Culture shock is a psychological phenomenon that is experienced by many people who travel abroad. Feelings of loneliness, anger, fatigue and detachment from reality are just a few potential symptoms of this mental state of mind. While no one is immune to culture shock, there are ways to combat this pesky feeling.
Here are six ways to get a grip on culture shock so you can enjoy your time abroad:
1. Accept How You Feel
You? Culture shock? Never. You're too open-minded and outgoing for that. Think again. Culture shock is more extreme than homesickness and can sneak up on the most well-rounded travelers. Even if you're studying abroad with your best friend, feelings of culture shock can arise. The first step is to accept what you're feeling. No matter how many lectures you receive or articles you read on culture shock, you may not recognize it in yourself. It's hard to pinpoint since everyone has different symptoms. If you're not quite feeling yourself, don't just try to push through it. Admit you may be feeling a form of culture shock.
2. Talk About it
Don't try to hide the fact that you're feeling off from being abroad; this will only make you feel more isolated. Instead, find someone to confide in. Talk about your feelings with a new friend abroad, your host mom or a professor. Venting with someone from home is another option, but meeting with someone in the same country as you will help create relationships and combat your culture shock. It might seem like you're the only one feeling depressed, but you could be surprised to find that you're not alone.
3. Stay Connected
Homesickness can play a role in culture shock, so be sure to stay connected with your home nation. Skype with your parents or friends, read up on current events and blog about your experiences. A taste of home will make you feel better, but too much time spent obsessing over your hometown could send you spiraling into a deeper depression. While talking with your friends is great, be sure to put yourself out there and make new friends as well.
4. Be Social
When you're not feeling like yourself, being around other people is the last thing you want to do. Force yourself to leave your room and surround yourself with people. Make an effort to get to know others from your program. Go to a club even if you don't feel like dancing. This doesn't mean you can't have any time to yourself, but sometimes just being social can help snap you out of the culture shock haze.
5. Get Outside
A little vitamin D can go a long way. Take a walk and remind yourself why you're traveling or just observe the new country you're in. Being outside, even if it's only for five minutes, is an instant mood booster. As long as you're outside, why not exercise? No matter if your indoors or outdoors, exercising can be a huge help when it comes to dealing with culture shock. Not only does exercise relieve stress, but it also releases endorphins that trigger positive feelings.
Traveling to a new place was the cause of your culture shock, so traveling to cure this feeling may seem counter intuitive. But planning a side trip can get you amped on travel again and distract you from your current state of mind. Get a fresh perspective on the world, see new things, meet new people and form stronger bonds with the people you're studying or volunteering abroad with. Once you get back from your adventure on the road, your original destination may feel more like home.
Have you experienced culture shock? What helped you snap out of it? Share your experience in the comments below!