Maybe you are just spending a few weeks on vacation there, maybe you are studying abroad, maybe you are working abroad or perhaps you are making a more permanent move, whatever the reason you find yourself setting foot on that foreign soil, you may be wondering if there are a few ways you can make your time with the locals smoother and more pleasurable, and indeed there are!
Speak Their Language
Of course, spoken and written language is the basis of most communication, body language is only going to get you so far in adjusting to that foreign country! Keep that foreign language dictionary on you at all times, it's going to be more than a regular help and a lifesaver at times. Learn to say "I'm learning -insert language here-, speak slower, please" -have it written down in your dictionary (perhaps inside the cover) so that phrase is always accessible to you. Most people may not realize you are new to the language, and even if they do, it is their native language so unless you point it out to them to slow down, it's only natural for them to speak faster than may be comfortable for you to understand. Just learning "speak slower, please" will work too. You will be very surprised at how much more you can make out when someone speaks slower!
Even if the native tongue of the foreign country you find yourself in is English, you may still find yourself struggling with local dialects and accents. Allow time, before you know it you will have no problem understanding the fast rattling rhyme of a cockney Londoner (or whichever local dialect applies to your situation!).
The absolute best way to acquire a new language actually falls under the heading of the next tip, so read on, travelers!
Make Friends With Them
Making friends with the locals, even if just on vacation or studying abroad temporarily, is a very valuable skill. There is nothing like the knowledge that a true local can impart on you. Unfortunately, there are always people who will prey on those that seem new to a place or look lost, so as always in life you will want to follow your instincts on who to trust and befriend. Also, try to carry an air of confidence about you, don't like look a sitting duck... no matter where you are in world.
When staying in a new country the most valuable tool in acquiring the new language is surrounding yourself with new friends that are native to that foreign country and thus surrounding yourself with that language. Hang out and make friends with the locals even if they speak little to no English (keep that dictionary handy!), they can learn bits of English from you as you learn their language from them (and most will want to learn, remember English is one of the most valuable languages you can speak in the world) . Also, try going to the cinema in the foreign country and watching the local television. It will be frustrating at first, but it is the difference between beginning to speak a language in 6 to 12 months (more or less depending on your situation and how much you commit to surrounding yourself with the language) or taking a class for a couple of years and barely speaking a word of the language because you were not committed and were not surrounded by the language.
Often, one of the best kinds of friends to have while you adjust to living, vacationing, working or studying abroad in a foreign country is perhaps someone from your own native country (or even from any country other than the one you are in, as long as they speak English too) that has more experience with the country you are in, whether they are on vacation or even living there. I only say this because they have experienced what you are going through, they know what it is like to adjust to that particular foreign country and can give you an unbelievable wealth of knowledge on how to make that adjustment.
So, if at all possible, find yourself a friend in that country that has already been through the adjustment (most likely someone from your own country) and get out there and hang out with some native locals! You can also try using the internet to find an expatriate or "expat" website for the country you are in. Expatriate means "a person who lives outside of their own native country", so perhaps this applies to you as a student abroad or someone making the big move, but even if you are just on vacation or working temporarily, this kind of website can be a huge wealth of knowledge on the adjustment to your specific foreign country, the culture, etc. You may even be able to find and make friends with English speaking people that are making the same transition or that have already made the transition, that are living or staying near you, using one of these websites.
Eat The Local Cuisine
Perhaps you will shy away from this one because you are not a very adventurous eater, or perhaps you are an explorer of world food and cannot wait to try the local cuisine, either way this step is rather important in getting a feel for the foreign country you are in. I am sure even the pickiest of eaters can find something on the foreign menu that they like if they try hard enough! "Breaking bread", or sharing a meal, with your new neighbours and friends can be an invaluable way to learn about the local culture. So much of a country's history and culture can be learned by educating yourself about and eating the traditional local dishes and it is also a very good way to get to know your friends and neighbours better, all of which helps you in adjusting to a foreign country.
As long as you put at least some effort (and hopefully more than just 'some'!) into all three of these ways to adjust to a foreign country, you will likely have a much more enjoyable time vacationing, working, living or studying abroad and learn a lot more about the people, culture and country around you.