How to Cope with Culture Shock
Whether you’ve moved abroad to study for a semester, or just moved to the other end of the country to begin university, culture shock can be experienced by anyone.
What is culture shock?
Well, it’s basically a mix of emotions. Feelings of loss, confusion, stress, anxiety and impotence. Which all come from both the challenge of new cultural surroundings, and from the loss of a familiar cultural environment.
“Culture shock” is a term used to describe the anxiety produced when a person moves from a familiar culture to an entirely different cultural or social environment.” Warwick University.
Stages of Culture Shock
After arriving to a new place, you’ll likely be caught up in a whirlwind of wonderful things that your chosen new home has to offer. During this stage, the cultural similarities and differences you recognise, can be overwhelming.
Gradually the euphoria will diminish. You’ll feel lost, confused and perhaps even question why you’re there. Realisation that your familiar support systems, eg. family and friends are not as easily accessible will cause a brief stage of panic.
The Adjustment and Acceptance
Isep refers this stage as “the emergence stage, when you start to come out of the ‘fog’ and finally begin to feel like yourself again.”
You will have achieved a balance of emotions and will start to relax. No longer feeling isolated, instead you will look at your surroundings and appreciate where you are.
After all this learning, things will start to become enjoyable. You feel comfortable, confident, able to make decisions based on your own preferences and values. And most importantly, you will feel at home.
Tips for Dealing with Culture Shock
Remember – it’s normal! Kaplan International explain that “it’s not an adventure if every moment is comfortable.”
Create your own space. There’s nothing quite like bringing home with you. Whether it’s a few pictures of family and friends, or your favourite cushion, building yourself a little sanctuary to come back to when it all gets too much can be just what you need.
Learn as much about the place as possible – even if you’re there for a few months or years. Reading guides, forums and even talking to people who live there will help.
Become a ‘yes’ person. One of the best ways to handle culture shock is to keep an open mind and embrace the surprising experiences as they come. Accept invitations, eat local cuisine or even visit all the tourist attractions. (Obviously, use common sense – don’t say “yes” to anything you think is actually unsafe or let anyone exploit you!
Feature image credit: Image via Unsplash – Becca Tapert
Image in blog: Image via Unsplash – Mikael Kristenson