Why some culture shock is good for you
When you travel to a foreign country, sometimes things are so different than what you’re used to and it’s overwhelming. If you’ve ever been away from home for more than a few weeks, you know how it feels. You may begin to miss your friends and family, or even the food you usually eat. This is completely normal. There are lots of ways to deal with the uncomfortable feeling these differences may bring you.
What is culture shock?
Culture shock describes that odd feeling you get in a new place where everything seems different than your own familiar culture. Many things can contribute to culture shock: climate, food, language, dress, values, etiquette and behavior are all things that could be different anywhere you go. Everything you feel is totally normal, and usually unavoidable.
Before, during and after your adventure abroad you will most likely feel a variety of things. First, you enter the preliminary stage where you research all the cool things you will be doing. You’re excited! Once you arrive, you experience a stage of euphoria in which you are excited and happy to be in this amazing new place. After this wears off, you may become a bit irritable because of the simple things you can’t do the same or don’t do the same. Not being able to eat your favorite food or talk to your family members may irritate you. You will go through a gradual adjustment period where you begin to orient yourself in the new culture. You even begin to feel like you are a part of it. Then, once you return home you begin to realize that you really have changed. You still have your old set of values, but a new set has followed you home.
Another common reaction to a brand new culture is to only associate with familiar people or things. Only visiting certain restaurants or talking to people who speak the same language as you may make you feel more comfortable, but if you don’t step outside the box you won’t be able to fully experience the place you’re in.
How to deal
While abroad and actually experiencing this cultural shock, it’s important to stay grounded. Remember that this happens to everyone at differing intensities, and there is no need to feel embarrassed or weird about it. To ease any odd feelings, try cooking (if possible) or buying foods you usually eat at home. Stay connected to your friends and family back home to help with any homesick tendencies. While trying to help ease your transition, also keep in mind that you came on this adventure for a reason. Challenge yourself. Talk to people around you, try new things, and get out of your comfort zone. You have nothing to lose!
Reverse culture shock
Coming home from a long trip in a different country can affect you more than you think. Returning from a really cool place then having to go back to work at an office job while jet-lagged can make you question your own sanity. You may reevaluate your goals and be sad, happy, or frustrated about the fact that you’re home again. Emotions are weird, right?
To try and alleviate any added stress when you return home, plan ahead. Before you leave, make sure your living space is clean so that you don’t come home with a bunch of messes to clean up. Once returned, do whatever will help you readjust to life at home. For some people, it’s relaxing and unwinding to rest and lower stress. For others, it’s staying busy and doing chores or errands to get back into their routine. No matter what, do what makes you feel comfortable and happy.