When traveling into a new country and experiencing a new culture your mind and body are going through different phases. How long and how strong they last are solely depending on you. I want to write about the different phases and talk about different ways of dealing with them, especially the 2nd phase.
Basically, there are three different phases:
The first one is often referred to as the "Honeymoon" Phase. In this phase you feel excited about all the new surroundings & impressions. You`re are eager to explore everything around you. The newness of the country makes you feel like there’s no better place to be right now. All the dreams you had about the country & culture come true and it makes you feel like the happiest person on earth.
After some events that bring you back on the ground of reality you will land in the hardest phase of adoption: “The regression phase.”
Also called "culture shock". You feel misplaced, rejected and you’ll start thinking about going back home. Furthermore you’ll feel angry, uncomfortable, confused, frustrated or irritable and lose your sense of humor. You are bored and have no clue about what to do. Does this sound familiar? You have probably experienced some of the feelings listed above.
The third phase is the so-called "adjustment phase". Some say it's the combination of the two previous phases. You start to accept your new surroundings and you’ll start making compromises between the honeymoon and culture shock phases.
Now that you know all the different phases you’ll probably think if there’s any use to know these phases… And there actually is a huge benefit in knowing the different phases! It helps you to be aware in which phase you currently are! Knowing in which phase you currently are can help you to deal better with each phase, especially the "culture shock" phase. And that's what I want to talk about next. The first thing with every problem is that you have to accept that you have the problem (yes, we define the culture shock as a problem) and admit that these impacts exist. It is not a sign of weakness to admit that you feel uncomfortable.
What helped me is being curious about how things work in new environments. If you don't know how something works, like ordering at Chipotle (I’m not from the States so please respect that ;) ). Ask as much as you can, it will remove the anxiety of talking to locals and can benefit you with useful tips about the city.
"Discover the unfamiliar"
Since I want to keep this blog compact I won't explain every little method there is to deal with cultural shock. I don't think that's necessary since everyone probably will discover different ways and tactics to do that. If you find yourself struggling with unfamiliar situations it can help to do something familiar like listening to your favorite song or reading a book you like. Taking some time off and just relax can work as well!
The last thing that I actually really enjoyed and helped me greatly was learning a bit of the language. You don't have to speak it fluently. Knowing the 10 most used words can be really fun and rewarding as well. Also, locals will notice that you took the time to learn a bit about their culture. It shows them that you respect their language. It can be a great icebreaker for conversations. If you want to learn more about how to learn a language you should read our blog on "learning languages" that is coming out in a few weeks.
"Every language teaches you something, it is never wasted"
Summing up the topic there are three useful things that you can do to deal with the "culture shock" phase. These are:
Take time for yourself
Learn parts of the language