Culture shock 101: Coping with a new life, environment

by Megan Finley Contributing writer


Many of us have heard of the term “culture shock.” Culture shock is the disorientation or unfamiliar feeling a person may have when trying to adjust to life in a new place. Symptoms include homesickness, feelings of helplessness or dependency; disorientation; depression or sadness; anger; eating or sleeping disturbances; or critical reactions to the new culture. Here are some helpful tips on how to overcome culture shock.

• Make friends with your new culture.

Immerse yourself as much as possible. Attend local events. Shop at local stores. Learn the language whether it is through a class or app on your tablet. Meet your neighbors and befriend the locals. Practice that language with neighbors and friends. Part of the feelings of culture shock may be because you feel like too much of an outsider. The most important survival tip for another culture is to immerse yourself in that culture. This can truly be the most rewarding, life-changing experience.

• Do something new each day. 

Try local cuisine you have never tried before. Find a new hiking trail or path and wander. Sign up for a class at your local “Buergerhaus,” municipal hall or community center. Strike up a conversation with a member of your community you have never met before. Travel somewhere new, experience something different. Adventure surrounds you!

• Establish stability. 

Establishing a routine will give you a feeling of comfort and safety. Make exercise a part of that routine to improve any negative feelings you may have. You will find comfort in the predictability of your daily routine. Perhaps after operating in your own routine for a while, you will feel a little more comfortable venturing outside of that comfort zone.

• Try to see things through the locals’ eyes. 

Put your own world view in your back pocket for a bit, and try to understand the world the way the locals do. You may not agree with everything they say, believe or do. Just try to understand where they are coming from and seek understanding by asking questions and set aside any judgment.

Life in another culture is not always balloons and rainbows. It can be an emotional roller coaster at times. However, it is one ride worth taking. Once you are back home, you will savor all the experiences, friendships and memories you have made.