Expat Genius 11 Apr, 2016

10 Tips to beat cultural shock

By Natalia, Genius in Bogotà

Living abroad is pretty awesome, meeting people, eating exotic foods, experiencing new things. But what happens after the novelty wears off? Going by the fancy name of cultural shock, this is experienced by most, if not every expat, when moving to a new culture. The Oxford dictionary defines culture shock as: The feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.

In other words it´s the feeling you get when you just don’t understand why these new people act so weird, why they eat and drink bizzare stuff and why their rules make no sense.

Don´t worry! This is just a natural phase, that will pass as you adjust more to the new culture. However, since it can be a bit nasty at times, here are ten simple tips that helped me along the years.

  1. Call home!

OK, by no means, does this mean isolate yourself and spend countless hours on Skype! However, if you miss home, just call. It is always nice to hear a familiar voice in times of need. It will help you remember that you are not alone, lost in this big old world. Just make sure you don´t overdo it. There are so many things waiting for you outside!

  1. Care packages from home (or somewhere dear to you)

Care packages are awesome! Apart from the potential of being filled with delicious snacks, you will feel great reading a few lines from your friends and family. There is a certain charm in a postcard or letter that a simple text or email, just can´t match. If your care package contains some food, why don´t you share it with some new friends. You can even make a night out of it! Just make sure you keep some for yourself too.

  1. Cook food from your country

Do you miss food from home? Well make it! Call your mom, surf the net, you will be able to find the recipes! Be creative, experiment with new ingredients to substitute the ones you can´t find! You can even host a dinner at your place showing off our skills and your culture!

  1. Meet the locals

This is a no brainer. Who else would be better at explaining all those weird things than the locals? They will be able to ease your transition and make you understand why things are the way they are. Not to mention they are the best to show you new dishes, cool restaurants, clubs and coffee shops! Meeting locals won´t just help you find your way in a new culture but would also help you form new friendships with some pretty cool people.

  1. Meet other expats

Sometimes you might be tired and you might just want to hear someone confirm that you are not going crazy. Other expats most likely go through the same problems as you and they might have tips that you´ve never thought of. It is always a good idea to get an extra opinion from someone who has been in your shoes before.

  1. Get involved in the local community

Volunteer! Participate in different social activities! Not only that you will feel better with yourself for doing something good, but you will also meet like minded people and who knows it might even boost your CV.

  1. Go out!

Even if you are not a social butterfly you have to put yourself out there, especially at the beginning! If clubbing is not your thing, join some events that fit your interests be it coffee clubs, dancing classes, it doesn't matter as long as it makes you go out and meet people.

  1. Learn the language

If you are in a country you don´t speak the language, learning it will change your life. First of all, you will be able to communicate with more people. Locals will appreciate your efforts to learn and will be happy to help you. Plus you would have some sweet skills to show off to the folks back home when you visit them.

  1. Date a local

If you are single, why not? You will get crash course in the culture, everyday and family life of your significant other. Moreover, there is no better motivation to learn a language and integrate in a new culture than love!

  1. Have fun with it!

Cultural shock does not have to be all dark and gloomy. Take a step back and see the humor in the situation. Differences between people and places are to be enjoyed and celebrated. That is what makes all of us human and special!

There you have it! Ten tips to beat cultural shock. Of course, this is not a top and not all of these tips will apply to youur situation, but I hope you can find something that works for you. Whatever you choose to do, remember you are in a new place which is right outside your doorstep! Just go out and embrace it!

 Thanks to our Bogota's Genius Natalia for sharing this great post!