Culture shock can take even the most experienced of travelers by surprise, and there’s nothing worse than feeling homesick and disorientated amid a culture you are unfamiliar with. Luckily, there are a number of ways you can learn to better cope with integrating yourself when arriving somewhere for the first time.
Culture shock is the stress experienced by a traveler when no longer around the familiar customs of home. It is normal for travelers to experience some degree of anxiety when arriving in a country for the first time, with even the most seasoned travelers not immune to culture shock.
When traveling to another country, not only will the locals look and act differently to what you’re used to at home, but they will also likely speak a different language, eat different foods and practice different religions. You may also experience different weather and hygiene conditions, sounds and smells to those you are familiar with.
The good news about culture shock is that it usually quickly passes and in most cases, travelers experience nothing more than mild distress. Culture shock can even have a positive effect on travelers, making them more self-motivated. In severe cases, however, culture shock can affect people not just emotionally but physically, causing sleepiness, depression, homesickness and even mild sickness.
If you do feel yourself getting overwhelmed with all the new experiences that go hand in hand with arriving in a country for the first time, talk to your travel companion or fellow travelers about your new experiences. In all likelihood, you will realize that others are experiencing the same feelings of disorientation as you.
While you may need a day of rest in your guest house or hotel room when you first arrive after a long journey, hiding indoors is no way to overcome culture shock. Get out and explore the area so that you can quickly get to grips with your travel destination and assimilate yourself into the culture. Most importantly, don’t forget to eat and rest properly.
You can minimize culture shock by reading up on your destination before leaving home so that you know what to expect. Make sure you have an immediate plan upon arrival, including transport from the airport and your first night’s accommodation, so that you don’t have too many challenges to contend with on day one.
Experienced travelers are usually better equipped to deal with the symptoms of culture shock but no one is completely resistant to it. There is even a condition known as reverse culture shock, which you may experience when you return home after a long period abroad.
Here are some tips for helping you to overcome culture shock:
- Research your travel destination and its customs before you arrive so you know what to expect.
- Share your new experiences with fellow travelers so you don’t feel alone.
- Don’t hide indoors; get out and meet the locals.
- Eat and rest properly.
- Plan your transport and accommodation in advance so you aren’t overwhelmed upon arrival.
- Don’t get easily offended and remain open-minded about the culture you are visiting.