Traveling to a new country can be such an exciting thought! Plan the trip, research different places to stay, imagine the foods you will eat; now it’s an adventure! You get all your ducks in a row and start imagining that wonderful new vacation experience. Everything at the airport is going well; you collect your luggage, arrive at your destination and immediately it begins to settle. You are suddenly anxious about everything. Culture shock set in. What is it and how to fix it?
It can start with something as simple as a sign in another language and can snowball from there. Whether it’s feeling disconnected from your home and people, or feeling unwelcome where you are or anything in between. Culture shock is a real thing, and it can disrupt even the best-intentioned jaunts to another country.
A language you don’t master or even constantly deciphering a very strong accent can trigger culture shock in some people. Difference in storefronts, landscaping, clothing style, and social differences can all be subtle triggers that can lead to horrible vacation experiences resulting from culture shock.
According to Miriam Webster’s Dictionary, culture shock is “a feeling of confusion and uncertainty sometimes accompanied by feelings of anxiety that can affect people exposed to a foreign culture or environment without adequate preparation.”
Preparation is the key word in preventing culture shock. Before you go, think about how culture shock is something that could happen. Get ready for the new things that await you. You can do things like work on learning the local language or researching the customs of the country you are going to visit.
Join the Facebook groups of the country you will be visiting and get information from other travelers who have been to the country you are going to visit. Consider a group trip. Go to Google Maps and start exploring with the terrain filter enabled. Get to know the area and the shops as best you can virtually so you don’t feel uncomfortable upon arrival.
If you suddenly experience culture shock after arriving, there are some things you can do to help get yourself back into a positive frame of mind. Go somewhere familiar; it could be your hotel room, a Starbucks, a park; any place that feels like home. Call a friend or family member back home and chat for a while, tell them all the fun things you do. Stay a day and Netflix and relax. Find or cook some of your favorite meals from home. Seek out a spa and practice self-care.
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Visiting a different country and immersing yourself in a new culture can be very exciting and nerve-wracking. Doing research ahead of time, listening to your body while traveling, and taking the time you need to adjust can ultimately save you from serious culture shock.