How to Deal with Culture Shock

Culture shock is a normal part of travel—it comes with the territory when you’re immersing yourself in an environment and culture different from your own. It can be extreme (ie. moving from New York to a tribal village in Borneo) or not so extreme (moving from Toronto to Melbourne), but whenever you leave your familiar surroundings to venture into the unknown, you’re bound to experience it to some degree.

There are typically five phases of culture shock—not everyone experiences all five in the same order, to the same degree, and for the same length of time, but most people will experience at least one phase during their time abroad.

  • The Honeymoon Phase

You’ve just arrived, and everything feels fresh and exciting. You can’t get enough of sightseeing, trying new foods, and making new local friends.

  • The Honeymoon is Over Phase

Your initial euphoria is starting to wane, and the cracks are starting to show. You might find yourself being overly critical of the cultural differences you encounter, and you long for the comforts and familiarity of home.

  • The Negotiation Phase

This is where you either sink or swim: you can choose to call it quits and move back home, or embrace your new home’s cultural differences and come to accept them. If you can push past your negative outlook, you’ll make it to the next phase.

  • The All’s Well/Everything’s Ok Phase 

Once you’ve overcome the hurdles of living abroad and made peace with the challenging aspects, you can start to fully enjoy life in your new country. Some people may find themselves completely immersed in their new lifestyle, while others may still acknowledge the differences but choose to overlook them and focus on the positives instead.

  • The Reverse Culture Shock Phase

You may have gotten so accustomed to your new life abroad that you experience culture shock upon returning home. This could last for anything from a few days to several months.

Have you experienced culture shock? Any tips for coping? Let us know in the comments!

How to Deal with Culture Shock

By Ali O'Neill

No one is immune from experiencing some form of culture shock when they first move to a new country, but following these tips may help you adjust better.

  • Learn as Much as You Can before You Go

    By Ali O'Neill

    Before heading off, do your research–learn about your city/country's history, read up on rules and regulations, chat to someone who's been there, take language lessons. 

  • Bring Things That Remind You of Home

    By Ali O'Neill

    Whether it's photos of friends and family, or little sentimental objects, things that remind you of home will bring you comfort when you're far away from all that's familiar.

  • Be Open-Minded and Willing to Learn

    By Ali O'Neill

    Sure, people may have different beliefs and practices, but that's not to say they're inferior to yours. Keep an open mind, and take an active interest in the local culture. Ask lots of questions!

  • Maintain a Sense of Humour

    By Ali O'Neill

    While there will undoubtedly be some challenges to face during your time abroad, it will be half the battle if you maintain a sense of humour and enjoy the little quirks of living in a new place.

  • Don't Be Hard on Yourself

    By Ali O'Neill

    You may feel pressure to completely immerse yourself in the new culture–from what you eat to the people you hang out with–but understand that it's ok to allow yourself time to adjust.

  • Eat Well, Sleep Well, and Stay Active

    By Ali O'Neill

    If you're not in the best of health, you won't be able to fully enjoy your time abroad (not to mention the fact that the healthcare in your new country may not be what you're used to).

  • Don't Stop Exploring

    By Ali O'Neill

    Once you've seen the sights of your new hometown, you may feel you're good on the cultural front. Not so! Take the time to explore lesser-known destinations, and check out other parts of the country.

  • Keep in Touch with People at Home

    By Ali O'Neill

    Staying connected with friends and family back home–whether it's via email, Facebook, or regular Skype dates–will help alleviate any reverse culture shock you may experience upon returning home.

Hayo Magazine
Hayo Magazine

An indie coffee table–style magazine for travelers curious about arts and culture. To contribute, submit your article pitch to info@hayo.co

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