Dealing With Culture Shock When Moving Abroad

When faced with moving to a new environment, just about everyone experiences some degree of culture shock. The key is to develop strategies to deal with it before you face it, especially if you are going moving overseas for an extended period of time. Culture shock does not have to be a bad thing, and recognizing that can help you cope with it.

"Culture shock is a necessary part of adaptation, says Patricia Linderman, co-author of “The Expert Expat: Your Guide to Successful Relocation Abroad.” According to Linderman, if you do not feel culture shock at some point, you are not adapting to a new situation.

Culture shock comes in many forms. You may have moved to a place where everybody speaks a different language. Maybe you're of a different ethnicity, or you just don't understand the local sense of humor.

How to deal with culture shock varies from person to person. You might feel better talking to another person who has had a similar experience. Find expats from your country and share common culture shock stories. Consider joining a local group whose members share your interests or whose members are expats as well. This sense of community and knowing that others have survived culture shock can make it easier to deal with it.

Alternatively, you might try to spend some time alone. Stay home and read a book or exercise by yourself.

You also explore your new city or country on your own. Look for familiar places. Look for places like restaurants that serve familiar food, or movie theaters that feature films from home.

At the root of all culture shock is unfamiliarity. Once you begin to learn about a new culture and its people, the shock begins to fade.  "Take things slowly, gradually venturing out to meet people and explore," says Linderman. "If you work on ways to ease the severity and shorten the length of the culture shock, you will start to be more comfortable."