Travelling to a different country is exciting and fun, but how does the excursionist deal with the new set of challenges that can lead to culture shock?
Culture Shock is the feelings one experiences after leaving their familiar culture to live in another cultural environment. These feelings can include anxiety, confusion and doubt. Even the most open-minded adventurers among us are not immune to culture shock, so it is important to plan ahead and recognize culture shock when you feel it.
Travellers want to overcome culture shock and put anxiety in its place: out of sight and out of mind. But to be able to conquer it, it’s important to understand the stages of culture shock. This could be as mild as developing an ear for Boston accents, or as vexing as learning a completely different set of social norms in China. There are four crucial stages that every traveller faces.
Culture Shock Stage 1 – Honeymoon Period
You have just arrived in your new country. This day has been anticipated for weeks now, and you are finally there. You immediately notice the aspects of your new country that were pictured in your head. The differences from this country to your own are fascinating. There is a feeling of euphoria from entering this new place and you are in awe of your new surroundings. The wanderlust traveller inside of you is stimulated and you feel enriched.
Stage 2 – Culture Shock
Moving forward, the differences create an impression. The euphoria you have experienced disappears and the exciting-and-new feelings go away. Feelings of confusion, detachment or stress are brought on, and you realize everything familiar and cozy about home is not easily accessible. The grocery store doesn’t have your familiar brands and your doctor didn’t move countries with you.
Stage 3 – Adjusting to Culture Shock
Cue the Hollywood Time Lapse – You begin to learn how to adjust over a period of time. You are learning new customs, making friends and developing a routine.
Stage 4 – Adaption
Gradually the feelings of stress brought on by culture shock will dissipate as you adjust to your new country. You become more confident and your anxiety fades. The unfamiliar begins to become familiar. Lifestyle has been adjusted to be balanced with the country’s own cultural norms. You can begin to enjoy and appreciate the cultural differences.
How to deal with culture shock – top tips
Research your area
Read about the different social norms, laws and personality types of your country. You might still make a culture faux pas at first, but research can help to avoid offending anyone.
Don’t isolate yourself
It might be stressful, but don’t retreat to your bedroom all day. Go easy on yourself; you will learn a lot about your new environment quicker than you think.
Do something that feels familiar regularly
Consistently communicate with loved ones. Set up Skype dates so you can communicate face to face. Download WhatsApp so you can communicate without racking up international phone bills. Find a coffee shop in town to read your favourite book. Keep doing your favourite activities that make you who you are.
Exercise, get plenty of sleep and keep your body healthy
Keep up with your healthy habits while abroad! Try to fit in your normal workout schedule in your new routine. Find a nearby park to run in or join a local gym. Or, download the free Workout Trainer App that has in-app workouts to help you stay in shape. Leave yourself time to get plenty of rest and have regular meals.
Have a sense of humour
This is our favourite tip and just might be your most important daily reminder. You might make a social faux pas and feel silly. Laugh it off! It’s part of the experience of going abroad. Enjoy being in a new land and try to enjoy your silly mistakes.
We know that travelling can be stressful, so cross one thing off of your To-Do list by booking an appointment with Tropical Medical Bureau. Handle all of your vaccinations and get more travel advice so you can focus on your exciting trip to a different culture.