Dealing With Culture Shock

The ticket is booked and the bags are packed. Your trip of a lifetime is really happening! As you ascend into the clouds, you know you won’t be getting any sleep on the plane because you are too excited thinking about all the fun you are about to have. When you look down at the city below, a wave of nerves and adrenaline comes over you. You’re here! You made it! After a while though, you start to notice a strange feeling. You are getting irritated by the things around you that are different from those back home. You feel defeated and wonder what changed. You were so happy to finally be in a new place, surrounded by new people and cultures. There’s no need to worry. This feeling is something many feel during their travels. This is called culture shock. This sensation is normal and also something that can go away with time. You are not alone in this and here are some ways to deal with culture shock. 

I would first recommend that you do your research on the country or city you are traveling to. This might sound like “well of course I would do this”, but you would be surprised at how many people don’t or what you will learn when you do. The more information you absorb, the better prepared you will be. If you stay stuck in your ways of what you are used to in your home country, you are going to have a rude awakening once you go to another. And while there might not be big differences some of the time, there will be others where you are going to be like Dorothy feeling like she is not in Kansas anymore. As an American, I feel like we are the most stubborn when it comes to being set in our ways. You hear the horror stories of the tourist being loud and mean and not respecting the culture of the place they are visiting. We are entitled and think that what we say and do are the only correct ways. We need to do better and act respectfully as visitors to these amazing countries. As a result, culture shock is bound to happen to those who won’t adapt to their temporary life exploring new environments. The more open-minded and kind you are, the better you can handle the culture shock that will ultimately happen.

This might sound counter-productive, but one that I think needs to be considered is to fully immerse yourself into your habitat. If you are experiencing culture shock, the last thing you want to do is have more of it come at you when you are already on overload. However, it only takes one interaction to turn your feelings completely around. One of the only ways to wrestle your feeling of culture shock is to put yourself out there. Talk to locals, ask them questions, and try to open up and relax. Most of the time, your reservations are all in your head. Experiencing first-hand how to live like a local might allow you to feel more at ease with your transition from a fish out of water to navigating the smooth waters. 

If you have done your research and you have tried to surround yourself with all things that are new and different to you and you are still feeling down, it’s time to give yourself a break. That’s right, take some time for yourself and realize just how much you have accomplished on your own up to this point. You are in a new place, around people that are not the same, and it can be a lot. Tell yourself it’s okay to feel this way. Lay low and do things that make you feel comfortable such as reading or binge-watching your favorite show. Call or FaceTime friends and family and talk to them about how you are feeling. They might not understand what you are going through, but they might have words of encouragement or a new perspective of your new setting. Try looking up groups for people in your situation. This could help you make new friends and be able to discuss freely amongst others who get the feeling. Once you feel like getting back into your updated world, there is only one thing left to do. 

Culture shock affects everyone differently. You might stay in what they call the honeymoon phase for a while where everything around you is new and exciting and you are bouncing off the walls to meet and interact with locals. Then the culture shock will hit you hard. Nothing around you makes sense and every little thing is irksome to you. You miss your favorite things about home, especially family and friends. But on the other side of this is adjusting to your surroundings and circumstances. Once you have accepted this lifestyle, you will become the local and hopefully be able to help the next weary traveler going through their cycle of culture shock. Everyone’s stages will vary in length but hopefully, all will come out the other side with a new outlook on the world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: