Traveling to a new country can be an exciting, yet challenging experience. One of the things that many people have trouble adjusting to is culture shock and cultural differences. Here are some tips on how you can adjust and enjoy your trip!
What is culture shock?
First, let’s discuss what culture shock is and how it shows up.
Culture shock is defined as the emotional distress that can result from a clash of cultures. Simply, it’s the period of cultural adjustment.
It can be difficult to predict how culture shock will make you feel. Many people experience symptoms such as homesickness and irritability after being exposed to an unfamiliar environment for some time.
Some common triggers are:
- seeing or hearing other languages in public places
- eating different kinds of food compared to food eaten at home
- having less privacy because the country has fewer personal boundaries between strangers.
People react differently to culture shock depending on their expectations, personality traits, and the degree of cultural differences.
Everyone will experience some form of culture shock when visiting a new country; it is natural and normal. But there are ways to prepare for its effects and lessen them so you can enjoy your trip more fully.
The Stages of Culture Shock
There are four main phases in which a traveler makes adjustments as they immerse and come into contact with a new culture. They are:
- The honeymoon phase: A traveler is very enthusiastic and excited about their new surroundings; they are typically too busy exploring to notice any differences between their culture that they left behind and the new one.
- The negotiation phase: Travelers begin to make adjustments as they become more aware of things not conforming to what was expected from their cultural perspective. For example, when a U.S. Citizen try Japanese food for the first time or if someone who speaks only English visits France and has trouble communicating with locals because it is primarily spoken there.
- Adjustment phase: Travelers may experience feelings of frustration related to language barriers or other misunderstandings due to different cultures while still managing some sense of normalcy. It is at this phase that travelers begin to adjust to the culture and new environment.
- Adaptation phase: Travelers begin to adapt to the new environment the longer they remain in their host country and environment. Acclimating to their new environment becomes easier.
So how do you get through it? Tips on Coping
Here are some tips on coping with culture shock:
- Learn about the culture of your host country: Learn as much as you can about your host country and culture before arriving. While preparation doesn’t give you every detail about a country and its culture, it certainly could help you understand and become aware of the cultural differences in advance.
- Be careful with your expectations: Do not expect everything to happen the same way like at home!
- Be open-minded: Traveling and/or living in another country can be challenging, but your willingness to consider another perspective and being receptive to differences can help you through this period of transition.
- Accept change as a normal part of life: You may find your culture shock gradually dissipates as you become more accustomed to the new country and its culture.
- Do not isolate yourself: Try to stay active. If you’re an extrovert, join social groups or volunteer for a community service project that will help you connect with locals outside of tourist circles. If you’re an introvert, get outdoors or journal so that you can process your experience.
- Be honest about your feelings: Even if you’re feeling overwhelmed and confused, try to be open about what’s going on in your mind. Get comfortable embracing all of your emotions through your transition. Dismissing your feelings could prolong the adjustment phase, keeping you from reaching the adaptation stage.
- Accept the help of others: When someone offers support or guidance, don’t reject it.