Experiencing a cultural shock
November 1, 2016
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After a honeymoon period, most expats experience what it is known as cultural shock. The good news is that you can prepare for this cultural shock. How to do it?
What is a cultural shock?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes cultural shock as “a feeling of confusion, doubt, or nervousness caused by being in a place that is very different from what you are used to”. To more or less extent, every expatriate experiences a cultural shock as it is triggered by several factors, even though what it is a cause of cultural shock for one expat might not be for another one.
Causes of a cultural shock
Depending on your climate of origin, it can take a while until you adjust to extremely hot summers or winters with very few sunlight hours.
If you cannot speak the local language or even if you speak it extremely well, being all the day exposed to a language which it is not “yours” can be tiring. People might speak fast, use colloquial expressions or talk in other dialects and you might feel that you need to ask them to repeat what they have said constantly.
Depending on your country of origin, you might find hard to adjust to some changes in the dressing styles or maybe you cannot find the right sizes for you.
Do you miss your Sunday meal that you had at home? Probably, you are not alone. Every country has its own typical dishes, which are part of their cultural heritage. Some food might be cooked differently to what you are used to and maybe you cannot find some of your favorite products easily.
-Social roles and rules of behavior
When landing to another country, you will notice differences on how people related to each other compared with your home country. Some of these differences will be obvious while other ones will be just noticeable by meeting with local people.
How to minimize the cultural shock?
The good news is that if you are aware of the cultural differences and you prepare yourself, you can reduce the impact of the cultural shock.
1. Learn about your destination before you travel.
Search for the habits, typical foods or common behaviors. You can try to gather information about really broad topics such as education and etiquette, but also about daily practicalities like how to send a letter or the type of electrical outlets in the country.
2. Try to learn the local language and forget about the stereotypes
Studying another language is the best way to discover another culture and to break the stereotypes that you might have. It is also a way to know a bit of the local culture and it will allow you to relate with the local people as soon as you arrive and avoid isolation.
3. Allow yourself time to adjust
Being fully immersed in a new society takes time. Therefore, don’t try to rush by setting high expectations and embrace this transition period