Moving to a new country: The cultural shock

Different country has their wealth of culture, tradition and history. When considering relocating to a new country, the culture you are stepping to should be considered, especially if you are used to your cultural thinking. 

While you’re at a foreign country, you will experience lots of new things, the feeling of uncertainty and confusion often arises. People usually call this the “cultural shock”.

Cultural shock definition

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’s triggered by several factors, even though what is a cause of cultural shock for one expat might not be for another one.

What causes cultural shock?

What triggers culture shock differs from person to person, but common causes are:

  • Weather (extreme temperatures, lack of sunlight…)
  • Language (communication in a foreign language, use of dialects…)
  • Dressing codes (formal dressing code at work, social dressing norms, lack of sizes…)
  • Food (unable to find certain products, spicy or oily dishes…)
  • Social roles and rules of behavior (difficulties to identify non-verbal communication, local expectations)

How to overcome cultural shock?

1. Having cultural awareness

Before relocating to a new country, it is best for you to do some research beforehand as there will be lots of new aspects of that culture for you to get know about. Learning about the new culture’s famous cuisine, basic greetings and how to use their transportations will be certainly helpful. Do check out our destination guides to learn more about your destination’s culture.

2. Breaking down the language barrier

There will definitely be times where you will bump into a local who does not speak your language. But don’t worry! Be patient and use hand gestures to point things that you want, such as places on the map or even food on the menu. If you have the time, you can also research about some common phrases in the foreign language to make things easier for you.

3. Get out of your comfort zone

Be comfortable with being uncomfortable in a foreign place. Being in a foreign place will be a great opportunity to learn more about yourself and that place’s culture, it is also a great way for you to meet new people! The best way to learn one’s culture is by talking to the people there, don’t be afraid and talk with the locals and you will find yourself able to learn more and relate to their culture.

Transitioning and adapting to a new culture takes time and patience, but in the end everything will work out and will have more positive outcomes than you think! 

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