When you arrive in a new country, things will be different. Unfortunately, some people find it difficult to get past these differences and find themselves suffering from culture shock. Culture shock can be experienced differently by everyone, and naturally, people from different countries find different things that make them feel uncomfortable.
There are also similarities in people’s experience with culture shock and understanding it can be the first step to getting over it. There are several stages that people go through when arriving in a new country and knowing what they are can help you identify what stage of culture shock you may be experiencing.
The first is the ‘Honeymoon’ phase. This features the types of emotions we feel when we are on holidays. Typically, people don’t have negative emotions about the place they have just moved to. They are generally too overwhelmed with all the new sights and sounds to have time to worry too much. In this stage, everything is fresh and exciting and the traveler feels very positive about all of the new things they are learning about the new environment.
Next comes the ‘Awareness’ stage. This is when you start to notice all of the things “wrong” with the place you are living. You may notice how much your travel bill is costing you, or you may begin to grow tired of being greeted the same way when you go into a shop. There are many things that you will notice in this time that don’t fit with your personal history, or your common sense, and seem downright strange. You may not feel negative about it, in fact you might find some of these things funny, but this is where culture shock really begins.
The ‘Grating’ stage. By this time, things that you thought were funny or interesting about the new environment have begun to get on your nerves. You realize that smell won’t dissipate, or your co-workers will always slurp their noodles. Perhaps you have been ripped off financially several times and have not felt safe in certain situations. This is when staying in the country begins to become difficult and people start thinking about leaving.
The ‘Resentment’ stage. This is when culture shock is at its worst. You start to look down on your neighbors and co-workers because you feel as though their lifestyle is somehow inferior. You may start making blanket claims about the society and this feeling of alienation can be worsened by not having other people to talk to who understand you and where you are coming from.
The ‘Acceptance’ stage. Hopefully the resentment stage doesn’t last too long and you can reconcile your cultural expectations with reality. You will eventually come to realize that the culture may be different, but you can find a place within it. Things that made you really angry or depressed, become everyday annoyances, no worse than the ones you left behind in your own country. Hopefully, by this stage you have a circle of friends who can offer support and perhaps you have learned enough of the language to be able to understand more, and express yourself more.
When dealing with culture shock, it is really those middle stages which give us the most grief. By working through these stages as quickly as possible. In order to do this, there are a few things you can do to speed up the process and lessen the negative effects.
The first thing you should do is establish a link back home. Talking to your friends and family can help lessen the stress of living in a foreign place. Tell them about all of the wild experiences you have had and even let them know when things aren’t going so well. They can give you the love and support to stay on, when you feel like giving up.
Learn the language. Being able to communicate your feelings and understand what is happening are integral to being comfortable and happy. It can also give you insights into why the culture is different. It can also help you to meet locals who can help explain things about the culture you might not understand.
Travel the countryside. Get out of your place and really look around. You may get a new perspective on life in the country. If you live in a countryside town, head to the big city and treat yourself to a night out. Try the best they have to offer, and you may find that it is better than you give it credit for.
Learn about the history of the country and the social dynamics. Knowing the story of how the country came to be where it is in the world now can say a lot about the people and how they live.
Try and enjoy yourself. It is easy to point out the negatives in anything. You would not be impressed if someone came and started nay-saying everything that you love and your perspective on things without giving it some serious consideration. It is much more polite and much less stressful to look for the positives in anything in life. Over time, you can grow to see more than your initial view of things, and can even grow to love some aspects of the foreign culture.
Have you had to deal with culture shock? What tips do you have to get over it?