3 simple tips to fight culture shock

November 3, 2015

It is easy to underestimate the mental and emotional impacts of a home exchange. You may very well be excited, even elated, to learn more about a new country and language. But don't be surprised if you encounter culture shock, a condition that is common for people who spend time in an unfamiliar place. Though culture shock can be uncomfortable, it can also be conquered. Here are three simple ways to ease the transition.

3 simple tips to fight culture shock

1. Know the phases of culture shock

  • One of the best ways to stave off culture shock is to learn more about the phenomenon.
  • Culture shock happens when we are stripped from our familiar landmarks, language cues, and cultural markers and is a very common phenomenon.
  • First and foremost, remind yourself that culture shock is perfectly normal.
  • Then, keep in mind that culture shock happens in phases.
  • First, you will likely experience a "honeymoon phase" during which you feel upbeat, excited and optimistic.
  • But soon, your mood may change. During the "frustration phase," you are likely to feel angry and upset about slight differences from your own culture and problems communicating and navigating.
  • During the "adjustment phase" that follows, you will likely get into a groove with your new surroundings.
  • After a rocky period, you will start to feel more grounded and positive.
  • And, if you stay long enough in a new culture, you can look forward to the "mastery phase," a period in which you feel as at home in your new country as you did in your old one.

2. Strike a balance

  • It can be tempting to immerse yourself back into the familiar when you're feeling the effects of culture shock.
  • But don't give in to temptation.
  • Sticking too closely to your home language and spending too much emotional or mental energy on your home culture can make you feel even more isolated.
  • Instead, try to strike a balance between the known and unknown. Encourage yourself to take risks and spend more and more time in unfamiliar settings.

3. Take good care

  • The most important way to overcome culture shock is to care for yourself.
  • Listen to your moods and emotions.
  • Take care to sleep enough and eat healthy foods.
  • Try to get as much exercise as possible.
  • And remember--positive self-talk creates positive experiences, so don't beat yourself up if you have a rough time.
  • The better you can care for yourself, the more likely you are to acclimate and enjoy your home exchange program.
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