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How to survive culture shock

Date:18 September 2021
How to overcome culture shock
How to overcome culture shock

During your first few months at uni, you may experience emotional or physical problems that are not necessarily related to your new study, but are in some way related to your new student life. Perhaps you have recently moved to another house, city or country and are feeling anxious, sad or homesick as a result? This so-called "culture shock" can be frustrating, especially if it feels like you're the only one experiencing it. In this blog you can read more about culture shock: how it arises and what can help to deal with it. And most importantly, that it is temporary and will almost always disappear over time.

What is culture shock?

Culture shock is something you can go through when you change to a cultural environment that is different from your own. This can mean moving to another country, city or even moving out of your parents house to live on your own or going on a vacation. 

Culture shock comes in many different forms. It could be that you are having a hard time adjusting. You are feeling very overwhelmed and you do not know what to do. You might get homesick or you miss the place you lived before. You felt comfortable there because it was familiar to you. Culture shock consist of four stages: the Honeymoon phase, the Frustration phase, the adjustment phase and the acceptance phase

Honeymoon phase:

This phase is seen as an overwhelmingly positive stage phase: You are so caught up in all the wonderful things your new surroundings have to offer, that you feel like moving to a different area was the best decision you ever made. You are ‘’over the moon’’.

Frustration phase:

This is the most difficult stage. The honeymoon phase is slowly fading and everything  you  liked at first is now getting a bit frustrating. You start to feel as if you don’t understand the people around you. You may feel frustrated when you go to the supermarket or even when you walk because you don’t know the rules. You may lack motivation because you feel overwhelmed and anxious. In this stage it is also very normal to feel homesick and really miss your old environment.

Adjustment phase:

As you feel more comfortable in your new environment your frustration is starting to fade. You are becoming more and more familiar with your surroundings. You may make some new friends, you find a fun hobby or you are just feeling more relaxed. It takes time to come to this stage, and this process differs for everyone.

Acceptance phase:

In the last phase is acceptance. This doesn’t mean that you understand your new culture perfectly, it means that you are accepting more and more about your new surroundings. You understand that the people around you are different from the people you were used to. You start to make memories and have fun. It’s time to grow!

How to deal with culture shock?

The first step is to recognise you are in culture shock, but how do you cope with it? We did some research for you and made a selection of things we think could help you feel a little less overwhelmed and a little bit more at home

Learn about your host country/ new setting. 

Read travel books, news reports or search online. Try to learn as much about your new environment like the rules and laws. How are the people and what are their traditions? Do they have different holidays? What kind of language are they speaking? Learn about anything you can think of that may be different to what feels comfortable for you.

Talk about it!

Talking about it can be very hard but also super helpful. Maybe you find comfort by asking your family for help? We strongly suggest you to ask around. Students service desks, teachers,other students or people you come across may be able to help you out as well. For our students, we have a student well being portal that lists all points of contact, sources of support, and initiatives in the area of student well-being.

Find a healthy distraction 

This is very important if you are in phase two. When you have negative feelings towards your new surroundings, take some time for yourself and do something you love. Watch an episode from your favorite show, read a book, take a walk and listen to some music, cook a meal that reminds you of home. Or our personal favorite: have a solo dance party in your room! It is okay to be overwhelmed and it is okay to need a break. But find something you really like instead of locking yourself up. Read our blog 5 things to do to quickly feel at home to find some inspiration. 

Keep a journal

This is a very specific point and we can imagine that some of you don’t like writing, but if you do this, it may also be a very good tip for you. Write down everything you feel you can’t share or don’t know how to express. Write about how your day was and how you felt. The things that frustrated you, but also the things you liked about the day. Later on you can look back at the journal and also look at the bright side of the process.

This is a lot of information and it may take you a while to take in. You can always come back to this blog and find some inspiration. Experiencing culture shock isn’t fun, to say the least. Please  know that you are not alone. There are a lot of people who can help you. Hopefully this blog post already did.