Living abroad

When we are immersed in a new culture and an unknown reality, it is normal to feel uneasiness. It is what we call the "culture shock". This shock can influence your personal relations, the health and even damage the good progress of studying abroad. For many people, it is very difficult to avoid a culture shock. Its intensity can vary from one person to another, but it touches a majority of the people. However, it is possible to manage its effects and make it count as a positive experience. On the other hand, many people said that the most profitable exchanges happened only in case of a strongly felt cultural shock.

The cultural shock in 4 steps

1. Euphoria of the departure: everything is wonderful and interesting. You appreciate the change of scene and the cultural differences. It is in a certain way the “honeymoon”.

2. Frustration facing cultural differences: certain aspects of the new culture disturb you and the collective behavior seems sometimes incomprehensible and absurd, for example: the relations between men and women, the language barrier, communication difficulties with people of the other culture, the dirtiness of the city, etc.

3. Urge to drop everything: the attempts to fit and arrange things do not seemed to work. You lose interest for the culture of the host country. You think going back home.

4. Get back on one’s feet: you stop establishing comparisons. You accept things the way they are and you let go the idea of thinking how things should be. You feel that you adapt yourself better to the new environment. Everything seems easier and you take advantage of it. You start accepting that the new culture has positives and negatives things to offer.

How to identify the state of culture shock:

  • You are more irritable than in the habit and you feel nostalgic.
  • You compare and criticize in a disproportionate way.
  • You feel a strong temptation to reject the incomprehensible and unwanted aspects of the new culture.
  • You feel frustrated and exceeded.
  • You want to drop everything.
     

How to overcome the culture shock:

  • Have realistic expectations or even, do not have any.
  • Accept and respect the differences even in the incomprehension of these.
  • Take a step back and look at the situation with humor.
  • Accept the difficulty and give yourself necessary time.
  • Put the focus on developing intercultural capacities of communication (tolerance, sensibility, listening and observation).
  • Get involved in all the activities offered by the host establishment.
  • Look for the contact of local students andor those who live the same experience (the other students in exchange).
  • Get in touch with the contact-person of the host establishment to ask him for his advice at the level of the cultural integration or even help if necessary