Neither you nor I are impervious to culture shock.
For some people, culture shock may only last a day or two. For others, culture shock can last weeks or even months. Since recently moving to Singapore, I've experienced some major culture shock. Typically, I think that I'm pretty good with change, but moving from the US to Asia has definitely had its ups and downs. The longer I'm here, the easier and easier it gets.
But what is culture shock?
Yeah sure, there are many textbook definitions for culture shock, but it's basically when you feel uneasy about the difference in cultural norms between where you're staying and what you are used to. Initially, when you arrive in a new country, the change is exciting. But as the excitement wears off, you begin to get annoyed or angry at the differences between the new country and your home country. That is culture shock, and it can manifest itself in many different forms. I can't speak to them all, but personally, I tend to get depressed, lose weight, lose my appetite, and generally miss home.
Put simply, culture shock is when you move somewhere new and have adverse feeling towards the new culture.
How to overcome culture shock
There are slew of self-help articles floating around the internet that will tell you how to best overcome culture shock. Some are helpful, others are useless. These tips are what work for me and hopefully they can help you too:
- Try to meet locals
Local people are the ones who will give you tips and tricks to living in your new area. Ask them for food, drink, and activity recommendations. Even just grabbing coffee with a colleague or classmate can help you feel more connected to the city. They probably are curious about you and your culture as well. Locals also live in the same time zone as you. This means that if you need someone to talk to or hang out with, you can just send a quick message to them. Here in Singapore, there is a 12 hour time difference from my home. It's hard to talk to my friends and family back home because of this, so having someone in the same area can help you fulfill your social needs.
- Chat with people back home
Living in a different country can get lonely and sometimes a phone call home can make a huge difference. Using apps like Whatsapp, Skype, or Facetime, you can communicate to loved ones back home. Feeling homesick? Call your mom. You'll both appreciate it.
Even if you have no friends to do things with, go solo. Just walk around town by yourself and learn the lay of the land. Figure out how to get to the store, to class, to work, and other important locations. Check out the area because the more you familiarize yourself with your new home, the more you will feel like you belong. Helping a lost tourist find their destination is one of the most rewarding experiences for someone living abroad because it means you've learned the area!
- Eat your way through your new home
Getting accustomed to your new home's food is essential. They say that food is the way to the heart, and I completely agree. Try to find a local restaurant that you enjoy. If you live in a multicultural city, try cuisine from different neighborhoods. It's also okay to eat alone if you are having trouble making friends. Just enjoy yourself! If you really need to, then find some familiar food. Having a bowl of pasta or a burger can make you feel better.
- Participate in activities you enjoy
What are your hobbies back home? Try to see if you can do them while you are abroad! If you like doing yoga, find a yoga studio in your new country. If you like cooking, try making local cuisine or taking a local cooking class.
- Get Outside
I have a tendency to stay in and watch Netflix when I'm feeling down. Just getting outside and seeing the sun can help improve your mood a ton. Exercise does wonders as well.
At the end of the day, nothing helps more than time. The more time that passes, the more acclimated you will become to the new culture. Culture shock can be rough and you may feel like you want to go home, but wait it out. Even after a year, you may not feel like your new country is a good fit for you, and that's okay. The point is that you tried living abroad and you've gained experiences that you wouldn't have back home. If you never went abroad, then you would have never know the things that were out there. So, just stick it out, call your mom, and things will improve :)