How to Limit Culture Shock
The best thing you can do is to keep and open and positive mind. Try to see the move as an amazing opportunity. If you’re naturally shy, come out of your shell – and if you’re naturally outgoing, maximize your chance to shine on a different stage.
Moving to a different country can prove as daunting as it is rewarding. Your fears before you arrive in a faraway land will often be disproportionate to the reality. But many find the early days of a new life difficult. Feelings of impatience, anger and – above all – loneliness are common. A long period of adjustment is regularly required before you find your feet. But there are ways to reduce the impact.
The best thing you can do is to keep and open and positive mind. You’re rarely shackled to your new location, and if the worst comes to the worst you can head home with your head held high. But try to see the move as an amazing opportunity. If you’re naturally shy, come out of your shell – and if you’re naturally outgoing, maximize your chance to shine on a different stage.
And the experience needn’t start when you get off the plane. Here are our tips for a top time abroad.
Know Before You Go!
Your new home doesn’t have to be completely new. Few local cultures are contained within a country’s borders. Reading is a great way to get to know a place before you arrive. Travel guides and native literature alike can fill you with insights. Cinema and TV can give you a visual flavor of the place you plan to move to, while music can offer an emotional connection. One thing you’ll probably have to adapt to is food – so seek out appropriate restaurants and supermarkets. And the biggest change you may face is a brand new language. Don’t wait until you get there to learn the basics. Online, at home or in a classroom, there’s a myriad of ways you can pick up the lingo. The effort isn’t just for you. Locals will appreciate it too.
Get Comfortable Quickly
There is a lot to be said for a busy routine. It’ll limit potential feelings of loss or loneliness. So keep busy, and keep healthy. Active pursuits are a fantastic way of getting to know a new location, whether it be running, cycling or simply going for walks. Build these activities into your daily life, along with a healthy diet (western junk food should be kept to a minimum!) and plenty of sleep. Naturally, you’ll want to enjoy your new life so don’t be too regimented, but find some favorite restaurants and cafés, theaters and cinemas. That way, you’ll have places of comfort and familiarity you can head to on occasions when you do feel homesick. There’s a balance to be struck between repetitious and ambitious, so accept invitations from natives to experience new eateries and events. You may be surprised at what you learn to like!
Stay Connected to Your Roots
Spending every evening on Skype to your friends and family back home is unquestionably a bad plan in a new culture. Your experience will be diminished and your feelings of homesickness are liable only to increase. Having said that, missing home is entirely natural, so find ways to remind yourself of the life you’ve left behind – and the life you can go back to whenever you want. Social media is a great way of connecting with people you miss. Thanks to Facebook and Twitter you can find out what they’re up to swiftly and easily without even exchanging conversation. Keep people updated with your own adventures, as the chances are they will be more envious of you than you are of them. But always bear in mind that a new country should mean new friendships. Don’t wallow in the past. Find natives and expats in your adopted home that can make you smile and lend you support in the future.
First and foremost, enjoy yourself. Life’s too short to regret big decisions like moving abroad. Get to know the culture and let the people of that culture get to you. Who knows? You might never want to leave...
For more suggestions for dealing with culture shock, read: