As our world becomes more globalized, it is nearly impossible to not meet people from another culture.
You will eventually meet multicultural friends and possibly find yourself in a new country, seeking new travel experiences for work, adventure, or all of the above.
Many people, unfortunately, might encounter culture shock throughout this experience. The good thing is, being well equipped with the right skills in intercultural communication competence can ease the pain.
Don’t let this idea scare you. It just means being able to communicate effectively in intercultural situations, whether studying abroad or starting a new job.
This guide will help you ward off culture shock so you can enjoy the wonderful experience that lies ahead of you on your road to being a bicultural member of the world.
Inform yourself about the local culture
Some people might think that jumping into head first into an experience this intense might be the best tactic. For many people, though, this is overwhelming. It will lead to a negative experience.
You can go to the library, watch foreign films, or use resources on the Internet beforehand to learn the basics of greetings, manners, popular foods, or basic language phrases for whichever culture you will be immersed in.
While it won’t be the same as actually being in a new culture, it always helps to have a heads-up and some things to expect to avoid the intensity of the shock.
Make friends with some locals
One of the best ways to get through culture shock is to befriend someone who is native to that culture.
This person can be a living and breathing resource for you. Having a new friend and confidante will certainly keep away the loneliness that might come with culture shock.
Luckily for many English speakers, many students and people in other countries consider English a valuable language to learn. English is one of the world’s most widely spoken languages, so you can help each other in fluency, increasing your intercultural communication competence at the same time.
This will ultimately lead to you dealing with culture shock in the most healthy way.
Pay attention to the small details
Be prepared and aware that culture shock is a natural part of being pushed out of your comfort zone. You can experience the shock in many ways, as the differences can become overwhelming, but this is the time for introspection.
Go for walks and pay attention to the daily lives of the locals. You might realize that your day-to-day, mundane habits might be very similar.
This is a great way to connect with the foreign culture and find comfort in the small similarities because every little bit counts when you are feeling alone and scared.
In the end, we really are all people searching for love, health, and happiness in our own ways.
Befriend another ex-pat in your new setting
It would be ideal to find another expat from your home country, but you may find it easy to connect with anyone who is going through a culture shock as well.
Finding a person from your home country will allow you to find comfort in airing out your complaints and frustrations. It will also be a relief to know that they probably went through the same thing as well.
Your new friend will also be able to offer many insider tips to the local culture and where you can meet others in the same situation. Just remember to try to make sure to stay away from any negativity.
Take time to acknowledge your own home
Even if you’re not physically in the country you call “home,” you can still take some moments to remember and partake in your own cultural habits.
It is necessary to practice culture immersion to help the shock, but your well-being shouldn’t suffer for it. A good way to do this is to read your favorite books, watch your favorite film with your new friends, or do your favorite yoga videos to relax.
You can even ask your family and friends back home to send care packages of all of your favorite things from home (peanut butter will always taste good and it’s not always available outside of the U.S).
This will allow you to recognize that you are still you, just in a different setting, and you can find happiness in yourself.
Step out of your comfort zone
While it is wonderful to connect with what you left behind, you must be willing to step out of your comfort zone. This is the moment to be brave!
Make sure to be a tourist in your new environment. Every day, make plans to push yourself to go to any spot that looked interesting in your new guide book. If you’ve never gone to a music concert by yourself, do it.
If you’ve never ridden a horse near a winding river, you can guess that this is the time to do it.
Once you have accepted and gotten used to living in your new home, many of these foreign things will probably become as mundane as your old daily life. Allow yourself to be in awe of the new culture that you are now lucky to have been a part of.
Keep a personal journal
Whether it is a journal or blogging on your own personal online platform, it is important to be able to share the experience that you are going through.
You might not always be in the company of another expat from your home country to air grievances, so having a journal is key to coping with culture shock.
A journal will also serve as a way to go back and find humor or new lessons in how you dealt with the initial effects of culture shock. You will almost always find pleasure in looking back and knowing that even in your darkest moments or confusion and sadness, you got through it.
If your intercultural communication skills are lacking, make sure to take the proper steps to overcome culture shock. You will be well on your way to becoming a (well-adjusted) citizen of the world in no time.