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Those who travel or choose to move to another country are likely to experience some form of ‘culture shock’ – an experience a person may have when one moves to a cultural environment which is different from one’s own.
When I first came to the UK in 2013 to do my master’s degree, I thought that a postgraduate student life in the UK would be pretty much like as I was expecting. But small surprises began to catch me off guard: the weather, the public transport, the food, the humour – just the culture in general!
First, let’s identify some of the symptoms of culture shock: extreme homesickness, feelings of helplessness; disorientation; sadness; hyper-irritability; sleep and eating disturbances; excessive critical reactions to host culture.
But don’t let these feelings get down the best of you and ruin what could be an otherwise life-changing experience. Here are five ways to cope with culture shock:
1. Do your research
Before moving to another country try to learn about it as much as you could. It’s so easy to do this now: do your researches online, buy some books, watch some local films, and of course learn the language.
2. Be honest with yourself
Don’t deny that the new environment makes you feel uneasy, tense or confused. It’s just natural and most people have experienced it too.
3. Try to celebrate the new culture
Look for something in the culture that you really like. When I first came in the UK, I noticed how polite people are: I often hear them with their ‘please and thank you’.
4. Just be a tourist for the first few months
Everything is new so take some pictures and update your family and friends on social media. You’ll be glad you’ve done that before it becomes mundane to you too.4
5. Develop relationships
Making friends with local people will help you deal with the cultural differences and better understand the country. It will also show you how to be more sensitive to cultural expectations.
Another useful advice is to try to be aware of the cycle of cultural adjustment. This will allow you to better understand your reactions during your time overseas. But above all, probably the best way for coping with the various impacts of culture shock is to make a conscious effort to adapt to the new culture, every single day.