What is Culture Shock and How to Cope With It

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Understanding and Dealing with Culture Shock

No matter how many times you have been away before, how experienced you feel you are or how prepared you are… it is almost guaranteed that culture shock will still affect you in some way on an adventure trip to a completely new destination!

It is impossible to predict what will happen whilst you are away, you could go to the same place every year and each time still have a completely different experience. It is one of the best aspects of travelling but also one that may leave you feeling a little bit lost!

By definition culture shock is ‘the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.’

However, it doesn’t have to be as dramatic as this and sometimes you may not even be aware that what you are feeling is most probably culture shock! It is a common phenomenon that could range from anything such as missing the comfort of your own bed, to craving one of your mother’s roast dinners or feeling completely out of place walking down the street of a new city and not being able to understand or speak their language… it all counts!

There are typically 4 stages of culture shock, these are:

1) The Honeymoon Stage – This is when you first arrive in the country and as the title suggests, it is comparable to a honeymoon! Everything is a completely new experience; it is both exciting and fascinating! If you are only on a short trip then you are likely to stay in this stage for the duration of the trip.

2) The Frustration Stage – This is the most difficult stage of culture shock. You are likely to feel lost and get frustrated by simple things such as trying to order the food you would like from a restaurant. You will find yourself missing the familiarity and simplicity of being at home and will often be homesick and potentially slightly depressed! This will be worse in countries in complete contrast to home, particularly where English is limited.

3) The Adjustment Stage – As the time passes, the frustration eases. You will understand the culture, people, food and languages much better than when you first arrived. As the title suggests, you will start to adjust to the environment and your surroundings.

4) The Acceptance Stage – This stage doesn’t mean that all of the cultural norms and the environment will be completely understood, it means you will have accepted it and will just embrace the new experiences. It is about realising that you don’t need to know everything to have the time of your life! You are now back to the enthusiastic honeymoon stage!


We have come up with some tips to help you deal with culture shock and prevent it as much as possible:

Find out what language they speak and make an effort to learn it

This seems obvious but it can be easily forgotten if you’re busy on the lead up to going! It will improve your communication and give the locals the impression that you are interested in their country and want to learn about their culture and lives. On top of all that, it’s just fun to learn another language and a good skill to gain!

Read up on local customs and research the local culture

It never hurts to do a bit of research and get as prepared as possible! We know you cannot be completely prepared to know what to expect when you are going somewhere you have never been before, but reading up about where you are going can pay dividends! We recommend websites such as Trip Advisor and books such as the Lonely Planet guides.

Educate yourself on where to go and where to avoid

Whilst doing your research, it is worth checking out where the safest places to go are! This doesn’t mean to say you need to follow all of the tourists and just go where they are going, it just means being a little bit careful to make sure you don’t end up anywhere you’d rather not be!

Keep an open mind

It is important to remember that not everyone will have the same background, experiences, beliefs, privileges and cultural norms that you have. Therefore keeping an open mind is the best way to remain positive and make the most out of every situation. It will also help you to be understanding towards other cultures, just because something is done differently than at home doesn’t mean it is the wrong way to do something.

Explore the area when you first get there

When you first arrive, it would be really valuable to take a look around and explore what your given location has to offer! This will make it feel more familiar and help you to get your bearings. Also don’t be afraid of getting lost, it would be too simple if you didn’t! This is all part of the experience and most locals are more than happy to assist!

Keep your sense of humour!  

You’re not always meant to fit in, so don’t be too hard on yourself when you don’t know what to do in a certain situation or feel out of your comfort zone. This is all part of the experience! So what if you feel embarrassed from time to time – it will make a good story to share when you are home!

Do something that is familiar

When you arrive, the best way to settle in is to do something that you would typically do at home. This could be something as simple as going out for some dinner or going on an evening walk. It will help you settle in and make you realise the world is more similar than it may come across.

Meet people

The people you meet whilst you are on your travels could turn out to be some of the best friends you ever have! You just never know who you are going to meet! Meeting people will open doors to new experiences and make the whole experience more authentic.

Keep a diary

This will help you to realise how far you’ve come. Being patient is all part of dealing with culture shock and if you’re feeling like your back at square one, refreshing yourself on just how well you’ve adapted may be all you need.  Another great reason to keep a diary is it will help you remember in years to come what you were feeling and experiences you could forget.

Talk to other people who have also travelled

You know the old saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’; well this couldn’t be more relevant when you’re far from home! You may feel like you’re the only one who is missing home and that no one else has ever experienced it, but once you start to talk to people you will realise it is a completely normal thing to experience! This can be both reassuring and comforting.

P.S – Don’t let the thought of culture shock put you off your travels; it is all part of the experience of a lifetime! In fact, the more you travel, the more used to it you’ll get. So why not contact us today on 0176 930 9007 to find out more about our upcoming trips?!

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