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Why Culture Shock is Good for You

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why culture shock is good for you

Are you concerned about culture shock? Some new expats think that it won’t affect them. Others make their move, prepared to handle it.

In this post, you’ll learn about common culture shock factors, the six stages of culture shock, and six ways to handle it. And, most importantly, why culture shock is good for you.

What is Culture Shock?

The term culture shock describes the effect of moving from a familiar culture to an unfamiliar one.

What can contribute to culture shock? Here are some of the common factors:

  • Climate
  • Food
  • Language
  • Dress
  • Values
  • Etiquette and behaviour
  • Prices

6 Stages of Culture Shock

  1. Trip Planning: This first stage is generally full of excitement as you plan your trip / move.
  2. Initial Euphoria: Sometimes called the “honeymoon stage” this begins when you first arrive in your new country and ends when the realities of life begin to sink in. At first, everything seems rosy – even perfect.
  3. Irritability: This is the stage that sometimes gets the better of expats. The frustration of “how they do things” can quickly take the shine off your relocation. This can be made worse by the inability to communicate in the local language. Unrealistic expectations only make this worse.
  4. Gradual Adjustment: With some patience, you can learn to adjust. As the local ways become familiar, you can learn how you should act and how to get things done. This usually happens in stages.
  5. Adaptation: As you learn how to function in the new culture, you’ll hopefully come to feel part of it.
  6. Re-entry Phase: Sometimes this is planned – other times a return home can be unexpected. Either way, you’ll probably realize that you have become a different person. Most expats have found that their time abroad has matured and inspired them. We were affected by reverse culture shock when we landed back in Canada earlier this year.

Below the infographic, find six suggestions for getting over a rough landing.

Why Culture Shock is Good for You [Infographic]

culture shock is good for you

Infographic source.

6 Ways to Handle Culture Shock

There is a huge set of Culture Shock country guides that will help you understand the nuances of your new home. While most of what these books say can be helpful, they can quickly go from observing the cultural differences to judging them.

  1. Stay Grounded: Realize that culture shock is normal. Most people deal with it, in varying degrees.
  2. Eat Comfort Food: Prepare some of your favorite foods from home – or maybe a variation based on what’s available locally.
  3. Get Active: Exercise will lift your mood, get your outside and improve your perspective. Look into joining local activity groups – sports or exercise. Consider learning a new sport.
  4. Stay Connected: Take the time to connect with friends and family. It will help with the transition and give you someone to share your progress with.
  5. Challenge Yourself: Set daily goals such as interacting with a new person each day. Or set the goal to learn a new word. Language learning is a critical step in adapting in your new home.
  6. Find a Guide: Find someone to help you learn the language and culture. You might find help online (forums or Facebook groups) or in person once you arrive.

More reading: 17 Best Expat Books

Why Culture Shock is Good For You

So, how is culture shock good for you?

Culture shock means you’re growing. Breaking out of the familiar can be uncomfortable. But that is one of the best ways to grow as a person. When you understand what causes culture shock, and how to handle it, you’ll see that it really isn’t that bad.

Hang on and ride it out. You’ll be a stronger, more mature person on the other side.

Your Turn

How have you coped with culture shock? What are you dealing with right now? Please join the conversation below!

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines is editor of GringosAbroad - one of the largest English language sites about Ecuador. Work with GringosAbroad. He is a travel blogger, photographer and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands).

11 comments… add one
  • Christine Apr 15, 2016, 12:44 am

    Culture shock also works one one’s return home and the longer you have been away, the greater the shock. Many of the suggestions apply here too. It’s surprising how long it can take for life to get back to some semblance of ‘normal’. But the reality is that you will be living a ‘new’ normal. Your experiences have changed you and your perspective on the world. It’s a challenging and uplifting journey.

  • Katerina Mar 2, 2016, 11:48 am

    Hello!
    Culture shock is real. I was born in Ecuador but moved to the US and returned to Quito after 20 years. It is my country but now It feels foreing and still trying to adjust. Mainly making friends and connections have been a challenge.
    Hope I get some tips from others that have experience the same challenges.
    If you want to write back my email is krebosio@yahoo.com
    All comments will be welcomed.
    Saludos!
    Kat

  • Daniel Jan 25, 2016, 4:59 pm

    I really agree with this post. I’m a spanish living in peru and despite our similarities with the peruvian culture are many i really had a hard time at the beginning trying to keep up with their customs.

  • Sanne - Spend Life Traveling Jan 17, 2016, 7:40 am

    I can so relate to this 🙂
    And although dealing with culture shock can be very challenging at times I do feel it really adds value to my life. It has broadened my horizon: every time I moved to a new country and had to get used to a new culture it taught me something about life and how different cultures look at life in different ways…

  • Lou Ann Jan 1, 2016, 8:30 pm

    Ha ha you have said a mouthful. I lived in Ecuador for 2 years and the Eastern Caribbean before that, in fact I left EC to come back to StKitts. I am not even an US Citizen. Anymore

    Have fun and Happy new year

  • Glenn Dec 26, 2015, 10:35 pm

    Samuel Clemens (AKA; Mark Twain) once commented: ” among the well traveled, you`ll find no intolerance.” So true: get out of your shell and move a bit, you body, mind and soul will thank you. I`ve been in 39 states, Canada and Mexico, a college level PHD in the human race. If the recession hadn`t wiped me out, i`d already be living and travelling in Asia, or Central, or South America, or all 3, which was my life`s plan, stalled but not stopped, due to the financial stress many of us went through. Meet new people, eating new food, looking at new ways of building and living and working, different people with different ideas and ways of life, forces you to expand your mind way beyond the neighborhood. Shake your life up, (oooooh it`s scary.) see what it`s got, see what you got, believe me, it`s all good, life`s a trip, a journey, not a parking spot.

  • amraah carole white Dec 26, 2015, 1:58 pm

    packed my van with my household minimum needs and began through Mexico and on the Central America… even without much Spanish, I had a blast… beautiful places, views and truly loving and kind… ordinary.. people everywhere… This is the perfect day to grow up all over again. I’m in Canada again right now working out the finances and will be off to Ecuador to live in the new year. If you are headed in that direction, please mail me and let us talk together: Fun is First. Much Love, Amraah Lotuswfive@gmail.com

  • Jakob Dec 25, 2015, 10:21 pm

    It teaches you that nobody owns the truth. It makes you stop trying to convince other people that you are right. Personally, the Ecuadorian experience has helped me navigate the American corporate world with less stress, as people stopped stressing me out with their attitudes. My BS filter works better, too.

  • Andrew Jordan Dec 25, 2015, 1:57 pm

    Whoever you are and whatever your past is, culture shock is real.
    Both of us have moved and travelled extensively but coming to Cuenca has still been a shock. Its the type of thing where you expect the behaviour you are used to but it doesn’t happen that way. Its very upsetting until you work out the other sides viewpoint. The culture here in Cuenca is a lot more relaxed and dont worry about tommorow until it comes.
    You realize how rigid you have become. Have to make appointments on time, repair the house the moment you see something, get the best deal on things and use the Internet for buying everything. Here it’s like 1950 with all little shops and you only buy on a word of mouth recomendation. Family and staying close are the most important things. Maybe we should have adopted this lifestate years ago!
    We came and it was the honeymoon phase. Then disillusion and when is the next flight. Now it’s slow acceptance and real delight at some things. The friendliness and openness of the Ecuadorian people has been outstanding. Be very sure before you move that the citizens of your new country like your type of people.

  • emily johnson Dec 25, 2015, 1:19 pm

    I agree that culture shock can be beneficial.

  • Jim Dec 25, 2015, 1:18 pm

    I guess it’s been near a couple of years since we returned from Ecuador. Yes, culture shock is real. It has to be, I felt mild culture shock when I lived in Florida for nearly a year. But regarding Ecuador, in retrospect, it was never for us. We never got past the thing that there was always an issue to be confronted. We found comfort in certain routines, specific places, specific shopping stores and restaurants. But there was always something else, something just slightly out of reach of our adapted comfort zone. But that was us. I envy those that worked through it. Do we value or even treasure out time in Ecuador? Yes, without any question. We now live in Mexico in a somewhat “americanized” region. Our time in Ecuador was a form of training has certainly helped us to adapt again, though we find it easier here. Has culture shock changed us for the better, is it worth going through? Yes, without question.

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