When you find yourself feeling disoriented, anxious, and depressed in a new environment, you may be experiencing culture shock. It’s a very normal response to a sudden change in environment. You pass through a scale of emotions from excitement to frustration, and even deep depression at varying intensities. It can be detrimental when left unaddressed however, but fortunately there are ways to overcome culture shock.
When you go to another country to study, you’ll probably be bombarded with unfamiliar things, places, and customs. People in your new country would have a different way of doing things. You may have a hard time becoming accustomed to the new way of life, and start longing for things you’re used to. You may also begin to feel lost and think if leaving your country is worth it.
Being in an unfamiliar place can be mentally and psychologically straining. It’s important to know you can handle, cope with, and overcome culture shock.
Before you learn the best ways to cope with culture shock, you must first get acquainted with its stages.
Stages of Culture Shock
The five stages of culture shock are:
- Honeymoon Stage – This stage is characterized by feelings of happiness, curiosity, excitement, and stimulation.
- Distress Stage – This is when you have feelings of inferiority, isolation, and confusion.
- Reintegration Stage – At this stage, you develop a strong dislike for the culture, food, and language of the new environment and feel frustration, anger, and hostility.
- Autonomy Stage – This is the ‘emergence’ stage, where you feel more confident and have better adaptability. You gain a more relaxed and balanced view.
- Independence Stage – This is the final stage where you become more positive and more comfortable in the new environment. You are able to enjoy more things and start to socialize.
Symptoms of Culture Shock
Some of the symptoms of culture shock are:
- Intense Feelings of negativity
- Excessive sleeping, eating, and drinking
- Increased irritability
- Bodily pains
- Lack of concentration
Ways to Cope with Culture Shock
Most of the ways to cope with culture shock require both personal assessment and a real effort to adjust to the culture. Here are some ways to help you overcome culture shock.
Accept that adjustments take time
Culture shock is normal and recognizing that you’re feeling it will help you get through it. Sudden changes require some time before you can adjust, and there should be no guilt or shame in admitting that to yourself.
Keep an open mind
Don’t close your mind to all the exciting and surprising things that your experience will offer. And when another person doesn’t behave in a way that you expect, try to put yourself in their shoes.
As an international student, you will be spending time with students who come from different sociocultural backgrounds. Becoming open to these differences will allow you to cope with culture shock better.
Focus on the good and positive
You might be missing some of the typical traditions and customs back home. You might even be missing your favorite homemade dishes.
Focus on the good and positive things around you by thinking that you’re on a journey of discovery. Remember that the reason why you’re studying abroad is to learn about the world and gain independence by moving out of your comfort zone.
Explore ways to relieve stress
There are plenty of ways to relieve stress even without spending money. You can try out yoga, aerobic exercising, or visiting new places and attractions that you haven’t been to. You can always use the city as your entertainment.
This also helps in making you socialize more and explore. Go out with friends, join clubs and organizations, and attend events you’re interested in. When going to parties, make sure to keep yourself safe and stay close to the people you trust.
Avoid comparisons with other people
You won’t help yourself when you keep comparing yourself to others. Everyone else is missing home just like you.
Different people cope with culture shock in different ways and at different paces. You don’t have to compare their progress with yours.
Do things that remind you of home
When you’re feeling homesick, don’t be afraid to do things that remind you of home, such as cooking a much-loved dish or listening to songs by your favorite local artists. Instead of intensifying homesickness, this will help cheer you up and give you a more positive outlook as you continue your learning journey abroad.
Arriving in a new country can be exciting yet stressful at the same time. Learning how to make a conscious effort in adjusting to differences can help you cope with culture shock. Let MSM Unify help you adapt to new changes with tips on living and studying abroad.