Culture shock follows what’s known by travellers as “the honeymoon phase.” As the excitement of your new place wears off, you find yourself suddenly struck by the different language, customs and unfamiliar surroundings.
1. Learn Some Transferrable Skills
Being far away from home means becoming more independent, so it’s good to know a few basic means of caring for yourself.
If you don’t cook already, learn how to prepare some basic meals, especially with ingredients you might find in the country you’re visiting. Become familiar with their form of public transportation, and consider how you might communicate with someone in case of a language barrier. These essential skills make living on your own in a foreign country a bit easier.
2. Adapt to the Culture Ahead of Time
Instead of stepping into the deep end, get your feet wet by studying the country’s cultural norms, people, language, common phrases and other helpful knowledge.
Sometimes early exposure helps you adjust sooner, so plan a short trip before the extended one if possible. That way, you’ll be more comfortable the second time you travel and you can focus more on studying and making friends rather than the overwhelming feeling of exploring a new place.
3.Become Flexible to Change
Even with plenty of research and an introductory trip, you cannot prepare for the challenges that come with a long-term stay. However, if you accept things will be different and avoid comparing each situation to life back home, you’ll find it easier to take it all in.
If something does take you off guard, remember it’s part of the culture and it’s one of the reasons why you’re traveling in the first place. Be polite, ask questions and let people know that you appreciate their help.
4. Form Friendships
Nothing helps you overcome culture shock faster than making friends. Fellow travellers will understand your tension while locals can introduce you to the area and explain cultural differences. This doesn’t compare to the many great experiences you’ll have with new friends.
Create friendships by going out and doing some activities. It doesn’t have to be limited to pubs and cafés. Volunteer locally, join a sports team, sign up for a class or attend interesting events. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone. Friendships in foreign countries often build faster because of limited time and the thrill of travelling.
5. Maintain Your Hobbies
Sometimes you need a few self-fulfilling moments when things get a bit hard to handle. Following your passion is a great way to keep that balance between exploring something new and finding comfort in something familiar.
Whether it’s painting, hiking, playing music, collecting, photography or reading, keep your favorite hobby alive. If possible, merge your hobby with your new home. Draw or take pictures of your surroundings. Read popular books or play popular music of that particular country. If your hobby is learning languages, you’re in the perfect place to do so!
6. Give Yourself Time to Adjust
Culture shock is rarely a one-day process. Remember to take each day as it comes and appreciate small progressive steps as you learn to appreciate the world around you.
Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer, blogger, and aspiring world traveller. Sarah is also the founder of Punched Clocks, a site on which she shares advice for young professionals navigating college and the work world. For more on all things career – with occasional travel musings – follow her @SarahLandrum