What is culture shock? According to Dr. Carmen Guanipa from San Diego State University the term was first introduced in 1958 and was described as “anxiety produced when a person moves to a completely new environment.” There is surely more into that than just anxiety. Many will feel disoriented in terms of not knowing what to do in certain situations, which will surely bring physical and psychological discomfort. It will take time to define what is normal and get used to the new norms. Often the biggest barrier is not speaking the language which causes tons of inconveniences in everyday life and basically prevents many from being who they are. Not being you can affect people’s emotional and physical health. Thus, it is important to stay focused and not let yourself be overtaken by emotions and fear of the new culture.
How to cope with culture shock?
You can’t avoid culture shock when moving to a different country, but there are certainly ways to cope with it. Some handle the shock better than others and yet at some point it does affect all expats. As we said, it depends on your personality and on who you are relocating with to the new country. Whenever a whole family is moving to a different country, it will be definitely easier for each family member to adjust to the new culture. Support from the family always helps expats cope with culture shock. If you are “out in the wild” alone though, you will have to work harder, put on a smile and learn how to cope with the new culture.
Here are some suggestions on how to fight the stress produced by culture shock:
- Do not try too hard and have patience! It will take time to adjust to the new culture and to start feeling comfortable.
- Don’t be afraid to be yourself and show your willingness to learn. Smile and respond to all situations the way you think appropriate.
- If you don’t speak the language, start learning main phrases and helpful words. Sigh up for a language class at the local school, library or church.
- Go out and explore your new environment. Meet locals and explore your immediate surroundings. It will make you feel more comfortable immediately.
- Try to continue with some regular activities you like and were part of your routine back in your home country. This will bring the so desired moments of relieve from loneliness, especially when you get homesick.
- Find a new hobby. You will be surprised how many new things you will find in the new culture that excite you and can start exploring. This type of constructive exploring will benefit you as a person and it will help your settling in the new culture.
- Maintain contact with your friends and family. Tell them about the new culture and about the new things you have to learn and deal with every day. This will give you sense of achievement and confidence.
At some point you can set goals and start monitoring your progress. Be patient and accept that the road to success will be longer and harder than it would be in your home country. Try to stay focused on the big picture and follow your plans for the future. Don’t get lost in the daily inconveniences and the moods they trigger.
- Last, but not least, let yourself be nostalgic. Don’t try to escape the feeling of sadness about the things you left behind. It is normal to get depressed at moments and allowing yourself the time to think about it will help you cope with the culture shock and nostalgia.
Obviously, there is a lot to deal with when moving to a different country. However, there are also many ways to cope with the relocation and the initial stress of the culture shock. Take the time to adjust and follow some of the above these basic steps about how to cope with the culture shock. Expect more on the topic soon and please feel free to share your story.