Coping with culture shock
Culture shock can be debilitating. As I mentioned previously, culture shock tends to hit the non-working partner harder than other members of the family. It’s harder because the one who’s working has an instant ‘life’ through work. Even if that doesn’t lead to real friendships, it allows that person to feel busy, useful and valued. Besides, it certainly passes the time.
Children, while they do experience culture shock – especially if they are older – have school where they can be distracted on a daily basis. However, not all children will relish this change and school life varies considerably, even within the same country, and may seem insurmountably strange to your child.
If your child does display symptoms of culture shock, be sure to take time to properly listen to their concerns, even if you’re feeling stressed by it all. Don’t dismiss their feelings over your own.
Tips for beating culture shock
Find new friends
One of the main recommendations for surviving this downturn in your mood is to make friends.
This is much easier said than done. But keep plugging away; it may take time, but don’t give up. Good friends can make your stay overseas a fantastic experience. A lot depends on luck when moving to a new area. In some places and situations it’s easy to find new friends, but in others it’s very hard indeed. Once you make some good friends, they help a lot, so it’s really worth making the effort to find them.
At the beginning you do tend to get out there and meet people. By about six months into your stay you have probably met quite a few people. But turning them into close friends takes longer than that. That transition from acquaintance to friend is the hardest thing to get through and can take a long time.
- Go out of your comfort zone to meet people. Keep on trying and don’t take any knockbacks personally.
- Volunteer somewhere, perhaps with one of the local expat societies or something else that interests you. That’s a great way to meet new people. It may take a while, but eventually you will find people you click with.
- Join a gym or other class that interest you. This is a great way to meet like minded people.
- Don’t forget your old friends and keep in regular touch with them.
- Take language classes; a great way to meet fellow expats in the same position as you.
Work on your self-esteem
- Find something that gives you a sense of contributing, whether to your community, your professional field, or your job skill development. This will boost your own self-esteem, making it easier for you to ‘get out there’ and meet people.
- Counteract the ‘trapped’ feeling by going out on your own regularly. Explore the area, explore further afield. As well as learning about your new country, fresh air really does help prevent depression taking hold.
- Take this time to study for a new skill – this is what I’m doing (as well as working on this website) and it does help me feel as if I’m working towards something tangible.
Try something different
- Be a tourist! Pretend that you are on holiday and go out and do touristy things. Try to see things as a visitor, take photos and actively look for the good points of your new home.
With time it gets easier. Being away from ‘home’ is always hard, but as time goes by you get more and more used to it and it all becomes easier to deal with.
Just keep putting yourself out there. It will happen.
How to Make Sure This Doesn’t Happen To You!
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You just said it, don’t close yourself to your expat circle – I’m expat in Scotland, and my best friends here are Hungarian, Colombian and Malaysian mum – thinking is the only way to have friends or that they will be your closest friends.. Besides, try to keep some of your traditions – like gastronomy or something special you did in significant dates – and never look at the traditions that your kids are learning as something “bad” , they are their own persons and you can find this really amusing and amazing (in our home we have so much fun with these cultural shocks). We’re citizens of the world!
Thank you for visiting!
Absolutely agree with you. I don’t understand those who only want to mix with people from their own culture. They miss out on so much.
And keeping up with your interests and hobbies is vital; and even find some more!
Citizens of the world, indeed!
Immerse yourself in a culture so you understand why things are like they are – language & culture classes are therefore a good way to understand the local people & situation.
If you have school going kids this is a great way to meet others: get involved in school activities & parent groups. I’ve met lots of locals through pre-school & primary school & it helps with the feeling that I actually belong even though I’m an expat.
Thank you Amanda, that’s brilliant advice! School kids are a great way to meet new friends. Doesn’t work quite so well when they are secondary age though, sadly.