How to deal with Culture Shock? – that will be the topic of today’s article.
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Table of Contents
One of the biggest problems faced by expats all over the world is Culture Shock. Therefore, we are here today to help expats overcome this obstacle by offering some tips.
Following that, we will also provide some tips on how to deal with some other issues faced by expats.
Let us begin.
What is Culture Shock?
Imagine you went to another country as an expat. Now, you have to live there for a considerable period. While living there, you are saying goodbye to your previous lifestyle. This includes your daily routine, food, culture, etc.
You will now have to learn certain new processes and get adapted to new habits. You will have to get used to the processes in the new country, which can be a little bit troublesome. This process of finding it hard to adapt to new changes is known as “Culture Shock”.
In our everyday lives, we do a lot of things while becoming aware of their importance.
For instance, we can consider aspects like interaction, public behaviour, etc., among others. We don’t pay enough attention to such aspects as long as we are in our country of origin. This is because we have been in that country for many years and we get used to it.
But when we move to another country, we become aware of these cultural differences. One may not have assumed this, but even changes in the food can lead to culture shock.
If you see, food is something with which we have a deep subconscious attachment. Whatever we eat in our home country will make us have different types of emotions.
Let us see an example.
Can you remember your favourite dessert made by your mom on Christmas or your birthday? Miss it, right? That feeling, i.e., the feeling of missing your favourite dessert creates some sort of sadness.
Now, think about being introduced to an entirely new cuisine. This would make you miss the cuisine of your home country.
Even though you think that you might not feel that way, these things happen in the subconscious.
Not just with the food, but this might happen with most other daily aspects of your life. Culture shock can be classified into three different categories, which are discussed below.
The Beginning Stage
The initial stage of culture shock can also be known as the Honeymoon Stage. You are likely to experience this upon your arrival in the new country.
In this period, you will come across all the things that have changed in your country.
One of the most common things that are felt to be changed is the cuisine.
It can be clear for you to be aware of all the cultural changes that you begin to observe.
For most people, this stage is quite manageable, and it can even be exciting.
You tend to get amazed by the differences compared to your culture. It creates a sort of euphoric effect based on the new aspects that interest you.
At this stage, you won’t have any problem coping with situations in the new country.
The Irritation Stage
The euphoric stage, in the beginning, is going to last for a brief couple of days. Following that, you’ll begin to feel irritation, and this can happen in various aspects.
Some people may even become angry or irritated for even the smaller changes they start to feel.
At this particular period, one must come to terms with the dissimilarities.
Upon failing to do so, such people always want things to happen how they want them to happen.
Otherwise, they’ll get an immense amount of anger or stop doing the things causing discomfort.
The Adjustment Stage
During this specific period, the rational thinking of an individual starts to kick in. You might start adjusting to all the new changes and even control your emotions.
Rather than getting angry, you will start to accept the new changes and adapt to the new lifestyle.
Most people will put in some time to learn more about the new country at this time.
The efforts to fit in can be seen very clearly and people start to have more positivity.
The Bicultural Stage
This is the final stage, where people become comfortable with each and every aspect of the new country.
The order of things in the new country now doesn’t agitate you anymore. You will even start to talk with strangers easily and understand their customs.
The daily activities become familiar and you will have a new routine, which seems more comfortable.
You still miss some of your old friends and family members. However, you will have new friends and get adapted to a new lifestyle.
How to deal with it?
In most circumstances, it becomes hard for a person to deal with culture shock.
The people might even think of going back to their own country because they can’t deal with it.
For some others, it might lead to a serious cause of depression and make their lives unhappy.
During such situations, it is wise to seek help from relevant authorities or healthcare professionals.
For example, students studying abroad can seek the help of an advisor or healthcare professional.
Never isolate yourself if you are experiencing culture shock as it could lead to some serious damage.
Having said that, I have come up with some effective tips to overcome culture shock.
Familiarize yourself with the host country
You should start by learning as much as possible about the host country.
There are various methods for you to know the important details about that country.
Some productive methods include:
— Travel Forums
— Meeting New People
There has been a lot of advancement in technology, and you can find any specific information on the internet.
Just by going through my website, you can get access to various expat guides.
These expat guides are provided by me to help expats learn about new countries.
If you are unsuccessful in finding relevant information on my website, you don’t have to worry.
You can search on Facebook or Instagram to find a page or group related to the host country.
There are various groups available for every country covering details related to travel, expat life, etc.
You can even meet people in some groups who are from your country and are living there.
Furthermore, you can access websites like Quora or Reddit for finding country-related information.
Post your specific doubt or query and you can expect replies from the existing users.
After arrival, make friends with new people in the host country if you know the language.
This is the best possible way to learn all the necessary details you want to know about their country.
Seek advice from your organizer
There might be different reasons for you to visit the host country. Some of the common reasons for anyone to visit another country are:
Regardless of the purpose, you will have a contact who is already in the host country. He/she can or cannot be from your country, but it can be advantageous if they are.
A person from your country residing in the host country can help you learn a lot of things.
Ask them about how they got used to things in that country and how difficult it was.
This should provide an idea of how long it might take to adapt to the new changes.
Create a plan to learn all things necessary
Set a plan to know about all the things related to the country you’re going to. It is wise to learn about such matters before the travel instead of afterwards.
Learning about the culture before travel can be beneficial as it makes you prepared.
List the things you love
During the beginning stage, you’ll a lot of things about the host country. List them down.
You can always remember and do these things in the second stage when you feel irritated.
The things you love about that country will balance your anger towards the things you don’t like.
Keep yourself busy
While you have a negative feeling towards the host country, always try to keep yourself busy. In this way, you won’t have time to concentrate on the negative aspects.
Various aspects can keep you busy during the second phase.
For example, going to a gym is a great way to keep yourself busy while improving your health.
Alternatively, you can learn new things that will distract you from the negative feelings.
You can even make some new hobbies such as getting a pet or plants.
Pets can help you in many ways that you can’t even imagine. They’re proven to improve positivity and mental health while keeping you distracted.
Furthermore, there are other ways such as watching your favourite TV show or going to parties.
Make sure that the things you do are beneficial for you and help in improving yourself.
However, don’t let such distractions get in your career or other important aspects of life.
Share your feelings
It has been proven scientifically that sharing your feelings can help you in many ways.
Connect with expats like yourself and share your thoughts, either positive or negative. That’ll help you in getting yourself together and focus on your life.
Don’t have expectations
Expectations lead to disappointment, especially during the second stage of culture shock.
When you don’t expect anything, the chances are less likely for you to get mad when things don’t happen your way.
Again, food can be a great example for explaining this scenario.
You might have had the best type of Asian food in your country. But when you are in that country, you might not like it.
Try to keep your calm at all times and have no expectations in any event of your expat life.
One effective way of doing so is by staying calm at all times. If you find it hard to stay calm, try some methods such as yoga and meditation.
Not only will they help you in finding your peace, but instead, they also enhance your mental health.
Adapt to the changes
One of the helpful ways to adapt to the changes is by thinking about how the locals would do it.
Imagine yourself being a local and seeing the host country as a local person would.
This will make you feel like you are one of them and clear the difficulties related to improvising.
Get yourself involved with local activities and make new friends in the host country.
One of the most common causes of culture shock is when you feel like an outsider.
Having a good number of friends locally will help you feel like you are one of them.
Get involved with the new community and you will get to learn a lot of things about them.
At first, this may not seem to be very comfortable, but going forward, you’ll get used to it.
Finding a suitable community in the host country can be easier than you might think.
Some of the best ways to make new friends in the host country are:
— Going to a religious place of your faith
— Volunteer at an event
— Participate in festivals
— Play sports
Apart from these, don’t feel shy to make conversation in new places in the host country.
Such random conversations can lead to great friendships, which may last for a lifetime.
Learn their language
Give it a shot. Try to learn the local language as it is the only way to get connected to others.
For example, Imagine you went to Japan as an expat. The way people receive you when you speak Japanese is different from the way when you speak English.
Not only learning the language will help you cope with the locals, but it’s a healthy distraction.
Some more words about Culture Shock
It isn’t guaranteed that every expat will experience culture shock in the same way. This can vary. Some of the factors that contribute to culture shock are:
— Previously visited countries
— Host country
— Purpose of the visit
— Duration of the stay
— Level of adjustability
However, you shouldn’t restrict yourself from exploring the world just because of a fear of culture shock.
Other obstacles faced by expats
Apart from the culture shock, there are some more difficulties faced by expats. These difficulties come into effect right after an individual moves to another country.
Let us shed some light on such issues so that you’ll be prepared when you travel.
All of us speak our native language since childhood, and we get attached to it.
You can’t express your heartfelt feelings in other languages as well as your native language.
Learning a new language can be the hardest of the tasks for expats, especially learning from scratch.
Of course, there are some other difficult tasks including:
— Finding accommodation
— Opening a bank account
— Getting health insurance
— Fitting into work
But none of these come closer to the level of difficulty of learning a new language.
However, the language barrier might not be too much of an issue in Anglophone countries.
It becomes way too challenging when you move to a country with a tough language such as German.
There is the availability of various online platforms that make the process of learning a new language easy.
Nevertheless, you will have to put in a lot of time as well as effort to master that language.
Moreover, language learning apps such as Babbel, Duolingo, etc., make the process entertaining.
Through such online apps and consistent effort, you will succeed in learning a new language.
Another major aspect that seems to bother expats is the lifestyle in the foreign country.
For instance, the host country might not have cleaner roads or lesser traffic. Such aspects can cause a lot of discomfort to individuals while living as an expat.
Not just the adaptation, but there can be some other troublesome aspects.
One such noteworthy aspect is the cost of living in the new country. For example, the cost of groceries in the host country might be ten times that of your home country.
On such an occasion, you’ll find it depressing to spend such an amount, considering the discrepancy.
However, life must go on and you need to get adapted to the new lifestyle.
The feeling of homesickness can be quite devastating. Everyone (not just the expats) has to experience this at some point in their lives.
For some people, it can be extremely hard to stay far away from their loved ones. That too, for longer periods because of work or education.
In some circumstances, one might not even get a chance to go back to see their family or friends.
It can be depressing and hard to overcome these issues while being an expat.
There is no measure to deal with this issue as it can only be dealt with by meeting your loved ones.
To soothe the discomfort, you can always chat with them or get into a video conference.
As people say, technology has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
But being able to connect with loved ones while living in another country is the greatest advantage.
Yes, it can be really hard not being able to spend some quality time with them. But never forget why you had to go to another country in the first place.
Especially, if you are a student studying abroad, remember that you can always get back to them after completing your studies.
Make the most of technology, and in that way, you will miss them to a lesser extent.
Managing your finances
This is one of the common problems faced by most of the people who start their expat life.
How to manage your finances? It’s not rocket science to understand and neither is it as hard as building a rocket.
Your finances simply comprise a few important aspects, which are discussed below.
There can be some other important aspects such as retirement or raising a family. But the above-mentioned aspects can be said as pillars for having a financially secure life.
Living in another country isn’t always about tasty cuisine, exciting parties, etc.
Instead, it is about you being able to experience an entirely new culture. Nonetheless, after successfully coping with culture shock, you’ll feel happy.
To be particular, you’ll love the lifestyle and feel happy with the new friends in that country. In case you return to your home country, you’ll have some of the best memories that you can always look back to.
Keeping expats in mind, I have covered expat guides related to various countries. In those, you can find relevant information such as taxes, banking, insurance, etc.
Some people, who are working as expats, may not have enough time or knowledge to manage one or more aspects of their financial life.
To be precise, if you are finding it hard to handle your investments effectively, then I hear you.
I excel in offering investment-related services to expats who may not have the knowledge, skills, or time to handle their investments.
There is nothing wrong with not being able to handle your investments. It is completely fine.
For example, you might be a surgeon and don’t have enough time to handle your investments.
Otherwise, you might be an astrophysicist who never got the chance to learn the knowledge or skills related to it.
Therefore, you can always reach out to professionals when you need help. That being said, if you want to access services related to investments, wealth management or financial planning, then feel free to contact me.
The main objective of this article is to assist people who are trying to overcome culture shock.
I strongly hope that the information presented in this article was useful for you.
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Adam is an internationally recognised author on financial matters, with over 545.6 million answers views on Quora.com and a widely sold book on Amazon and a contributor on Forbes.