Backpacking, studying or working abroad for can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life. However, being abroad for extended periods can really take it’s toll on our mental wellbeing if we don’t take some precautions to combat culture shock. We’ve been on many long international adventures, so we know how best to cope. Read on to find out how you can prepare for and deal with culture shock when travelling.
What is Culture Shock
Broadly speaking, culture shock is the feeling of adapting to a new culture when moving or travelling abroad. Adapting to new cultures can be difficult with exposure to a whole new set of sights, smells, manners, mannerisms and cultural cues can be overwhelming and difficult to cope with. It is this phenomenon that we refer to as Culture Shock.
Accept your feelings
The first thing you need to do is to accept what you’re feeling and know that it is ok. Even experienced travellers can find themselves becoming overwhelmed, it’s normal and there’s nothing wrong with you! Accepting that you’re struggling to cope is the first step to working through it, so don’t bury your feelings or struggle through in denial.
Immerse yourself in local culture
It may seem difficult if you’re feeling overwhelmed by it all, but learning and experiencing as much as you can about the culture of your destination can really help make it feel less alien to you. Understanding why yours host country has the customs it does will really help you to understand that it’s just a different way of living rather than a ‘wrong’ way. Fitting in when you’re out and about will help you feel less of an outsider, too, as you won’t stand out as a foreigner who doesn’t know how to cope with local customs. It can be very isolating when you’ve misunderstood how to queue or to order food and everyone is staring at you and, you suspect, talking about you.
Stay Connected to Home
You might not want to admit to your loved ones back home that things aren’t going perfectly. You’ve saved and planned hard for this adventure, you don’t want to seem like you’re not making the most of it. But, letting them know you’re struggling can be a great way to work through your feelings. Who knows you better than your family and closest friends? Talk with them and they will know how best to reassure and encourage you.
Keep a journal to help you process your feelings and make it easier to talk them through with loved ones
Be a Tourist
Getting out an exploring local sights can really help get you acquainted with the local culture and help you to not feel so isolated. Take a weekend away if you can. It may seem counter intuitive when you’re already dealing with culture shock, but it really will help with feeling trapped in your new accommodation. You’ll also get to feel that nice ‘coming home’ feeling when you get back.
Get some exercise
Getting your blood pumping with some exercise really is a great way to stave off negative feelings. Make sure you keep up with your regular exercise regime, and if you don’t have one – start now! Exercise is proven to increase the release of endorphins, which really help improve your mindset and make coping with stress less of a task. At the least, try taking a brisk walk for half an hour each day to make sure you’re getting some exercise in. Even better, especially if you’re staying in one place for a while, find team activities you can do locally and you’ll meet new people, too!
Don’t shy away from Socialising
It can be hard, especially if few people around you speak one of your languages, but socialising can really boost your mental wellbeing. With local friends, you can also better get to grips with local customs and cultural differences. If you’re studying abroad, look for societies you can join within your institution. If you’re travelling for fun, look around the local cafes and shops for flyers about local events and activities you can be a part of. You’ll be better equipped to fit in with some insider knowledge!
Process your thoughts and feelings
It’s really important that you don’t shy away from going through what you’re experiencing. Burying your feelings will only make them worse and you’ll struggle even more. Keep a journal to help you process your feelings and make it easier to talk them through with loved ones.
Taking care of your health when travelling is always important, but especially so if you’re struggling with the mental strain of adjusting. Before you go, make sure you visit your local Nomad clinic for an in-depth travel health consultation on your trip itinerary and medical history. Your expert travel Nurse will tell you about all the health risks at your destination(s) and can vaccinate you and supply travel medicines for your trip. You can book an apointment online or call us on 01341 555061 to get booked in with one of our travel gurus. Take a medical kit like the unbeatable Ultimate Medical Kit so that you can quickly treat a minor illness or injury. Packing your own Worldwide Diarrhoea Kit will allow you to treat travellers’ diarroea on to go and quickly get make to enjoying your new surroundings.