5 Steps To Avoiding Culture Shock!
The first time I traveled to Central America, I was awestruck! Pristine rain forests, immaculate beaches, tropical weather, the list goes on and on. But there were these moments and feelings of intense isolation and loneliness. I didn’t know Spanish, and it really affected how I interacted with the locals. All of the sudden my vacation wasn’t a vacation, it was a series of obstacles every day, whether it was ordering food at a restaurant, or asking for availability at a hotel.
It wasn’t until I came home that I heard about culture shock for the first time, and I wished someone would have told me about it before my trip.
In this article, you are going to benefit from our firsthand experiences. You will learn what culture shock is, what the signs and symptoms are, how to prepare for it, and how to avoid or cope with it. But before we go any further, we need to define what culture shock is.
Culture shock has been studied and defined by many different people over the years and it affects everyone differently.
Basically Culture shock is an affect or feeling a person experiences physically and/or emotionally. It is generally thought of to be experienced by individuals when they leave their home country to live or visit another. However this is not always the case, and can be experienced by people living in their home country, but living/visiting a new social or cultural group.
There is also reverse culture shock. This is when an individual has successfully adjusted to the new social or cultural group, and then returns to his or her home country, or original social or cultural group. This can be due to over-idealizing one’s home country or culture, or expecting that nothing has changed while they were away, when it actually has.
- Honeymoon Period- This is when you first arrive in the new location, and everything is new and exciting.
- Crisis Period- This is when your feelings of disillusionment culminate, and you begin to cope.
- Recovery- This is when you gradually adapt, and learn to behave like the local culture/social group.
- Adjustment- Function effectively, and perform day to day tasks secondhand.
- Degree of contact with hosts.
- Comfort with new environment.
- Opinion of hosts.
- Overall satisfaction.
- Psychological mood.
- Academic morale.
Signs and symptoms of culture shock are: homesickness, stereotyping or feelings of hostility towards hosts, excessive boredom, feelings of isolation, boredom, withdrawal.
This all sounds like a great deal of doom and gloom, and after reading this, you may be saying to yourself-“Why would anyone want to do something like that.” The fact of the matter is that once you know about culture shock, you can also learn how to prevent culture shock.
1. Learn about your new location first; and be open-minded and willing to learn! (Spanish even! If I can do it anyone can!) Lonely Planet is a great recourse for traveling just about anywhere, and is often referred to as the ‘backpacker’s bible.’
2.Maintain a positive sense of humor- The ability to laugh at your mistakes, and smile at people makes a world of difference in the eyes of your hosts. Thankfully for us, Nicaraguan’s have a great sense of humor, and are extremely forgiving.
3.Know before you leave that moving or traveling somewhere different for anyone is challenging, and that it is normal to go through an adjustment period. Don’t be hard on yourself.
4.Do not withdraw- Hang with positive people, travel around, take part in cultural events.
As Edward T. Hall has said in reference to culture shock, “The only way to get to the below the iceberg is by actively participating in that culture.”