How to survive culture shock?

I like to travel and get to know new cultures. But working in a new country might have new challenges. Therefore if  I travel for a longer period or I am taking up work, I prepare from the host culture. 

Why is it extremely important to be aware of the culture shock effect

Experts say that when we spend a longer period in a new environment we all go through culture shock until we fully adapt to the host culture. I find it important to be aware of these stages of adaptation. Why? Because it helps me to work more efficiently and helps to understand that it is not the people and not the country, but it is me who have to adapt.

The cross-cultural adjustment is a long process with many ups (+) and downs (-). Let's see these stages and how we feel in them.

1) Honeymoon period (+)
In the very beginning you feel euphoria. You are in a new country, everything is so interesting. You only notice superficial differences, such as people wear 'chador'. 

2) Initial culture shock (-)
Then you start to feel frustration and depression. You realize your disadvantage because of lack of knowledge with language, food, gestures, weather, transportation and the way tasks are performed. You feel homesick.

3) Initial adjustment (+)
You learn to survive the above disadvantages. You become more independent by learning the basic language.

4) Mental isolation (-)
You start conflicting with your personality and the culture of the host country. You become more critical and impatient towards yourself, your family and your host country.

5) Integration (+)
At this stage you either keep rejecting the host culture, stay critical of others and refuse to learn the language. Or you accept the culture and start making sincere friendships with locals.
Usually many expats leave the country at this stage.

6) Return Anxiety(-)
Before returning home you might feel anxiety and think of all the things you did in the host country. You can also be concerned that you might not fit into life you had back at home.

End of first 2 weeks working in Manila, Philippines
What can you do before you travel for a longer period to survive these stages? How did I prepare for culture shock? 

  • Researched the other culture
  • Learned the basics language (if English was not widely spoken)
  • Talked to people who had experience
  • Tried to be open, patient, flexible and tolerant

About Tiny Girl With Big Bag

Hobby writer and autodidact photographer whose passion is to travel and get to know new people and cultures. She has been on 4 continents and 30 countries, and the outcome is this travel blog where she shares travel stories, thoughts, tips and photography always through a subjective eye.

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  1. I think these are all excellent points. I plan on moving to Mexico for a year and I have a feeling that I'll go through each of these emotions. I remember feeling overwhelmed once while on vacation because I couldn't speak the language. It was a sudden feeling that came over me. So I know it will come but I think I can handle it. I've been practicing my Spanish so hopefully that's a barrier I can overcome.

    1. Yes, going for vacation is very different from staying somewhere for a longer time. I think everyone goes through these points, and you can not do against it, just be conscious and not to give up :) Yaay, Mexico sounds like a great place! I'm sure that you will have a great time :)

  2. Great points! Mid last year I moved to France to study and felt those stages you point out. At the end of the day I survived though it was through a lot of frustration. Definitely the most valuable lesson in my life.

    1. Now you know that you are not alone :) hope you could learn French, coz the way to the heart of French people is through their language ;)

    2. Juggling between my english-speaking classes and my french language course was really hard, but I managed to speak the basics..enough to touch their hearts :P

    3. Haha, I can imagine.. dans Paris, la ville de l'amour! :)