Culture shock is what happens when you move from a familiar culture to one that you are completely unaccustomed to and unprepared for. Nearly every traveler experiences it, especially expats. Culture shock comes in different forms and varies from person to person. It can be caused by factors like dress, behavior, language, food, values, and climate. I had to go overcome culture myself when I first moved abroad as an expat and can vouch that no two cases are the same.
It Is a Shock to the System
There are going to be different stages of culture shock that expats will experience, which will begin with the preliminary stage. In this stage you will face difficulties in learning the etiquettes and cultures you are presented with. Once that stage is over, you will feel a euphoria unlike any other, which will wear off, and you will enter the irritable stage. This is the stage where simple aspects of life will become foreign to you, but that is how you enter the next stage. In this stage, you will make gradual adjustments as the culture starts getting more familiar to you and you learn to adapt to it.
Even though culture shock is an uncomfortable experience, it is vital for social and intellectual growth. Numerous studies have revealed the impact of traveling to new places, and how culture shock broadens horizons to enhance various aspects of life. It helps improve confidence and develop a well-rounded but sophisticated way of looking at the world. Other studies show that living in another culture helps people understand their own cultural values, which stimulates maturity.
Getting over Culture Shock
Culture shock can hit you like a sack of bricks in the initial stages, but it can be easily overcome. Here are some of the best ways I managed to overcome the symptoms of culture shock:
- Cooking enjoyable home comforts.
- Staying grounded and remembering that the feeling is normal.
- Being daring – try things that are out of your comfort zone.
- Getting help from a reliable person in order to learn the language and culture.
- Staying connected with friends and family.
Culture shock can be extremely off-putting and daunting for some people. Do you know any other ways to overcome culture shock?
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Magali Toussaint is the founder of U Diverse. She is a certified talent acquisition strategist, an ICF-certified leadership and career coach, cross-cultural trainer and job search strategist with an extensive career in recruitment, HR, diversity, and education. She has lived and worked in over four countries and speaks French, English and Dutch.