Wednesday, January 25th, 2012
No matter how prepared you are for your move abroad, you will still have to face some culture shock. This is entirely normal, everybody is affected by a change of culture, lifestyle and environment, especially when they first move abroad. It is therefore important to prepare as much as you can. This will make it much easier to cope with the challenge of moving abroad, and you'll feel at home in your new country much faster.
So what is culture shock?
Culture shock refers to the feelings of anxiety, isolation or alienation one may feel when placed in a new culture. Culture shock will affect different individuals in different ways and will also depend on your feelings about the move abroad. In general, if you have an open mind and a positive attitude to the move, you'll find it much easier to deal with culture shock and to get used to the new culture.
There are four different phases of adjusting to a new culture. The first phase is often referred to as the honeymoon phase, and in this period which usually lasts up to a few weeks, you'll be enthusiastic about the new culture and excited about being in the new country. After a few weeks, you may increasingly notice the differences between the old and the new culture, realising that many social customs and common cultural references you've taken for granted up to now do not work in your new country. You may feel spells of anxiety, confusion and isolation. After a few months, however, you should start adjusting to the new culture, will understand most of the social and cultural codes and will start building new relationships. Eventually, you'll reach the mastery phase, which means that you'll be able to participate fully in the host culture.
Top Ways to Cope With Culture Shock
Culture shock can cause a difficult time for any expat, but there are ways to reduce its impact and cope with it. Here are some tips that will help you adjust faster and make you feel more at home in your new country:
1. Prepare Ahead – Before moving to the new country, get to know as much about the new culture as possible. Read about local customs and traditions, participate in online discussions, and connect with other expats already living there or locals through expat forums or Twitter for example. Learn at least the basics of the language and visit the country if the opportunity arises. Having familiarised yourself with the new culture in advance, it will be much easier to understand the local lifestyle and customs, and thus the impact of culture shock will be much smaller.
2. Adjust Your Expectations – Even if you've read up extensively on the local culture, there will be some surprises. If you keep an open mind and adjust your expectations, you'll be able to understand the local culture much faster.
3. Explore Your New Environment – Even if you are feeling confused, locking yourself up at home will only isolate you further. Explore your new environment, take long walks in your neighbourhood, visit the area's most important sights, and sign up for any activities or classes you are interested in. These will not only take your mind off your worries, but will help you meet new people and get to know your new environment faster.
4. Find Your New Routine – Once you find your new routine, this will give you a sense of control and stability. It is thus important to find a work-life balance, start working if you were planning to, and take up some hobbies that you are interested in, as soon as you can.
5. Keep In Touch With Family & Friends At Home – Staying in touch with your loved ones is important when moving abroad. They can give you support, encouragement and advice, but try not to complain too much as they might worry.
Culture shock is normal for everyone moving abroad. It's all part of moving somewhere new and once you've settled in, you'll hardly even notice the cultural differences.
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