How to deal with cultural shock might not be one of our main worries when we plan our trips and holidays. Mainly because we are not aware of the existence of a phenomenon of such thing: cultural shock. But we all experienced it, even though we were not aware. To help you understand what culture shock is (besides the scientific definition) and how to deal with cultural shock, I will share one of my funny & weird experiences.
When I was visiting Spain, a couple of years ago, I was quite shocked to discover that people greet each other with a hug and a kiss every single time they meet. I was used to shaking hands when I was meeting someone new, so imagine my shock when they started hugging and kissing me. I’m not a hugger. My social skills are not so developed, so I am not a hugging & kissing every single random person I meet and greet.
I truly believe that enjoying traveling is not for everyone.
So, that’s cultural shock: something that you’re not used to or not expecting to experience while visiting a different culture. You might say it’s not a big deal. But culture shock might turn into depression or anxiety, things that are difficult to manage without proper care. Not to mention that it will ruin your holiday.
Travelling to different countries can be both exciting and intimidating. We are not used to stepping out of our comfort zone too often and this might bring some surprises. There are some easy steps to follow that will help you avoid cultural shock.
1. Do Your Research
Travelling to a new country is always exciting. But adding some culture-related research time to the time you spend searching for cool things to visit, will prove beneficial.
Try to read different blogs, for example. Bloggers will share their experience as it truly was: with good things and bad things. Search for cultural differences, what’s odd about that culture, good & bad things about the country, and so on. You can also ask some friends that have previously visited the country about how their experience was. Doing some research about the culture that you are about to visit will help you set realistic expectations and it will make you feel more safe and confident.
2. Set Realistic Expectation
As I previously mentioned, doing some research about the culture that you are about to visit, will help you set realistic expectations. Why is it useful? Breathtaking landscapes might lure you into the idea that your holiday will be perfect. But each country and culture has its drawbacks as well. Knowing some of them will bring your feet to the ground and you will be ready to face some not so pleasant situations, such as queues at the check-in point or shops closed at lunchtime.
The Internet is filled with perfect-looking pictures of famous cities. But what people don’t tell you about London, for example, is that it can be quite dirty.
3. Make an Effort to Learn the Language
Don’t panic! You don’t have to learn Chinese. Buying a conversation guide and skim it a little can do the trick. Learn some basic words like ‘hello’, ‘yes’ or ‘no’, questions and most important: learn to let them know that you’re not from around and don’t speak the language.
Knowing some basic conversational words and phrases will make you feel more confident and locals will be impressed by your effort. They will smile at you and it will make you feel better (trust me on this!).
4. Be Open Minded
Build a healthy mindset and be ready for any kind of experience. Embrace each experience that comes up and take the bad ones as a valuable lesson; in other words: be proactive.
5. Plan Your Holiday
We all plan our holidays: when we arrive, when we leave, some touristic attractions to visit and so on. To reduce anxiety and insecurity, plan your holiday day by day.
Plan when and where are you going to eat, what and when you are going to visit and so on. I usually don’t feel comfortable doing this, but if you have anxiety or any other things like this, planning each day will help you reduce stress and will make you feel safer.
6. Show Some Respect
We all love our culture for a variety of reasons. So does the rest of the world. If they believe in different things than you do, don’t criticize their beliefs, lifestyle or culture. It is not your job to do so.
Show the locals that you respect and admire their culture. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, maybe you should think twice before travelling abroad.
7. Be Optimistic
Nothing can deal with bad, unexpected things as humour and optimism. Even if the situation seems quite bad, find a good part of it. Autosuggestion is a very strong tool and humour will help you reduce stress as well.
8. Don’t Travel Alone
While solo travelling might be your dream, I strongly believe it’s not such a bright idea especially if you never travelled abroad before.
Travelling with friends, family or your partner will make you feel less awkward and will give you the confidence you need to do things on your own. You can learn from how others deal with a new culture and you’ll be more prepared next time.
Travelling is amazing because it reveals so much about the world around us and about ourselves. I truly believe that enjoying travelling is not for everyone. As I said in the beginning, cultural shock can affect lots of people and can make travelling a nightmare.
I hope that you found these tips useful and that now you have a more clear picture of how to deal with cultural shock.