How to handle culture shock

What is it

Culture shock is one major aspect of moving abroad that not alot of people go too much in detail to. It is “the anxiety and feelings (of surprise, disorientation, uncertainty, confusion, etc.) felt when people have to operate within a different and unknown culture such as one may encounter in a foreign country.” ( as defined by Wikipedia) However I would say it is referring to really anything new that puts us outside of our bubble. Whether you take it as good or bad, it occurs and on occasion can be overwhelming. So here are my tips on how to remain content in your transitioning.

What it feels like

Culture shock can result in feelings similar to a mild depression. Many people experience this after the initial excitement of moving abroad has calmed down and the reality of their situation hits. You start off excited and giddy for all the new experiences and ways of life but then once you realize the work involved you begin to become rather pessimistic. I find this to be quite true for Americans moving to Germany. With such a stark contrast in cultural and social atmosphere, many people experience this aspect of culture shock.

It’s phases

Culture Shock is experienced in a series of four phases:

  1. Honeymoon: Hurray! youve done it! youve managed to move somewhere new and the novelty of it all has come and swept you away. Everything is darling and glorious in your new home!
  2. Frustration: oh hey, wait. What is this? why are people like this? how come things work this way? ohhhh what I would give to have things back like they were in my country…all of a sudden the novelty is gone and reality of change sets in.
  3. Adjustment: Alas, this is the way life is. You realize now your choices and begin to figure out how to settle and live life in a different way. Usually filled with a feeling of neutralism.
  4. Adaption: Youve figured out a routine. Set up shop now are confident in your abilities to navigate and manage your new life and home. Things are looking up and you are prepared for new challeneges.

 

How to manage Culture Shock

Going abroad is not at all easy. Moving out of your comfort zone, or bubble of security is always so uncomfortable. However, you’ve got two options now; run and hide or toughen up and put your best foot forward. If your interested in the latter then check out these following tips to help you succeed in your conquest.

  1. First off, boost up your self esteem. Look at you, you did it. You made a huge step forward in the world. Youve done something most people dream of but are never brave enough to attempt. You should be proud of your new accomplishment
  2. Remind yourself these feelings are only temporary. Everything new can be uncomfortable at first, but this duration of feeling is oh so short lived.
  3. Try and avoid excessive communication with aquaintences back home. As helpful as it can be, it prevents you from living in the present and being engaged in your new surroundings.
  4. Sit down and make  list of all the tasks you want to accomplish. Whether it is learning the local language or visiting that one super cool cafe. Find what interests you and make a plan on how to experience it.
  5. Get involved with the locals. The best way to adjust to your new surroundings is by socializing. Join a club, do some sports, connect! It helps you feel more in place and naturally learn about your new home easily and quickly.

 

How to help manage your friend’s culture shock

Culture shock isnt just a pain first hand, but can second hand put a damper on ones spirits. You may have found out how to adjust, but once a friend or expat newbie comes to you at the start of the phase, there are many ways you can help them reach your new found level of exceptional expat transition.

  1. Help them find a purpose. One aspect of culture shock is the lonelieness and feeling out of place. So if one feels as if they have a real role to embody, this is easily remedied.
  2. Get them out! the best way to do this is not by asking if they want to but give them choices that dont include the option of not coming along. AKA instead of saying wanna go out tonight? say, would you like to go here or there tonight.
  3. Be a good listener. Sometimes the simplest things help. If they need to rant about all their frusterations or upset feelings ( even if you knowwww and have been there) step down a moment and give them the attention they need.

Yes, there can also be many other things you can do to help out with culture shock, but it is imporant to keep in mind the basics of the situation. It is a temporary phase, and the initial joy and excitement you experience when you first came will resurface eventually. Change is an important part of life and once you learn to embrace it and live off of it, there is no limit to the adventures you can have abroad.

 

xxA

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