Moving to a new continent could be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. However, encountering cultural differences can cause disorientation and homesickness, making the transition difficult. But even if your nerves are already shredded at the thought of tackling a challenging new job or school, fear not!
This article will cover how to deal with culture shock and the four phases you may experience while adjusting to a new culture. We will also provide tips and strategies to help you cope with big changes and make the most out of your intercontinental journey.
What Is Culture Shock?
Culture shock is the personal disorientation one may feel when you’re dunked into a cultural environment different from your own. Tourists sometimes experience culture shock, but people who move to a new country always experience a period of adaption.
Culture shock occurs in four phases: honeymoon, negotiation, adjustment, and adaptation. And, just when you’ve sorted your new cosmopolitan lifestyle, you encounter a fifth phase. You go back and realize that you’ve changed and grown and can’t just slip back into your old life.
Fortunately, humans are adventurous and curious. With a little preparation, we can adapt and succeed almost anywhere. If you do your homework before you go, you’ll have an easier time adjusting. You’ll get the maximum benefit and enjoyment from your intercontinental sojourn.
Negotiating the Four Phases of Culture Shock
The honeymoon phase usually lasts about three months. During this time, you’ll be excited to discover the quirks and differences between the old and new cultures. You’ll love the new food, surroundings, pace of life, and the locals’ peculiarities and quirks. You may become fascinated by the new culture.
After a few months, the negotiation phase starts. Differences between the old and new cultures become more apparent. Excitement may turn into frustration or anger. Language barriers become prominent. You may need help adjusting to the new time zone, currency, or measurement system. You may feel anxious and feel more pressure to perform well in your professional or social life.
The adjustment phase begins when you grow accustomed to the new culture. By this time, you’ve developed a unique routine. You’ve likely encountered most situations before and generally know what to expect from daily life. You’ve learned to ignore, avoid, or live with things you dislike. Yet, you still appreciate the oddities of the host culture.
Before you know it, you’ll be in the adaptation period or bicultural stage. That’s when you strike a balance. You can participate comfortably in the host culture. However, you still maintain characteristics from your own culture, like your home language or regional accent.
Nailing the Landing
You’ll likely land in a whirlwind of new faces, sights, smells, and sounds. You’ll probably suffer from jetlag. When we abruptly transition to a new time zone, our circadian rhythms must catch up.
Make sure you hit the ground running. In the week before departure, get plenty of rest. Gradually adjust your sleep schedule by either going to bed later or waking up earlier. Pick a flight that lands in the early evening, if available. Drink a lot of water because fatigue and dehydration can worsen jet lag. Finally, when you get there, get sunlight exposure during the day.
Strategies to Cope With Big Changes
Feeling homesick is expected when moving to a new country. Don’t let it stop you from enjoying your new home. Acknowledge your feelings, but don’t dwell on them. Try to:
- Research the culture of the country you plan to move to before you move there. Learn the cultural etiquette in your soon-to-be home to prevent a bumpy ride into a hard transition.
- Embrace the routine of your new home and adjust your schedule to how the people around you live. However, don’t ditch essentials like going to the gym or exercising. Keep some familiar elements of your old life and incorporate them into your new life.
- Plan for some downtime. While change can be exciting, sometimes it can be overwhelming to keep a brave face in front of strangers. In those moments, privacy can restore your mental powers. So, if you need a break, revive a few old habits. What about a digital Netflix and popcorn party with your friends back home? Use a VPN to connect to American VPN servers. Connecting to US servers will let you watch American programs. You can also browse content that is only available in the USA.
- Stay connected with your loved ones, even when you’re busy exploring and traveling. Find a way to bring them along on your journey by keeping in touch with them regularly. Make an effort to maintain long-distance relationships. Then, when you encounter difficult times, you’ll have someone you trust and can turn to for comfort without explaining everything that’s been going on.
- Locate essential services before any emergency arises. Medical and health services are not something you want to frantically search for online during an emergency. Also, when you travel, bring a complete medical file. Include copies of prescriptions and reference letters from your general practitioner. Make sure you have full medical coverage. Travel insurance may not cut it if you live abroad for longer than six months.
A Few Final Words
Adjusting to life in Europe or another continent can be challenging for Americans. Still, it’s guaranteed to be exciting. You’ll learn how to conquer uncertainties and overcome difficulties. You’ll reap the rewards for the rest of your life.
Follow our tips to make the transition smoother. This will help you to embrace the new culture, learn the language, and make new friends while holding onto some familiar elements of your old life. It’s a wonderful opportunity for personal growth and discovery—don’t wait.