People usually describe culture shock as a feeling of disorientation that can happen when you experience life in a new way, in a new place. Very often this happens when you visit a country or city you’ve never been to before, and you discover that life is very different from what you’re used to. Going to a new country to study English can have its own special challenges, as you are changing your environment as well as the language in which you interact on a daily basis. You can also experience culture shock when you go back home, as your time abroad can alter your perception of your home culture, a phenomenon known as reverse culture shock.
At first, everything about the new country may seem amazing. The differences are exciting. Some trips will just consist of this initial phase. However, over time you may begin noticing all the differences in cultures, and that can be upsetting. You may have culture shock if:
• Things that seem normal to everyone else seem strange and uncomfortable to you
• You notice every difference between your home culture and your current environment
• You feel homesick and you wish people would do things the “right way”— meaning, the way you are used to things being done or expressed
• You feel like you don’t know what to do or how to react appropriately to new situations
It is important to remember that as you adapt to your new surroundings, you will feel your perception changing, and things that seemed strange before will begin to seem normal. The best way to deal with culture shock is to talk about it. Find others who have had similar experiences. At BridgeEnglish, Denver you will find many people, from fellow students to staff to teachers, who have experienced culture shock when they travelled internationally. Talking about your experiences will help you understand your own culture better, and navigate your new environments with greater ease.
Another way to feel more comfortable in your new surroundings is to learn about the history and traditions of the new place. This will open your eyes as to why there are differences in the way people think, feel and behave from country to country. Learning about your new surroundings can make you feel more connected. You might even find similarities between your home culture your surrounding culture that will surprise you!
Remember that everyone deals with culture shock differently. Find someone you can talk to while you are travelling and when you get back home. Culture shock is a process and it will eventually lead to you feeling more at home wherever you go.