Culture shock is a multi-stage process which often accompanies adjustment to a new environment and an unfamiliar culture. It is process you are more likely to experience if you spend longer periods overseas. One of the crucial elements in overcoming the difficulties of culture shock is being aware of what it is and how it may affect your study abroad experience. For a definition of culture shock and details of the stages it is likely to occur in, please link to the material below.
Sociologists define Culture shock as “an experience a person may have when one moves to a cultural environment which is different from one's own; it is also the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, a move between social environments, or simply transition to another type of life.” (Wikipedia)
Though it can be one of the hardest parts of traveling, culture shock is just as integral to the experience as food, people and scenery. By recognizing it for what it is and finding ways to cope, you can prevent culture shock from ruining an otherwise fantastic experience abroad. The topic is being raised at this point, just to help prepare you to cope with what is an entirely natural facet of travel abroad.
1. The Honeymoon Stage
The first stage of culture shock is often overwhelmingly positive during which travelers become infatuated with the language, people and food in their new surroundings. At this stage, the trip or move seems like the greatest decision ever made, an exciting adventure to stay on forever.
On short trips, the honeymoon phase may take over the entire experience as the later effects of culture shock don’t have time to set in. On longer trips, the honeymoon stage will usually phase out eventually.
2. The Frustration Stage
Frustration may be the most difficult stage of culture shock and is probably familiar to anyone who has lived abroad or who travels frequently. At this stage, the fatigue of not understanding gestures, signs and the language sets in and miscommunications may be happening frequently. Small things — losing keys, missing the bus or not easily being able to order food in a restaurant — may trigger frustration. And while frustration comes and goes, it’s a natural reaction for people spending extended time in new countries.
Bouts of depression or homesickness and feelings of longing to go home where things are familiar are all common during the frustration stage.
3. The Adjustment Stage
Frustrations are often subdued as travelers begin to feel more familiar and comfortable with the cultures, people, food and languages of new environments. Navigation becomes easier, friends and communities of support are established and details of local languages may become more recognizable during the adjustment stage.
4. The Acceptance Stage
Generally — though sometimes after weeks, months or years after wrestling with the emotional stages outlined above — the final stage of culture shock is acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean that new cultures or environments are completely understood, rather it signifies realization that complete understanding isn’t necessary to function and thrive in the new surroundings. During the acceptance stage, travelers have the familiarity and are able to draw together the resources they need to feel at ease. (Medium.com)
Here’s one set of recommendations for overcoming culture shock:
1. Stop thinking about home. (Communicaid) Avoid constant comparisons with home. It won’t help you to settle in.
2. Meet the right kind of people. Make friends with positive-minded people. Try to avoid people who are critical of your new home.
3. Get active! Start a new hobby or pastime which isn’t possible back home.
4. Stay in touch! Keep in regular contact with home, family and friends.
5. Share. Share your own culture with your new friends and neighbors.
6. Don’t be shy! Communicate your feelings. Tell friends, colleagues and loved ones how you feel.
Travel and see new places that will make you appreciate your new home country. This is a once in a lifetime experience – enjoy it! Go trekking, explore ruins, attend cooking classes, learn the language and, most importantly, don’t look back and say what if…