Culture Shock: How to adjust to a new culture while maintaining your cultural values

Moving to a new culture can be quite the adventure. Whether you relocate for school, work, family, or just for a new experience, getting used to your new home can take time. People may ask if you are experiencing “culture shock”, but “culture shock” is a real thing that all types of expatriates experience. You are not alone!

Culture shock can look differently for different people, even within the same family with similar experiences. Extreme homesickness, avoiding social situations, sleep troubles, inability to concentrate, exhaustion, nervousness, and even becoming upset about seemingly minor irritations are all ways that culture shock can impact an individual. It is important to remember that adjusting to a new culture is a process and every individual will go through that process differently.

Be kind to yourself and other throughout this process. In the meantime, here are a few tips that can be helpful for individuals who are trying to adjust to a new lifestyle and surroundings:

  1. Avoid labeling differences as “good” or bad”. There will be numerous situations where normal behavior does not seem normal to you. Try to remember that culture is all relative to how people perceive them. Things that you may dislike or disapprove of may make more sense as you learn more about and become more adjusted to the culture.
  2. View it as an adventure. If you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation, try to approach it with a perspective of curiosity. You don’t have to sacrifice your personal values to pay attention to others around you. Noting verbal and nonverbal communication can also be helpful in understanding the “big” picture.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask. Instead of wondering if you said something correctly or if you are understanding a situation properly, just ask. Giving yourself permission to make mistakes is also vital. Try to find humor in situations and realize that we all will make mistakes, both yourself and others around you. It is part of the human experience!
  4. Find a cultural friend. Whether that be someone who has lived there longer than you or someone who is in a similar situation, it can be helpful to find someone you can just relax with. This is a person who you don’t have to feel so calculated around and really don’t mind making mistakes in front of. Transitioning to a new culture is hard work and finding someone who has been there can be helpful in the process. Check out local community groups if you don’t know anyone.
  5. Remember who you are. Give yourself permission to change in this whole new world of change. This is the perfect time to try new things or step beyond your comfort zone, but more importantly remember the things that will stay the same. What are your core values as a person? What do you love and what is important to you? Reminding yourself of these things will help you from feeling totally lost in your environment.
  6. Take care of yourself. Be intentional about eating healthy, exercising, and doing things you love to do. Your days are much longer and more exhausting then your peers who have grown up here. Simple interactions can be exhausting. Give yourself some credit for all the work and effort and give yourself a break. Make sure you are taking care of yourself, getting sleep, and rewarding yourself for your efforts to help prevent exhaustion and burn out.

If you are struggling adjusting to a new culture and feel you would benefit from extra support, book in a time to speak to a psychologist call us on (02) 6262 6157 or book an appointment online).

Related reading:

Modern Ways to Raise a Happy Family
Self Compassion: How to be Kind to Yourself
What is stress and how can it affect our body?

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