Visiting a country isn’t the same as living in it. In the beginning, everything is exciting and new. But, then, you start to think that the new culture is ideal and much better than your own. Of course, I am pointing these things out considering that you made a conscious decision of moving to a new culture, as I know that some people don’t really have an option. This post will discuss this culture shock that we all feel when making a conscious ‘moving’ decision.
When I first arrived in the UK, I loved everything, even the things most British people probably hate. Everything about the country was positive; Later on, I found out that, as I read in an article, I was living ‘the tourist stage’, which makes a lot of sense as tourists usually don’t stay long enough to suffer culture shock. But, unfortunately, this stage didn’t last long enough.
Yes, we know, we cannot be tourists endlessly. The problem, though, is what takes place next after our ‘honeymoon period: the shock. Most people think it occurs due to the difficulty with the language; they believe that if they could understand the language better, they would be living in a paradise. Sadly that’s not true. Once culture shock kicks in, local habits that we once found good become increasingly frustrating. So if you think the lack of knowledge of the local language is to blame, you might have to think twice.
Researches have shown that a specific event doesn’t cause culture shock. Instead, it results from encountering different ways of doing things, being cut off from behavioural cues, having your values brought into question, and feeling you don’t know the rules. I believe that now you are saying to yourself something like: “oh! That’s why I feel like that”. Don’t worry, so you are not alone! We, who have moved our entire lives to another country, share the same feeling.
How to overcome culture shock?
- Learn the culture: Be open to new ways. We all have different points of view, habits, routines, costumes, and you might not know, but we learnt all these things; we weren’t born behaving the way we do. Instead, our parents printed all of that on us; And if you think deeply about yourself, you will understand better why you do things the way you do. Try to understand the whole background of the culture you are trying to engage with. I started to understand and even admire the British culture (as I live in Britain) much more once I started learning about its history. I can even say that I know more about British history than my own.
- Learn the language: Learning the local language can minimise the shock effects of the local culture. If you move to a country where they don’t speak your language, you must make an effort to learn the local one. Being part of a culture is not the same as being part of a country. You might even have this country’s passport, but you have only moved house if you don’t open yourself up to its culture. Learning the local language is also a sign of respect for the country you decide to be part of. Natives English speaker, for instance, can understand you even if you speak broken English, but they cannot do so if you do not speak English at all.
- Don’t close yourself up: Try to meet people when you can and when you do, try to behave in a way where they can find grounds to identify themselves with you. When you go on holiday to a new country, for example, you usually google everything about that place, so you don’t feel lost when you get there. How about googling the local traditions before you meet someone? Here, for instance, I’ve learnt that if someone invites you to have dinner in their house, you should bring a bottle of something, like wine, and in some cases, bring flowers too. Once you learn how people in that specific country behave, you can follow along, and they will be much more likely to identify themselves with you.
- Communicate: As a person who talks every day and most of the day, I can tell you that communication is essential. Nonetheless, we can’t forget that it runs both ways. For example, talking about your culture can help you deal with culture shock, as it also shows how proud you are of your background and tradition. Just make sure not to get wrapped up in talking about yourself too much. Unless you are talking to a therapist, you should speak but also listen.
Unfortunately, we will all suffer from Cultural Shock eventually, and it can be pretty challenging. However, some of our challenges are opportunities in disguise. If you keep that in mind, you will start to look at it differently, and something that supposes to be negative might become positive. Don’t give up!