Why language and culture are so important when relocating to a new country.


Moving to a new country involves many things, and two of the biggest are learning the language and adapting to the culture.

Our good friends at BiCortex have put together this excellent guide on two of Brunel's key locations: the Netherlands and Brazil.

Why do we need to learn a new language and culture when we move to another country? Is it a necessary part of relocation? Why is language and culture a must when relocating? Why should there be any language lessons for expatriates? Are language training and cross-cultural training something of the pre-corona past?

We will analyze two countries, Brazil and the Netherlands, and discuss with a Dutch teacher and a Portuguese teacher to gather their views.

Eszett Team
Conny Van Sluijs, Inigo Lopez and Izabella Klein 

What the teachers have to say...

Relocating to The Netherlands

Conny van Sluijs is a Dutch teacher based in Amsterdam. This is her opinion about the needs for expatriates to speak Dutch and learn about Dutch culture when relocating:

Let me give you some examples first:

  • People that follow language training are mostly more successful in their work, like one Chinese student in the Netherlands who was asked to do job interviews with possible new Dutch colleagues.
  • People that follow language training are not only more successful in their jobs, but also in their private life like the British single woman, who happily married her Dutch man, who was then in turn very motivated to have English lessons. Really wonderful!
  • An Italian couple with two small children, who felt lonely at the beginning of their relocation to the Netherlands, as their only friends were Italian, but after a few years of training, they were so happy to tell me that they invited Dutch friends to their parties and were able to coach their children who went to Dutch kindergartens.

You will be able to understand people better: you will understand that fighting for centuries against floods and rain-showers has made the Dutch direct and introverted people. When they are a bit silent omitting verbal niceties, remember this has nothing to do with you and is not at all meant against you but it just shows you the spirit of their ancestors: so interesting and revealing...

If you speak the language of someone you will be able to enter his or her heart and will no longer be a passer-by, not only in the Netherlands but also in other countries because Dutch is also spoken in Belgium, in parts of South-Africa, Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire.

You must understand the background of a person in order to make a real connection! Often we judge a person too quickly, as the English say, judging a book by its cover, in this case we judge the Dutch book by its (often economical) cover, but we may not have read a word in it and we will pass a Dutch library in complete ignorance.

Relocating to Brazil

Izabella Klein is a translator and an English and Portuguese teacher based in Teresópolis, in the state of Rio de Janeiro. This is her view about learning a language when being relocated to another country, and in particular, when moving to Brazil:

Moving to another country is somehow challenging. When we go through this experience based on local culture, culture shock as well as other adaptation difficulties, the challenges substantially increase. The relocation experience, even if challenging, broadens the cultural horizons of the relocated and their families, reverberating especially in the children, who are more impacted by the changes, as they are still growing and maturing. But this makes them learn the local language much quicker and consistently than adults, usually giving in to the process of cultural immersion more easily. Children who learn the language also greatly increase the self-confidence of the expatriates' family, helping them adapt to the new country.

It is not just the language that opens doors, cross-cultural training is also very important in communication. Such references are essential factors to ease communication, as they help to produce empathy. The process of cultural immersion also facilitates the interaction between people, the exchange among them, and to establish new friendships, which favors the learning process and increases its consistency. 

The empathy produced by communication with cultural references is closely linked to the trust between peoples and individuals. Clarity in communication leads to increased confidence, which accelerates the pace of transactions, increases the number of connections and, to a greater extent, generates a heating up of the economy, produces more economic wealth, and a variety of exchanges and interchanges.

In Brazil people tend to be outgoing, and are famous for being receptive to foreigners. In the country, there is a greater dedication to interpersonal relationships. The Brazilian’s tend to be passionate; they shorten distances through intimacy,  they make decisions based on emotion, and not necessarily on reason. They are a people averse to formalities, despite their Portuguese descent, marked by formality. A trend described in the essay, ”Raízes do Brasil”, by the highly respected historian Sergio Buarque de Holanda.

When the local language is not mastered, we run the risk of being easily deceived by unscrupulous people, making us easy prey, more susceptible to scams. This is what happened to Bem Zruel, as he reports in his book “I will teach you how to become rich”, when he moved to Rio de Janeiro, coming from Israel, without speaking a single word of Portuguese.

Take for instance the challenge of the Japanese company Toyo Engineering Corporation, which was trying to venture in Brazil; until they closed partnerships to insert themselves culturally in the country, such is the importance of the cultural aspect in the establishment of trust to close deals. Together with a Brazilian company they created the society Toyo Setal.

Language classes are not just classes on idiom and dialect, but also classes on cultural references. These assist in the language learning process, as the student increases his immersion in a given culture, expanding the vocabulary and comprehension.

Nowadays, fast internet allows simultaneous video communication, an important tool in the learning process of online lessons, allowing the best teachers to train the best students, no matter where they live, even in diametrically opposite parts of the planet, without infrastructure costs, travel, and most importantly: time.


Written by: Conny Van Sluijs, Inigo Lopez e Izabella Klein

Who is BiCortex?

BiCortex has been providing Dutch lessons and Portuguese lessons to thousands of expats and families relocating to the Netherlands and Brazil. BiCortex also provides cross-cultural training for expatriates. This of course includes children and every training can be delivered face-to-face or online.

Some people now say that they can concentrate better in a virtual classroom, with online lessons, in which the surroundings (central heating, chair, coffee-machine) are completely according to their wishes. Virtual lessons save time and energy and will be part of a new future! Corona has brought us new insight and new developments. We must embrace a new future and out of this crisis we will move forward!

Language training and language courses will be an essential and indispensable part of our post-corona future!

Oliver Hague
Regional Marketer for Europe & Africa