You're preparing for your international internship this summer and you got alllll these emotions. Excited, anxious, scured, you name it. Maybe you can't even think straight. Remember folks, be aware of culture shock the four main stages that many, many many travelers experience. Culture shock is the discomfort that comes from being in a new environment, culture, or country. Sit down, strap on your seatbelt, and get ready to learn the four main stages of culture shock.
1. Honeymoon Stage
Ahhhh new city!!!! This is so cool I must try everything!! As you might know, the honeymoon stage is when you are overwhelmed with joy about your host city. This is the phase where you are excited about the differences in culture, food, and social norms. Live it up!
Like all honeymoons, that phase eventually ends where you enter into a phase marked by feelings of resentment, anger, and criticism (lol, dramatic). During this stage of culture shock you become aware that differences in cultural understanding and language barriers make simple tasks difficult to manage leading to feelings of frustration. It's totally normal to feel this way. Don't give up, though!
3. Regression & Isolation
The frustrations from the Rejection Phase can morph into feelings of criticism of the host country and idealization of your home country. When you’re having trouble adjusting to a new place, you can sometimes long for the comforts of home and may isolate yourself from experiences in your host city. Symptoms associated with this stage include homesickness, anxiety, irritability, anger, and inexplicable fits of crying. Think of it like PMSing, but even with that *time*, it all comes to an end.
4. Adjustments & Adaptation
It's looking up! Gradually the feelings of anxiety will fade and you can begin to adjust to the new culture by cultivating friendships and by making yourself into a routine. As you begin to become familiar and comfortable with your new home the feelings of unease will dissipate (yay!!!). No one ever truly acculturates into a foreign country, but with time and the right attitude you can learn to appreciate it and adapt as much as possible.
Once you’re aware of the stages of culture shock, you can address it and find ways to cope (so you're already on the right path!!). Some of the best ways to overcome culture shock include:
- Learning as much as you can about your host country (before and during your time abroad)
- Find something about the host country that you love everyday. Cherish the differences
- Talk with locals and stay away from spending time with others that may bash the culture or bolster your home country
- Blog or keep a journal
- Stay positive--your attitude can make or break your experience abroad. Look for the positive in all situations to really combat feelings of homesickness or culture shock
Also, just remember...
You've got this! Have some fun, going abroad is a special time that goes away in the blink of an eye. Embrace the culture, and it will embrace you.
Have you ever experienced culture shock? How did you overcome feelings of anxiety or isolation?