Expat's Manual

Coping with culture shock is one of the more challenging aspects of moving overseas for the first time. Moving abroad, albeit exciting, can also be a very stressful and challenging process. Quite often you will find that the culture and lifestyle of the place of your relocation is extremely different from that which you are used to and this can make it very hard for you to fit in and feel at home.

In order to prepare yourself in advance for any culture shock you may face, you should do as much preparation as you can before you move abroad so that coping with culture shock will be easier once you arrive. By familiarizing yourself with the culture in advance you can prepare yourself mentally for what life will be like in the new destination. One way in which you can do this is by reading as much as possible about the traditions and people you will find when you move. Publications that detail do’s and don’ts can be extremely enlightening and will help you to recognize elements of your behavior that you may need to adjust in order to fit in and avoid insulting or upsetting the local population. Each Expat Info Desk relocation guide contains a wealth of specific information about the traditions and practices of people in cities throughout the world and reading these in advance will undoubtedly help you to prepare appropriately for coping with culture shock.

Once you arrive in your expat destination, you need to remember that it will be frustrating at times and misunderstandings and miscommunication will occur. This is all par for the course and the only way to move forward long-term is to occasionally take a few steps back. You will find that most local people are very understanding when it comes to culture faux pas. As long as you are seen to make an effort, are polite and have a sense of humor about the whole process, you will be given plenty of chances.

Patience will be a great virtue when learning and embracing a new culture. It will take time to get up to speed with everything and this will not happen overnight. If you have a family and small children, you will need to make sure that they settle in as quickly as possible and try to make sure that they do not pick up on your fears. Children do not find it as difficult to settle into a new culture as adults do and are much better at coping with culture shock. You will often find that and as soon as they start at their new school they will begin to make new friends and will settle in very quickly.

While temporary, culture shock is still a difficult time for anyone. The following are some ways to cope with culture shock and ease yourself into your new culture so that you do not feel the full force of the leaving everything familiar:

  1. Write a list or prepare a scrapbook that details the things about your current live in your existing country that you don’t like before you leave. If you feel a sudden urge to return home get this out and read it, remember that things at home were not always perfect too.
  2. Keep in touch with friends and family on a regular basis. Arrange trips home.
  3. Keep a diary of your experience; write down how you are feeling.
  4. Make sure you get plenty of exercise and keep your body and mind active.
  5. Join social groups and expat clubs; meet people who have gone through what you are going through. Arrange social events that allow you to enjoy and experience the new culture as well as events that allow you to engage in pastimes that you enjoyed in your home country.
  6. Learn the local language. Join language-sharing programs that will allow you to meet a local and teach them your language in return for them teaching you theirs. Take the opportunity to learn as much about their culture and practices as you can.
  7. Don’t make any rash decisions. Take the time to get used to the differences.

Coping with culture shock is a challenge and it can make it hard for you to deal with day-to-day life and any problems that may arise. Make sure you talk all of your problems through; the worst thing you can do is bottle everything up. Be open and honest about your feelings and remember that it is completely natural to feel homesick. In fact, homesickness is one of the main signs that you are experiencing culture shock. This will pass and it will not be long before you are settled in and enjoying your new culture.

Do you have a comment about this article, a further question or even a correction? If so please do let us know. We may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all comments will be published, please be nice!

Our Expat's Manual is updated regularly so comments about the article may have already been addressed.

Back to top