Dealing with Culture Shock
While learning as much as possible about a foreign country that you are about to visit or live in is a great idea, for most of us culture shock is inevitable. For some people, culture shock is part of the reason why they travel. They feel that being immersed in a completely different environment or way of life is an exhilarating experience. Many other people do not feel the same way though. Culture shock can be confusing, annoying and even downright frightening. In my experience, I've actually seen people that were completely unable to deal with their culture shock and fly back to their home country days later.
I think I'm kind or a mix or both of these personality types when it comes to dealing with culture shock. I love the feeling of being so out of place in a new place, yet depending on where I am, I can have a good deal of fear. Take for example my last trip to Buenos Aires. I was super pumped to be seeing and experiencing Argentina, but at the same time I was worried about myself and my wife's safety. It didn't help that we saw someone getting robbed in the first hour we were there either.
In this blog, I'm going share some of my tips to dealing with culture shock. As always, please let me know what you think of these suggestions in the comment section at the bottom.
1. As I mentioned in the beginning, learning as much as you can about a place before going there is always a good idea. The Internet has amazing amount of information on everywhere in the world. Make sure check out things like traveler's blogs, official websites, new reports, etc before going. Another great idea is to talk to other people who have been there or are from there. You should get to know as much as possible about the differences between where you are from and that place you're going, especially when it comes to 'what not to do' in that country.
2. Don't Panic. Remember everyone feels the same way at first. You have to give yourself some time to adjust to your new surroundings.
3. Be open to new things and explore. Before you go, you have got to psyche yourself up to experience new things and when you get there dive into it. One of the first things I love to do when I get somewhere new is get out an walk around your new surroundings as much as possible. Find out where the nearest grocery store, pharmacy, restaurants, etc are. This will definitely help to put your mind at ease. I always try to do at least one thing each day that takes courage, and before you know it you'll feel much more confident and comfortable.
4. Along the same lines as the last point, be patient. There is probably a lot that will bother or annoy you in the first little while of living somewhere new. Most notably, if you are in country where the people do not speak your language, this can be a very frustrating experience in many ways. For example going to the bank in Korea used to take me about an hour just to transfer money to Canada. Or being in a taxi and ending up in the wrong place...also frustrating.
5. Learn useful phrases. If you are going to a country where English is not the language that is commonly spoken, learn some useful words and phrases before you go. You'd be surprised how useful "Where is the" "How much" "Thank you" and "I'm sorry" can be. Likewise, learning how to count to 10 will be invaluable.
6. Don't be afraid to ask for help. When starting a teaching job abroad, it's unlikely that there won't be someone around you who speaks some English. Whether it is your colleagues, your boss, or even your students, there will most likely be someone around you that can help you. For me, I've always been someone who tries to figure out everything by myself before asking for help, and I've discovered that this is often a waste of time, and that some things are impossible to solve by yourself. Asking for help will help ease the transition into your new life in a foreign country