meal or a few beers in a backstreet bar, once you strike up a conversation with a stranger, you’ll break down those barriers almost immediately. Slowly you would pick up some common expressions and colloquialisms. Becoming fluent in the lingo helps you break the ice in the new country.

Language skills on your CV 

Think of it not only as a real-time benefit to living a fuller life but also as an investment in your future. International experience with language skills is a big plus with employers, so don’t underestimate its value-give your future job prospects a big lift.

Expats sometimes feel frustrated at the beginning of their assignment because they need more help than they are used to with setting up their new home base. This reliance is usually because of language limitations. By being able to speak the local language you will be able to sort out more of his or her daily business and only need to depend on the locals for more complicated matters. This gain of independence can truly help in feeling confident and correct with their decision to move abroad. 

Being able to speak the local language also allows for forming stronger connections with the locals. It is very easy to assume that “well, everyone speaks English!” Although many people do speak fluent English, it does not necessarily mean that it is everyone’s preferred language. Coworkers and other people encountered may want to engage more with someone when he or she can also speak their native language.

Though learning a new language requires an investment in time, as well as discipline, knowing some of the local slang and being able to hold basic conversations, will help with connecting with the natives on a more personal basis, show respect for their culture, and make the expat feel more like a part of the community. 

Need assistance with assistance with moving or relocation support? Contact your local Asian Tigers office or reach out to us via our online contact 

If you found this article interesting, you might also be interested in taking a look at: 

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  • Expat living – Adapt to a new culture with a local soul food