Culture shock

Digital nomads often experience “culture shock”. Here’s what to expect and how to prepare for it

Choose to go abroad and become digital nomad can be accompanied by exciting experiences, new friends and even a change of job.

But it can also be overwhelming. You may feel stressed as you adjust to your new surroundings.

During the honeymoon phase of the first few months, there is the novelty of new adventures. But when the excitement wears off, it can quickly turn to frustration, homesickness, anxiety, and a feeling of out of place.

Eventually you will adapt, but many people who choose to go abroad experience this phenomenon known as ‘culture shock’.

It’s good to have some tips to prepare before you leave. Despite what it may seem, there is a lot you can do to make the transition less painful. Insurance provider William Russell has brought together some of its best tips to overcome culture shock.

“While culture shock can be difficult, there are many ways to lessen its effects,” says Sharon Clarkson, medical insurance nurse for the company.

“It can help to understand that culture shock is completely normal and something that every expatriate crosses to some extent.

Based on years of experience helping people who have moved overseas, here are some tips for preparing for culture shock.

Languages: learn the basics before you go

It seems pretty obvious that being able to communicate would help you feel less alone. But many digital nomads don’t make the effort to improve their language skills before they leave, especially when it comes to regional dialects.

This is especially important if you’re moving to a place where few people speak your native language. Those moving to Japan, for example, won’t get very far without being able to speak at least some Japanese.

Recently, content creator and language lover Arieh Smith shared with us his top tips for learning a language. Check them out if you want to become proficient quickly.

Go online to connect with other foreigners before you arrive

Nothing replaces the advice of people who have already done something successfully. Contacting local digital nomads or expats before you arrive also means that you already know some people on the ground in your new location. There are usually social media groups for expats of the same nationality or in the same local area, region or country.

While you’re still in the planning phase, it’s a good idea to check which countries rank as the most (and least) friendly.

You can also try searching for a digital nomad community or village to join. These have been popping up all over the world over the past few years in popular destinations like Croatia and Portugal. Everyone here will be in the same boat, and you’ll likely meet others with wisdom to share about life as a digital nomad.

Establish a routine in a new country as soon as possible

Wherever you are in the world, establishing a routine is a quick way to feel like you have some normalcy in your life. Even more so if you’re dealing with sleep deprivation related to changing time zones or moving to fully remote working

Try to establish your daily schedule as soon as possible. This could include making new choices like taking an afternoon nap, adjusting your bedtime, and even adjusting to local cultural routines.

Avoid comparisons with your country of origin

It can be hard not to think about what you miss about your home after moving to a new country. But aren’t new experiences one of the main reasons people choose to become digital nomads?

Remember this if homesickness starts to creep in and keep an open mind. Even the most famous places have brand new things to discover, no matter how long you stay.

Don’t believe what you see on social media about digital nomads

As with most things in life, we often only share the good times of moving abroad on social media. Don’t let glamorous posts about people who seem to be living the dream mislead you.

Instead, look for realistic portrayals of life as a digital nomad in the country you’re moving to. There are plenty of YouTube channels, videos, and podcasts that go into the most basic details of what it looks like.

Keep exploring and stay curious about your new home

Once settled into your routine, it can be easy to forget why you left the house in the first place. But chances are curiosity was one of the things that led you to this choice, so embrace it whenever you can.

Keep up to date by watching local TV and reading books instead of relying on international media. It might even help your language skills, as you understand without having to read the subtitles.

Tell people about how you feel as a digital nomad

If you start to feel sad, homesick, or even anxious, don’t push it away. This is something that many digital nomads go through and you should never feel like having doubts is low. Reaching out to members of groups or communities you’ve joined could help you find an answer or a shared experience that makes everything better.

If things get too much to handle on your own and you start to feel depressed, don’t be afraid to talk to a healthcare professional about your options. There are also expat coaches who can be by your side as you navigate the ups and downs of a whole new life.

Stay fit and put your health first

Above all else, your health is the most important thing to take care of. Take care of yourself by eating healthy, staying active, and going to the doctor if necessary.

Part of this means making sure you understand the healthcare system of the country you’re moving to – if you have to pay out of pocket, set up Assurance or contribute to public systems.