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Moving Advice

Coping With Culture Shock

Moving abroad is an exciting adventure. There may be times however when you feel homesick as you adjust to your new life abroad. Sometimes this is referred to as culture shock.

Culture shock is often described as a feeling of disorientation in an unfamiliar culture. It doesn’t happen to everyone but it’s worth being aware of it so you can be prepared if you do experience it. Have a look at our top tips below for coping with culture shock before you start your moving adventure.

The Four Stages of Culture Shock

The Honeymoon Stage

This stage occurs when the excitement about being in your new destination outweighs any concerns about unfamiliarity. You will not be concerned about coping with culture shock during this time. You are likely be discovering many new things that you love about your new home such as the climate or the food and you will probably be finding your new culture fascinating.

The Negotiation or Culture Shock Stage

After a few months, for some people the differences between the old and new culture can cause confusion and stress. Language barriers can sometimes add to this feeling of frustration with the new culture.

The Adjustment or Understanding Stage

The good news is that the culture shock stage will pass as you begin to adjust to your new surroundings. The new culture is accepted and becomes more like normal life. New routines are developed which helps with this stage of coping with culture shock. You will start to adapt to the new culture and understand the cultural differences between your previous home and new home.

The Mastery or Bi-cultural Phase

Your new destination will feel like home at this stage and you will feel very comfortable with your new surroundings.

An article with further details about coping with culture shock can be found here: Coping With Culture Shock

Tips on Coping with Culture Shock

1. Research your destination

Research your destination as much as you can before you go so that you know what to expect when you arrive. If you are moving abroad with your family, communicate also with them about what you have learned. There are many books written by authors who have experienced the journey beforehand so look out for those. We have reviewed some popular expat books here: Expat Book Reviews. Citizenship books can also be really helpful and an interesting way to learn about your new country or residence.

Blogs can also be another useful resource for coping with culture shock and can help you to prepare for your new life. You may even want to start your own blog to record your journey, remember to note all the positive things about your new country.

Check out some of our blog posts about dealing with culture shocks in the USA, Australia and South Africa:

Culture Shock Living in the USA

Culture Shocks When Moving to South Africa

Culture Shocks of Australia

2. Address the basics

Make sure that you have covered all the bases in terms of your new set up. Register with the local doctor and dentist and familiarise yourself with the safe and if applicable less safe areas of your new destination. Learn new routes to places such as the supermarket. Learn the local laws and if you can the customs of the locals. Small things as knowing the opening times of your new supermarket can make you feel more in control and help you with regards to coping with culture shock.

Learn as much as you can about your new surroundings and familiarise yourself with your local area as much as possible. Sometimes your new employer may offer an orientation tour. This can be a really useful experience so make sure to accept this offer if it is presented to you.

3. Meet new people and make friends

A great way to meet new people is by going out and joining in with the local activities. Look for some local sports clubs or now might be the perfect time to take up that new hobby. You may also want to consider taking a language class which can also be a good place to meet people as well as helping you fit in to your new environment. Meeting new people will help to distract you and take your mind off any concerns you may have regarding your new home which will help in terms of coping with culture shock.

4. Explore your surroundings

Go out and be a tourist! Visit all the main sights and take photographs. Walking around your new town or city will also help you get your bearings. Tourist buses can also help to understand the layout of a city.

5. Set some goals relevant to your new home

This will give you something to focus while helping you adjust to your new life. This could be something such as learn to cook ten new local dishes, go to a language class or take up a hobby relevant to your new country.

The main thing to remember if you experience culture shock is that it is usually just a passing phase and all part of the adventure of moving abroad.

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