How to Deal with Culture Shock

By Bethany-Angel Chijindu, Staff Writer

Culture shock according to Merriam-Webster is “a sense of confusion and uncertainty sometimes with feelings of anxiety that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment without adequate preparation.”

Preparation is key. Photo courtesy of Graphics Mouse at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Culture shock can be a very scary experience, for those who travel outside of their home country for school or work. Many times, people get too excited about the opportunity that they fail to think and consider how challenging living in a new culture might be.

It is important to note that not everyone responds the same way to culture shock. Here are a few things that might contribute to how it affects different individuals:

 

  • Do you speak or understand the language or languages spoken in the new country?
  • Do you have family with you? Or are you alone?
  • Are you an extrovert or an introvert?

I was 14 years old when I first experienced culture shock. I had just moved to Zambia and was in a new school. Looking back, I realize that I was not adequately prepared for my new life and experiences. The focus back then was on my academics, but I quickly discovered that I missed home, and my emotions soon got too much to handle at times, especially in stressful situations where I had to do new things that were difficult.

The good thing is that I learned from that experience and from my first year in college in California, and these experiences have gone on to help me adjust to living in Ghana, Kenya, and yes, even when I returned home to Nigeria.

Here are a few steps to take as an international student or as expatriate living in a new environment:

  • Go on adventures and take in your new environment. Photo courtesy of Bethany Chijindu

    Be honest with yourself about your feelings when it comes to your emotional or even cultural discomfort. Remember it is normal to feel some disorientation. After all, you are learning to live in a very different place and culture. But it is important to be aware of the tendency to see things negatively when you are in your feelings. This will go a long way in helping you adjust.

  • Seek help as soon as you can. There are available resources, especially for students, with international clubs and the department willing to help and provide support.
  • Be willing to make new friends and try new things. Often there is a tendency to hang out with people from a similar culture as yours. While that is comforting, it is also important to try to get to know more people from diverse backgrounds and to seize the wonderful opportunity you have being in a new country. There are many things to do in a new country, such as going on hikes and exploring, trying out the cuisine, and learning new things.

These are just a few things to consider, but no matter what your circumstances are, the best way to deal with culture shock is to remember that this is an adventure of a lifetime, and so see each challenge as a stepping stone and a learning experience to becoming a better person and a truly global citizen.

 

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