Even with the excitement that accompanies an international move, most people feel a sense of anxiety about one thing: culture shock. If you’ve never visited the country you’re about to make your new home, it’s hard to know how you’ll react to the new environment. Will you like the food, or will it make you sick? If you can’t speak the language fluently, how will you get around? If you have kids, how will they adjust to the change?
All of these worries are natural, and you’re not alone in having them. Luckily, there are multiple ways to successfully cope with culture shock. Read our blog below to learn about what culture shock entails, how to prepare yourself for it, and how to overcome it.
Culture Shock’s 5 Phases
In most cases, culture shock is inevitable. You might think that you and your family are prepared for your new home’s culture; you’ve read multiple guidebooks, watched movies, and cooked traditional foods. But there’s nothing quite like landing in a new country, stepping off the plane, and seeing, smelling, and hearing the commotion of your new home to make you feel disoriented anew.
The good news is that the more you know about culture shock, the better prepared you’ll be to deal with it. Here are the typical cultural shock phase an international traveler goes through:
- Honeymoon: Initially, as with most new experiences, you feel a sense of euphoria and excitement. Everything about your new home seems wonderful, and you’re happy to be here.
- Distress: Soon, you start to feel isolated in your new country. The cultural differences and new experiences that excited you before only make you feel more removed from the people around you.
- Re-integration: You become frustrated with your new condition. You might start to reject the differences you see in your new country and idealize life back home.
- Autonomy: After the anger and frustration wear off, you start to enjoy life in your new home again. You can start to appreciate the differences and embrace new experiences.
- Independence: At last, you feel confident in your new home. You can successfully navigate most aspects of your new life. At this point, you truly feel at home.
As you experience each of these phases (or as you notice them in your children), try not to judge yourself, even when you feel angry and frustrated. Remember, these feelings are natural; everyone who’s lived internationally has experienced them as well. You’ll eventually overcome them and see this country as home—you simply have to work through the other phases to reach that point.
While it’s good to know that your culture shock will eventually wear off, it can be hard to deal with in the meantime. Here are some tips to follow as you work through the five phases to reach independence in your new country:
- Take time for yourself. If you’re feeling anxious and insecure, play relaxing music, meditate, exercise, or participate in one of your favorite hobbies, like reading.
- Find similar people. Chances are, others from your home country have relocated to the area. There could be a nearby organization, school, or society with people who can relate to your situation.
- Focus on the familiar. When you’re overwhelmed by difference, it’s okay to take a step back. A reliable moving company should have safely transported your possessions to your new home; spend some time with an item that makes you feel at home, like your favorite movie.
- Embrace new experiences. Even though culture shock can make you feel shy, try to force yourself outside your comfort zone as least once a day. You’ll feel empowered as you do so.
With these tips, you’re sure to make your international move a success. Check out the other articles on our blog for more tips on how to improve your next move.