Tips To Help You Overcome Culture Shock
As a traveler, culture shock is something you’ve probably experienced at least once in your life. It’s something that you’re bound to experience at some point whether you’re traveling around the world or in your own backyard. Culture shock is that feeling of distress, disorientation, or bewilderment when one is exposed to new, strange, or foreign environments.
I’ve experienced culture shock before, especially during my study abroad time in London. No matter how much you prepare for your trip, culture shock is unavoidable sometimes.
Experiencing new places, people, and cultures is amazing and so rewarding! However, what some people don’t mention is the up and down rollercoaster a traveler may experience. One day, you’ll be elated about your trip and new experiences. The next day, you’re at an all time low and feel alone, sad or depressed, and miss your home and the people you love.
I’m here to tell you you’re not alone. Like I’ve said, we’ve all been there and experienced culture shock at some point in time. This post on my experience with culture shock may give you a glimpse into culture shock (if you haven’t experienced it). It’ll also show you my personal experience as it may vary by person. Regardless, it paints an overall picture of what culture shock is and how it can affect someone.
With that being said, I can tell you that it is possible to overcome culture shock. From my personal experiences, and coming out the other side, I can tell you that you can do it! Here are some tips to help you overcome your culture shock.
1. Keep an open mind
When going to a new location, where you’ll experience new things, go in with an open mind. Be open to seeing, tasting, exploring, and experiencing different things.
The world is a wonderful place with so much diversity. By having a closed mind, you’re limiting your development and perspective on other places, people, foods, and cultures. This is also another element which can add to experiencing culture shock.
Try your best to avoid such closed minded thinking.
2. Realize you’re adjusting and it take time
I know it’s hard to think about adjusting and that time frame it’ll take to adjust. But you will adjust and it will take some time. That time will look and be different for every person. At the end of the day, know that it’s ok to go through an adjustment period.
3. Don’t focus on negative thoughts
When that culture shock kicks in, all the depressive and negative thoughts will slowly creep in. Maybe it won’t get that far for you. But for others, it’ll hit them like a ton of bricks.
Whatever those negative thoughts may be, don’t hone in and focus on them. This prevents you from adjusting and overcoming the shock but also creates more close minded thinking.
4. Bring something that reminds you of home
To avoid or lessen the presence of culture shock, bring something that reminds you of home. That can be anything as long as it can fit in your luggage. That can be a stuffed animal, jewelry, clothing, pictures, anything you want!
5. Maintain contact with friends and family
It’s good practice to maintain contact with your friends and family while traveling. The frequency is up to you and depends on if you can make it for long periods of time without contact.
I’d recommend just enough contact where you’ll feel better after talking to them. Not too often or too far apart. This may prevent you from getting over your culture shock or increase the likelihood of experiencing more sadness/depression.
6. Know that this will pass
Just like thunderstorms, these moments and feelings won’t last forever. Culture shock will happen, stay for a period of time, and then leave. Once you’ve adjusted to your new environment the culture shock should be gone, or at least not as prevalent in your life.
7. Focus on positive thoughts
It’s a lot easier sad than done but try to focus on positive thoughts and feelings. Take a different perspective and see the beauty in your new location. The more positive thoughts you have, your culture shock experience will lessen until it is completely gone.
8. Find or create positive experiences
One of the best things for helping to overcome culture shock is to get out there, do something new or meet someone new, and create positive experiences. Those happy, healthy experiences will help ease the pressure that comes with culture shock.
9. You’ll be home soon
Realize that, unless you’re moving to that location, you’ll go home in the future. You’re not going to stay here forever. You will be reunited with your loved ones as soon as you return from your trip.
Sometimes, the thought of going home is all you need to help you make it through that culture shock.
10. Use coping mechanisms
I made another post on some tips to help you deal with travel anxiety which you can read more about here. Sometimes, the sensation of experiencing culture shocks becomes overwhelming and can lead to more series behaviors. Whether that’s going for a walk, listening to music, or writing, use a coping mechanism to calm yourself down.
I’ve had many panic attacks when I studied abroad because I didn’t utilize coping skills. Please take care of yourself and use whatever coping mechanisms you have to prevent further mental, and or physical, harm to yourself.
11. Don’t compare yourself to others
Comparing yourself to others will only make you more angry or upset at yourself, which may invalidate your own thoughts and feelings.
If you see other travelers being happy and content, don’t compare yourself to them. You are your own person and you feel what you feel at that moment in time. Focus on what’s best for you.
12. Take some time to yourself
If your culture shock is just too much for you to handle, it’s ok to take some time to yourself. If you try to force yourself through it, you may not have the full experience and enjoy activities like you normally would. Practice self-care in whatever form that is to you.
13. Put things into perspective
Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and look at things from afar. Looking at your situation up close will only cause you to have more negative thoughts and emotions. Take a step back, look at your position, and come at it from a different and hopefully better angle.
14. Accept your culture shock
Know that it is ok to experience culture shock or home sickness. It’s part of the traveling experience. Please don’t think that there’s something wrong with you, there’s nothing wrong with being shocked by a new environment.
15. You’re not alone
Just remember that you are not alone. I know you’ll probably think that you’re the only one going through this. You are not! Other travelers go through the same thing. You may even meet another traveler going through the same thing.
If that’s the case, spend time together and uplift each other. That’s what I did when I met my best friend in London! Sure, I experienced culture shock and so did she. But we used each other to get out of it and have a great time while studying abroad.
16. Make the most of your time
Through all of your thoughts, experiences, and feelings, try to remember why you travel and why you’re here. Try to make the most of this travel opportunity. Don’t let that culture shock prevent you from enjoying your time traveling.