What is Culture Shock?

What is Culture Shock?

speak spanish habla español travel abroad spainLiving abroad is definitely an exhilarating experience that stimulates “new world” views. It raises cultural curiosity and facilitates a determination to explore unfamiliar terrains around the world. However, it could also invite unwanted feelings of being culturally lost. Culture shock is a common trend and, though it might take months to build up, it often influences travelers. If you have been abroad for more than a month you may have experienced some frustration in your cultural environment.

Most travelers begin their travel high on life experiencing new cultures, foods and meeting people. But after that stage, beginning in a foreign environment can be hard to handle on a daily basis. Culture shock is more than merely being not really acquainted with cultural norms or experiencing new foods! It will impact travelers even after they get comfortable in completely new cultures and places.

Culture Shock Sucks, but It’s Probably Your Fault

Plain and simple. You may never even know you have it and worse, you are probably the cause of it. Your frustration over buying toilet paper, that fun rollercoaster of feelings when you proudly order in a restaurant using a newly learned phrase and then get a cockeyed look from your server, that first relationship with a friend or “friend” that makes things exciting and then, sometimes, devastating… yup, all a part of the culture shock show. Don’t worry though, it can get better-ish.

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Hard Work and Cultural Sensitivity

A lot of expats arrive to their country of choice with stars in their eyes and expect the world to open up to them upon arrival. They forget though, or never knew, that it takes a lot of hard work and cultural sensitivity to really make it in a new country. People will behave and generally live differently, your favorite comfort foods will probably be considered “expensive” imports, and you are going to have to relearn a lot of fundamentals from banking to getting the hot water to work. And I am just scratching the surface of it all. So, it is important for you to realize that the more you complain or generally think about all these differences as negatives, the more negative your culture shock will probably be. But, once you recognize that these are all normal feelings, you can do something about it.

Peace of Mind Abroad

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Do yourself a favor, face it and be an adult or use your passport and go home or on to the next country. Because, if you complain about this type of stuff, you are just dragging yourself down and wasting your time and energy as well as those who listen to you. Don’t ruin your own experience. The locals deal with it and other expats do too; they manage well, and so can you. So be a problem-solver, find the positive in the new experiences. Make a conscious effort to normalize them to make culture shock a positive thing.

Focus on the amazing part of being somewhere new. Also, accept that culture shock is going to be an ever-present part of your life abroad. See and learn about the country, meet new people, maybe study the language and, more importantly, find your happy place within the country that you decided to move to for whatever reason. But, always remember, negative feelings are normal. They are not unique to you, so don’t let them define your life abroad.

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