How to Recognise and Handle Culture Shock

3 min read
Everyone adjusts to moving to a new environment in different ways.  For some, moving to an unfamiliar country will be a breeze, and for others, culture shock may kick in and interfere with all the fun you had planned on having at college. While it's common to think that culture shock is merely a temporary feeling of missing the people, places and foods that you are used to back home, it can in fact develop over months and be a lot more deep rooted, and for this reason be harder for you to recognise. Stages of culture shock Culture shock varies for everyone, but has been categorised into 4 different stages:
  1. The honeymoon phase
  2. Settling in - frustration
  3. Feeling stuck
  4. Acceptance
Symptoms of culture shock include
  • irritability
  • headaches or stomach aches
  • overly concerned with health
  • easily tired
  • loneliness
  • hopelessness
  • distrust of hosts
  • withdrawal from people and activities
  • painful homesickness
  • lowered work performance
  "While my friends at home had their noses buried in books, I was fortunate enough to be experiencing the world, something very few people get to do in a lifetime, never mind at my age. It was during this moment, my “Aha Moment”, that I realized that all of the preparation I had done before I left, the homesickness I had occasionally experienced, and the financial sacrifices I had made to study abroad were all worth it." - The Study Abroad Blog   Handling culture shock Essentially, culture shock is an inability to adjust to your new environment and the people you are around.  Although culture shock is uncomfortable, it is a normal part of the adjustment process and you need not be ashamed of it. There are a number of ways to deal with culture shock:
  1. The most important thing is recognising that what you are experiencing is culture shock, then you will be better equipped to handle how you feel
  2. Keep in mind that this will probably be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and the time you spend sulking in your room is time you’ll never get back
  3. By studying abroad, you are more fortunate than 80% of other college students out there
  4. Ask people who have been in your position how they dealt with the culture shock
  5. Keep in touch with those back home, but not to the point where you are dependent on them
  6. Learn the culture and customs of the country you are in and respect them
But most importantly, remember that nearly everyone suffers from some form of culture shock when they move to study abroad, so you are not alone!  

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