How to cope with cultural shock? Image
Travel, Stay and Culture training

How to cope with cultural shock?

Collegepond Counsellors (Jimeet Sanghavi)
3 mins read

With its gigantic size, geographical difference, varying climate and eclectic mix of different ethnicities, USA like India is a land of diverse cultures. Like any other country, USA too has its unique characteristics which make it exclusively “American”. When a starry-eyed student lands in the US with high hopes for future, the initial flurry of excitement at times gives way to the bewilderment of unanticipated cultural shock. Leaving comfortable settings of the home country can be a stressful experience for many but if one is forearmed with the wisdom to address cultural shock effectively, his/her phase of transition can get less intimidating.

Why do international students undergo cultural shock?

Moving to a dissimilar culture setting can be exhilarating and disconcerting at the same time. Everyone reacts differently to the challenging process of cultural adjustment. Whether one’s transition is a smooth sail or a rocky ride will depend on his/her level of preparedness. Social customs, value systems, traditions and prevailing beliefs in the US may be quite different from the ones in India. Depending on their unique background and upbringing different students will experience unique adjustment curves. While some may find the process unendurably daunting, others may be able to adjust with relative ease.

Different symptoms of culture shock include:

  • Severe homesickness
  • A sense of gloom and melancholy
  • Sleep disorders and physical discomforts
  • Nagging fear and insecurity
  • Fatigue and anxiety
  • Bouts of anger and irritability
  • Strange headaches, allergies, and pain
  • Lack of confidence
  • Regret over your decision to study abroad

Tips to facilitate adjustment process:

  1. Respect the other culture:

Try to acclimate to the new customs, beliefs and culture with an unbiased mindset. Rather being an unyielding conformist, try and enrich your personality by accepting good things about the new country. One of the most significant aspects of cultural adjustment is identifying and shedding your cultural prejudices, and adapting to the new culture.

      2. Be flexible and broad-minded:

Please understand there is nothing right or wrong, it is only the perception that varies in different countries. Try to be broad-minded, tolerant, and neutral by embracing the new culture, customs and ideologies without prejudices. Adopting to a new culture nowhere infers that you shift your value system, it only implies that you are prepared to accept and respect the new culture with an open mind.

      3. When in Rome do as Romans do:

Try and observe others by paying close attention to their body language and communication approaches. This will not only help you in getting acquainted with people but will also help in simplifying your phase of transition.

      4. Do your homework well:

It is imperative that you gather relevant information on local culture and custom before arriving in the host country. Visit Web sites and read books about the history, geography, and customs of the US; study maps; read newspapers with good international news coverage.

      5. Understand and accept new Social behaviors and customs:

You may not find people in the US to be as warm and friendly as your home country. They may appear to keep a deliberate distance or act formal. Rather than feeling left out, drop your judgments and strive find common grounds.

      6. Take care of your physical wellbeing:

Exposure to new environment and unfamiliar weather conditions can have an adverse effect on your health. While maintaining a healthy eating habits, make sure you get enough rest. Relaxation and balanced lifestyle will help you in acclimating faster to the new place.

      7. Share your concerns with fellow international students:

Discussing common concerns with fellow students undergoing a similar transition, will provide you with fresh perspectives and viewpoints to deal issues related to new cultural adjustment.

       8. Beat the homesickness:

Keep in touch with your family members through WhatsApp, Skype and Facetime. Dine in an Indian restaurant and make a random visit to your neighborhood grocery store to get a feel of being at home. Remind yourself that homesickness is a “transient emotion” and you are mentally equipped to overcome it.

Adjusting to a new culture may look like a daunting task to begin with, but with perseverance you will become more confident and better equipped to navigate through unfamiliar situations. By observing, understanding and accepting the new surrounding you will gradually develop a sense of belonging and slowly and steadily meld with the new setting.

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