The realities of culture shock
Sometimes you don't realize exactly how different things will be when you make your trip abroad. The differences that bother you could be things as small as food you're not used to, or they might be major things like extreme religious viewpoints.
These differences may not affect you during a short vacation, but they can pose problems when you're uprooting your entire life to move to a foreign country. However, don’t let these things steer you away from having the experience abroad that you're looking for - there are techniques for coping with just about any situation you might find yourself in.
Culture shock can never be completely avoided, but you can surely soften the blow by being prepared and knowing what to expect.
5 tips for coping with culture shock while abroad
1. Research, research, research!
Researching the area you're moving to won’t solve all of your problems but it will surely give you a leg up when you arrive in your new country. Be sure to research things like daily life, clothing norms, customs, and restaurant etiquette so you can be prepared. For example, if you are going to a Middle Eastern country, chances are people will dress a bit more conservatively than you are used to, so it is important to respect their culture by following their guidelines.
Researching as much as you can before you go will really help you ease into life abroad without having to learn things the hard way, you wouldn’t want to do or say something to offend your new boss!
2. Find other expats
This one may sound like a no brainer but it can be easy to focus on making only native friends. Yes, it will be great to meet the natives and do as they do, but sometimes when you are feeling the effects of culture shock, you might need something familiar to fall back on.
There are many resources you can use to meet other expats such as WeChat, Meetup, and our Back to School Bash (foreign teacher party hosted by Teaching Nomad). Solidifying those relationships will be super helpful when you need to find a doctor, want to find some pizza, or just simply want to talk to another native English speaker. These friends will most likely be going through the same things you are going through which will not only make you feel less alone, but it will also help you find a reason to stay when you feel like leaving.
3. Do something that reminds you of home
It is so easy to get into a groove once you arrive in your new country and let go of all the things you used to do in your free time. This can be great for a bit, but once the honeymoon phase wears off, you may start feeling the effects of culture shock.
In any major city, you can always find things that remind you of home. Try and find a movie theater that has English films (it’s more common than you think!) or go to a U.S. chain restaurant with some expat friends.
4. Get involved
Sometimes the culture shock hits and it is just better to embrace it. It can seem daunting, but once you take the leap you won’t regret it. Find a way to get involved in the local community. This could be joining a sports league, taking dance classes, volunteering, joining a cooking club, or doing anything that will get you out of your apartment and allow you to immerse yourself in the culture in a fun and active way. Keeping busy is essential when dealing with culture shock because free time will most likely lead to you feeling unfulfilled.
5. Keep in touch
Different time zones can make keeping in touch feel impossible while abroad. This is why it is important to set dates and times with loved ones back home so you don’t feel too out of the loop. There is no way around the ups and downs of moving to a new country but knowing you have that support system makes all the difference when times are tough. Be sure to have a pre-determined schedule for contacting your friends and family at home so you never feel too far away.
There are so many ways to stay positive when dealing with culture shock and it is important to have a plan in place in case you feel down. It's also important to realize that things will improve, and you will get used to everything with time!
You wouldn’t want to leave your teach abroad role and regret it later, we place hundreds of teachers each year who have returned back to us with stories about how teaching abroad has changed their lives. Be sure to get out there and if you need any assistance or advice don’t hesitate to contact your placement consultant today!