Regardless of whether you move to a new country, travel long-term, or even just visit a country that’s completely out of your comfort zone, at some stage you’re likely to experience culture shock. The best way to tackle culture shock head-on is to be prepared and recognize the signs as they happen.
What is Culture Shock?
the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.
While this definition gives us a little information about culture shock, usually it will develop over a period of time, and travelers can expect to experience four main stages:
The Honeymoon Period
When you first arrive in a new country you may initially be charmed by everything. The locals are friendly, the buildings are quaint, and the transport system is excellent. Any annoyances are just “part of the adventure”, and life is new and exciting.
After a few weeks or months in your new city you may find that you’ve lost your rose-tinted glasses. All of a sudden you feel alone and unhappy, and you may experience homesickness, insomnia, depression, loss/increase of appetite, confusion, and a feeling of isolation. Many people who are going through culture shock will quickly meet a large group of expats and spend time complaining about every day things in their new city, and idolizing their home town.
You’re likely to go through a period of time where you hate the food, culture, and people. You may also feel angry and be tempted to spend large amounts of time alone, or talking to friends and family.
This is the hardest stage, and it’s also the period of time where those who suffer from culture shock are most likely to go home.
While it may take a few months, eventually you will adapt to the local culture. You’ll slowly become more confident, and may find that you can speak a few words of the language and communicate with the locals. The differences that you hated may begin to feel normal, and you’ll also begin to build relationships with those around you.
You no longer feel the need to constantly talk to friends and family at home, in fact you’ve found new friends that you can’t imagine leaving. You’ve settled into a routine and feel at home in your new country.
How to deal with Culture Shock
Knowing what to expect is the first step. Research your new city before you arrive, and prepare yourself for any challenges you will face. Read travel blogs about your destination and reach out to expats in the city. Couchsurfing and Facebook are both popular ways to meet expats, and they’ll be able to help you through the adjustment period.
Once you’ve arrived make sure you do something every day, even if it’s just grabbing a coffee. Make an effort to learn one word a day in your new language, walk around your neighborhood, and explore your new city. Read guidebooks, chat to locals, and try to find one thing that you like about the new culture every day.. Most importantly, realize that it’s perfectly normal to experience culture shock, and it’s how many people deal with change.