Culture shock can plague expatriates, tourists and students traveling abroad. But while feelings of frustration and loneliness may develop when adjusting to a new environment, cross-cultural communication skills are often transferable and provide a valuable tool. It's essential to maximize preparedness before departure by developing a strong knowledge of the host country's culture, language and traditions. It's also wise to formulate a plan in case severe culture shock arises, and to maintain communications and relationships back home.
Maximize exposure to the host culture before departure. Read about everyday life in the destination. Visit appropriate hometown ethnic restaurants and grocery stores to gain exposure to the new culture's food and develop familiarity with the flavors. In addition to gaining as much linguistic proficiency as possible, develop familiarity with popular music and entertainment in the host country. Watch films and stream radio broadcasts or music videos for exposure.
Upon arrival, develop a daily routine as quickly as possible. Establish a sleep schedule, eat healthfully and exercise at regular times. Make a point to establish familiarity by finding favorite local coffee shops and parks to avoid culture shock that can arise due to feelings of complete loss of control over life. Some choices may be limited due to language barriers or having to adjust to being the guest of a host family. But maximize available choices through reading materials and ways to spend free time.
Maintain relationships with family and friends at home through video chat, letters and email. Create a website or share photographs electronically to engage longtime friends in your experience. Building new friendships in the host culture can also be critical to happiness. Be friendly and invite schoolmates, workmates or neighbors to go walking or out for coffee.
Strive to maintain a flexible, positive attitude. Living in a foreign country is an invaluable opportunity full of excitement and challenges. Though it may seem extremely difficult, remember to be a student of the host country's way of life. Laugh at your social or linguistic mistakes. Experience new foods and traditions with an open mind. Flexibility is a critical component of successful adjustment.