How long would you need to live in Africa to find termites delectable?

Over the course of the past few weeks, we’ve talked about what types of norms you should adapt, which norms you must adapt, and what to do when you can’t adapt.

And, while adapting does demonstrate respect of your new culture, true cultural integration involves adopting.

Adopting vs. Adapting

What’s the difference between adopting and adapting?

Let’s take a look at our Monkey Strategies:


Adapting means to adjust your behavior in order to fit into a foreign society. It means following cultural norms, if only for the time you’ll be living and working in a culture, to demonstrate your respect and dedication to cultural understanding and sensitivity.

But adopting takes integration a step further. Adopting means to actively accept a certain behavior, norm or value as your own.

To put it another way, when you adapt, you’re a monkey swinging from the branches and limbs of the cultural baobab – picking monkey fruit from the norms, the visible part of culture.

When you adopt, you dig down into the roots of the baobab – the values, the invisible part.

Truly adopting another culture’s values means you are taking them into yourself. They are rooting within you and becoming part of you.

This may mean you’ve shed some of the cultural values that were taught to you from birth. This may be a conscious choice, and it may change the very core of who you are.

When it does, you’ve entered the final stage of cultural integration.

Adopting Another Culture

When you become part of this new culture, the culture becomes part of you.

But this isn’t likely to happen in the blink of an eye. Like an actual adoption, the process takes time. And as I mentioned, it is a choice to adopt; you can’t be forced to do so. Nor is adoption necessary to be successful in a foreign culture.

But it does make things easier. Once you adopt, you’ll no longer feel culture shock, because two cultures’ values and norms will no longer be conflicting within you.

Reaching this stage makes you global citizen. You’ll feel a deep connection to this new culture into which you’ve integrated, and you’ll also obtain freedom from and valuable insight into your own culture.

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