How to Combat Culture Shock when Living Abroad
“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” Robert Louis Stevenson.
Going on a big trip, preparing to move or live abroad for a considerable amount of time can seem quite intimidating at first – especially when it is your first time to go on a big trip. It can seem even more daunting when you have decided to travel and live in a country so far away from where you are from or where the culture is like nothing you have experienced before.
To take away this fear, read up on some practical tips on what to expect, how to prepare and what to do upon arriving in your new country.
1. Be prepared for culture shock
Anxiety, homesickness, or questioning if you made the wrong decision are all very normal parts of culture shock. These feelings can already start a couple of weeks before going on a long trip. You may start to have feelings of wanting to back out and not going on the trip anymore. Not everyone experiences it, but most people do in some sort of form. For some, it is just for a couple of days or weeks, but for others – especially if not prepared - it can also sometimes last for several months.
Expect culture shock and what to look out for when you might experience it. Look back on the good experiences and be aware that it shall pass and the feelings you may experience will not last forever. At the end of your trip or stay in a foreign country, you will see that it was all worth it and you will have no regrets!
2. Bring comfort items from back home and use Skype!
What you can do to ease culture shock, when it strikes, is to bring personal items from back home. These can include photos of friends and family, clothes, blankets or even cuddlies. You should have something with you that you will feel comfort in. That way, when you are feeling down and you look at these items, they may help you overcome homesickness and bring back some happy memories and feelings. A good tip here, is to bring some food you love from back home and where you are not sure if you can get it abroad. Especially when you are sick and not resting in your own bed at home, you will want some comfort food or drinks to make you feel better.
Another very important point to not be dismissed, is that luckily in today’s world we all have the chance to stay in touch with our loved ones no matter how far apart we are. Take advantage of Skype and all your social media channels to keep in touch with friends and family back home and to also keep them updated with your new experiences. Yes, there are time differences and it can be challenging at times, but that is all workable. And it is going to make you feel a whole lot better.
3. Be able to adapt
Reasons that you may also experience culture shock, become frustrated or have bad days in your new country can be the little things you are not consciously aware of. These could be things as simple as different light switches, different heights of table and chairs, different water pressure giving you a hard time rinsing your hair, different temperatures, different TV channels and simply everything as every little thing is different!
This does not come across as a big deal at first, but when little things start to add up and when you feel lonely and sad and you do not have anything to grab on to and seek comfort in, it is these little things that will become a big deal and possibly cause bad moods and fights. Be aware of it and try to adapt early on. Embrace the differences – because you basically don’t have a choice if you want to enjoy your stay and not go running home straight away.
Observe how everyone else is behaving, how they use things, how they eat and mimic them. Try to fit in, try to adapt to the new lifestyle and feel blessed having this opportunity to experience another culture and with that, enriching your world view.
4. What is different is not wrong
This point kind of goes hand in hand with the previous one. Because everything will be different, it does not mean it is wrong. No, it is only different. We actually all know this and it seems such an obvious and simple thing to say, but, you will have moments when deep down you somehow think, this just is not right and that is not how it is supposed to be done. It takes a lot of time and effort to get to a point to fully accept that things are simply different.