How Music Can Help You Transition Cultures

When transitioning cultures, music can play an important role. Music tends to either remind us of past experiences, or catapult us into new ones. It may help us cry when we need to, or feel renewed, excited, and like springing into action. Sometimes its great for inner calm. All-in-all, music can have a profound experience on our emotions.

On my first trip to France, I recorded every song I heard (virtually!) off of “NRJ” – my favorite radio station in France! When I listen to those songs today, I am transported back to the wonderful memories of that moment in my life.

The other thing I have noticed, when living and traveling abroad, is that music varies dramatically from country to country – at least some of it. If you focus on things other than the American pop songs that play everywhere, you can start journeying into the culture you’re living in. Finding local music you enjoy can help you create new memories in your new home.

You may find yourself looking forward to hearing a certain song you love – thus creating some excitement, which can be especially helpful on days you’re feeling a little down. Music, of course, can also lead to dance – whether you watch others such as a local cultural event, or whether you go to a dance club or bar – again music can create some enjoyment and activity for you.

So, as you transition to a new culture, here are a few ideas, revolving around music, that might help you:

  1. Before you move, make a special CD or mix for your MP3 player/cell phone (whatever gadget you might use!) that reminds you of fond moments you have from home. You can play this music whenever you feel a bit homesick to help you remember that you haven’t lost your connection to home. You can be with it in spirit and memory any time you need it.
  2. After you move, find local radio stations with the rhythms/beats/sounds you most enjoy. (I don’t want to use terms like “rock, classical, etc.” as these may not correlate to what you have access to). If you find any music you particularly enjoy, consider getting a CD of that artist, and going to a concert, should they play in your area – use your favorite music to get you out in the world.
  3. If you hear a song several times you love, and cannot figure out the artist, then hopefully you’ll hear it one day in a local bar, cafe, etc – ask the waiter/waitress if they know the name. This is a nice way to start a conversation, as well as helping you to connect with the local music.
  4. As you find more and more music you love, make sure to collect some of the songs. Should you eventually repatriate, you’ll have a wonderful collection of songs to connect you with the place you left