4 Tips For Handling Culture Shock


If you have plans to travel abroad in the future for study or work, you may hear about or even experience what we call a ‘culture shock’. Culture shock, possibly like any other kind of shocks, affects people in various ways. The impact of the shock differs from one person to another depending on your own culture — how large the cultural gap is between your country of origin and host country. But it also depends on your education, character and other factors. I, for instance, came to Australia as an international student about 20 years ago, and the truth is that I did not experience much of a culture shock, and strangely enough, I’d suffered from a bigger culture shock at home, in my own country, where I was born and raised. Even though not everyone struggles with culture shock,  the fact remains that many people still do, and those who do find it painful even debilitating; some feel sad, confused and sometimes depressed.  Unfortunately, that drains energy, kills your focus and productivity and thus obviously impacts your performance at work or college. In other words, culture shock could ruin what could otherwise be an exciting and pleasant experience.The good news is that culture shock, once again like everything else in life, passes; it’s not permanent, and there are things you could do to reduce its impact. There are hundreds of tips in books and on the internet, but I want to only tell you about four which I personally think are useful: Avoid stereotypes.Whatever you read or heard about, say, Aussies, don’t assume it’s true about all Aussies all over Australia. Don’t presume there is one type of Aussie; Australia is a melting pot where you’ll see and meet people of every race, colour and creed, so if you come with specific expectations of your ‘typical’ Aussie, you are in for a colossal shock. The more you stereotype, the greater your shock is. Therefore, be prepared to treat people as individuals, which brings us to the next tip. Keep an open mind.Once again, it’s all about expectations — if you are expecting people to behave in a certain way and precisely as you would in your own country, you are very likely to be disappointed. We often judge things as right or wrong relying rely on a specific set of beliefs and values created and accepted by our culture. Needless to say, I’m not just talking about universal values like ‘don’t kill’, ‘don’t steal’ etc; ‘killing’ and ‘stealing’ are examples of deviant illegal behavior that is not permitted in any culture; no one travels to a new country, murders someone on the street and then says, “Oh sorry, isn’t that okay around here? Because back at home, I do it all the time and no one says a thing about it”. Luckily, that is not tolerated anywhere by anyone. What you need to be open-minded about then is social or cultural behavior that may not necessarily be common in your country. Talk about your culture.Talking about your culture, customs and traditions goes hand-in-hand with the previous tip: open-mindedness. It’s perfectly fine to talk about what may find confusing to you because that is all part of adjusting and adapting to the new environment. Keeping it all bottled up will make matters worse; it will lead to more alienation, isolation and of course sadness. So, open up and talk, which brings to the final tip. Speak English. Talking is certainly good, however, if you only talk in your language with those who speak your language and share your background and values, do not expect to make much progress. Speaking English is your way of proving to those around you that you are willing to be open-minded, that you want to communicate, that you want to understand, that you want to know more about others, and this reduces the impact of your ‘culture shock’.


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