Overcoming culture shock

overcoming culture shock

Coming to a new country can be overwhelming, exciting, and nerve-wracking at the same time too. Most people who move to a new culture, experience an adjustment period that we call culture shock. It occurs when the language, customs, signs, people, and symbols that you are used to and previously helped you to make such of your surroundings suddenly have no meaning or have new meanings. Many believe the four stages of culture shock that consists of:

  1. Honeymoon phase

During this first stage, everything you see and do in the country you are visiting is exciting and positive. Typically you’ll be full of energy and excitement while being busy settling in. You’ll participate in daily and routine activities with your new friends or host family.  

 2. Culture shock phase

The excitement has started to wear off, it suddenly shifted to something unknown, unfamiliar, and tedious. Minor things become difficult. It is important to note that this stage often coincides with the Wintertime which is especially difficult for students as they are dealing with the changes that come with our shorter days and longer nights. Winter blues are very common even to locals so this is a good time to stay busy and active. You may begin spending all your time with members of their home community as part of your comfort zone. You may start feeling discouraged, negative, isolated, and disoriented, not understanding the nuances of the new culture. There are times you even feel like giving up over little things like taking public transport, making phone calls, or navigating a school day that can become overwhelming.

3. Recovery phase

Here’s the stage where you start seeing the light in the tunnel. You’re beginning to gain a deeper understanding of their host culture, and as a result, greater respect for it. This process is gradual and longer than the other stages. Becoming an explorer in the new culture and being more positive towards it is part of the cultural adjustment.   

4. Adjustment phase 

Finally, you’ll become more comfortable in your new surroundings and more accepting of things you cannot change. The feeling of being a foreigner diminishes greatly and you may even begin to feel that the new country is your new home. The great thing about this stage is that you will develop a greater tolerance for what used to be strange and new.  

The best strategy for coping with the various impacts of culture shock is to make a conscious effort to adjust to the new culture. Try some of these efforts to help make you feel at home in your new surroundings.

1. Get involved in some aspects of the new culture.

Volunteering is an excellent way to feel more accepted in your new environment. Being involved in anything that you’re interested in will make a world of difference

2. Take care of yourself. 

Eat well, exercise, and get proper rest. Listen to your body more and meditate if the anxieties have gone up the roof to help you stay grounded. Remember, you’re not alone. 

3. Make friends and develop relationships. 

Getting to know local people will help you overcome cultural differences and understand the country. It will also show you how to be more sensitive to cultural norms and expectations.

4. Do something that reminds you of home. 

Listening to your favorite music or cooking your home food can boost your mood when you are feeling homesick.

5. Avoid idealizing life back home. 

Be more present and try to make the most of your stay while consciously adopting an open mind.

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