Have you recently visited or moved to a different city or country? Did you have an initial feeling of uncertainty and anxiety? Feeling out of place? If you answered yes to these questions, you have probably experienced culture shock.
Culture shock is the experience that often accompanies moving to a new place, which is different from what one is familiar with. It could be marked by feeling lost, anxious, hesitant or disoriented. The exposure to an unfamiliar way of life can bring with it symptoms such as disrupted sleep (or sleeping too much), feeling lonely, overwhelmed and sad, idealizing your home culture, feeling confused and uninspired. It is a common experience for students and professionals who choose to study/work in a country/culture other than their own.
It isn’t unusual for people to feel that everything is ‘wrong’ in the new place, or even crave to go back. However, it is important to realize that the initial culture shock will eventually fade away, and the longer you spend in a place, the more accustomed you will become to the same things that initially ‘shocked’ you!
Read on for top five tips from immigrants, students and travelers for overcoming culture shock.
1. Set realistic expectations
When you decide to visit an entirely new place, you cannot expect the traditions and the culture followed by your current home to be followed by the new land. Every city, town, or country, has its own values and beliefs. So, when you visit these places, make sure you keep your expectations low. Do not expect the culture to be the same even within the same country.
2. Keep your mind open
Even though it is an unfamiliar environment hosting several different cultures and traditions from the one you’re used to, it is important to broaden your mind and be willing to try new things. You are already somewhere new, why not try to get the best out of the experience? Don’t be quick to form judgments that may be stereotypical or discriminatory just because it is “weird” or “peculiar”, even though it can be really instinctive. Something might seem different from what you are usually used to, like a food or clothing, but try it – different isn’t necessarily bad. You never know where you might find an interest!
3. Interact with the local culture
Social psychologists claim that lack of information is the biggest contributor to prejudices. Talk to the local population and ask them about how their culture works, instead of assuming the worst. You can gain insight about the environment and maybe make some friends who can ease your transition! Learning the local language can be really beneficial too.
4. Find similarities
Heard the saying, “ It’s a small world”? Well, it is! The world is connected in unimaginable ways and sometimes, it can be surprising to find something similar between the new environment and the one you already know. Maybe it’s the same holidays or same words in the language, you can probably find something that is similar. This can ease your apprehension and make you more open towards the new culture.
5. Find a balance between new and familiar
Do something new everyday. Take it slow. Explore the new place and the culture involved with it. Also, to keep yourself comfortable, you could do something part of your familiar routine. Keep in touch with your friends and family. Establish a certain routine in the new location as well so that you have something familiar to fall back on to when it gets too overwhelming.
Keep yourself open minded, and await the new experiences. Learn the language, or acquaint yourself with the conduct of the people. Don’t let culture shock harm your visit to the new place! Go out there, and have fun!
With inputs from Ms.Krithi Nathan & Ms.Kirthana Devarakonda