Living and working abroad may be something you have always wanted to do, and when you look back on your time as an expat, it could well prove to be a highlight of your life. But when you first move, culture shock can often make things difficult.
What is culture shock?
What are the stages of culture shock?
For most expats, there are four stages of culture shock:
The frustration stage
The adjustment stage
The acceptance stage
Tips for avoiding culture shock
Before you go:
Know the stages of culture shock: if you haven’t left for your assignment yet you are ahead of the curve. There are two ways in which this is thought to help. Firstly, it is thought prediction plays an important part in the reduction of stress and secondly being aware of a potential problem allows us to figure out solutions.
Research your new culture: read as much as you can, ask questions in expat or related forums, not just the easy topics but the more detailed elements that will impact day to day life like:
- How people greet each other?
- How you should dress?
- What is the usual meal schedule?
- What time of day do people visit each other?
- What physical contact is or is not acceptable in public?
Understanding information like this before you leave will help prevent unintentional mistakes when you get to your destination.
When you get there:
Be optimistic: tell yourself you are going to enjoy the experience and will take it one day at a time. This has shown to have a positive impact while you settle in to life abroad.
Accept your new culture: even if there are elements of it that you struggle with, try not to measure them against your own. Instead, accept it as different and do what you can to adapt.
Social support: studies have shown that having friends to lean on in times of stress can help you cope significantly better than those who don’t. As a relatively new expat, you may not have a social network in your new home. If this is the case, try to stay in touch with friends and family at home to talk about how you are feeling.