culture shock

Culture Shock: A Guide to moving abroad

Travelling abroad can be exciting but the experience of new cultures, people, food, music, and probably a new language combined with the lack of familiarly amongst the people and your new surroundings can make you anxious. Welcome to the culture shock.

Know your four stages

Culture shock can be broken down into four stages. The first is the excitement/honeymoon stage. This occurs during the first few days/weeks. As you arrive in your new country, you are going to be excited about all the new experiences. This elation will keep you going for a week or maybe longer as you are still learning all about your new surroundings.

However, this elation will soon fade and will turn into the second stage: frustration. As you slowly learn about your new surroundings, you start to notice just how much things differ to your home country. This stage is probably one of the most important, so make sure you talk to people, your school and your family and friends about how you are feeling and what you are experiencing.

Expressing your frustration to others is vital as it will help you understand more about how things operate. The best way to overcome the frustration stage is to integrate with your new surroundings. Make it your home, make friends with students who are native to your host country – they will help you understand and adjust much quicker than grouping together with fellow international students.


Once you get through your frustration, you can move on to the understanding stage. This is when you become more comfortable with the people, the food, the language and your new surroundings. You’ve made friends that you trust and are comfortable with. You become less homesick and more comfortable with speaking and listening to the language spoken in your host country and you begin to handle situations that you previously found difficult during the frustration stage with ease as you start to refer to your new environment as home.
This leads to the last stage: acceptance. Here you are able to compare the good and bad of your host country with the good and bad of your home country. You begin to feel less like a foreigner. You laugh about things that frustrated you at earlier stages of cultural shock; this is when you can finally start to fully take in the experience of studying abroad!

5 Weird Cultural Shocks

Drinking laws
This one may not be so weird but it can be a big culture shock when those who could legally drink in their own country arrive to study in a place where the drinking age is higher. There are also places in the world like Kuwait and Yemen where drinking is illegal. Then there are places like Israel where it is illegal to sell alcohol between 11pm and 6am and it is illegal to drink outdoors after 9pm. Do your research.

In some countries a majority of the population may belong to a certain religious group and this religion will be part of their culture, the way they live and their values. This can be weird for those who belong to a different religious group or none at all.

Health Care
The UK has the NHS, though it may not be perfect, it is for the most part and accessible to all. Health care in other countries vastly differ. There are countries with free health care systems that are better than in the UK and then countries where a check up could cost as much as a week’s rent.

Language barrier

This one may be obvious if you are studying in place that doesn’t speak your native tongue but there is also a language barrier for students who choose to study in places that speak their native tongue. For example, despite the fact that the UK and the USA speak English, their spelling of certain words differ and the slang used can sometimes prove difficult to understand.


Yes, this one may seem obvious but it’s not just the types of food that will be different, it’s the attitudes towards food and the meaning behind it. In some countries, wasting food is seen as an insult and in some countries, eating in from of the television in unheard of!