Travelling solo is amazing but sometimes when we are thrust into surroundings which are unfamiliar to us, the shock can sometimes be too much. The people, the heat, the sounds and the hygiene may not be what you’re used to and you may think that this only applies if you are heading somewhere like India, but it can really happen anywhere especially in places where you are in the minority. This article covers how you may feel when you experience it and how to deal with culture shock.
What is Culture Shock?
Culture shock is our body’s way of reacting to the change in our environment, whether it is a different climate, different language or different foods. Don’t underestimate the effect it can have on your body. Social behaviours may surprise you, people may not be as friendly or welcoming as you initially expected and you may be feeling unconfident, confused or nervous about wanting to go outside as you feel like an obvious outsider.
After the initial excitement wears off, you may notice many differences in your new environment as you move into an unfamiliar culture to your own, such as people staring at you out of curiosity or invading your personal space more than you’re used to. It may be that you’re finding it difficult to cope with being away from home, your friends and your family or your everyday routine. The language barrier may be a problem so invest some me in learning a new phrase each day. Once you become more comfortable with the language, your confidence will soon grow.
Discovering that other cultures do not have the same set of values as you as well as different beliefs can make you crave familiarity and feel uncomfortable in your surroundings. Don’t be quick to judge others just because their circumstances are different from yours. You may find that you share more common ground than you initially thought. Allow yourself me to get used to your surroundings, embrace the new culture one day at a me and you’ll soon adapt. You may even find that your fear of differences with others is now something to savour.
Immersing yourself within the local culture, and seeing yourself as a unity rather than an outsider will help create an understanding of the country that you are in. Being more accommodating to other cultures doesn’t mean losing your identity, it means being more comfortable with others and them also with you, to create no divide or behaviour that can be mis-read and offensive.
A country is only defined by the people within it, so while sights and places can be breathtakingly awesome, you’ll never truly know a place unless you speak freely to the people within it. Embrace the locals, join in with their activities, try the local food and above all, do as the locals do. Not only will you enjoy your time so much more, but you’ll come away with a more enriched experience of what life is really like within another culture.
How To Deal with Culture Shock
1. Find out as much about the country as you can. Integrate with it instead of seeing it as separate from you.
2. Keep a journal and write down how you are feeling. Mark yourself out of 5 for how you are coping. Write in it every day and look back to see how you are progressing.
3. Stop comparing. Things may not be running smoothly but that’s the way it runs there. Don’t compare it to your home.
4. Make plans to help the time pass quicker and write down your goals for your trip. Keep looking at them to remind you of why you are there.
5. Tell yourself that if you still feel the same tomorrow, you’ll book a flight, then when tomorrow comes tell yourself again that if you still feel the same way tomorrow, you’ll book a flight.
Don’t underestimate culture shock. I recently experienced it when I moved to Spain even though I am European. Realise that that is what it is and that it is perfectly normal then you can adapt and begin to enjoy your new adventure.
I created a Solo Girl’s Survival Kit which helped to lift my mood during those moments of feeling lost and homesick. Being equipped with the right mood triggers can give you that added reassurance that you can do it and be your personal first-aid kit for the moments when you feel that you can’t.