Culture Shock

Culture Shock

How to Prepare for "Culture Shock" Abroad

When studying abroad, adjusting to a new land and culture can be as difficult an experience as it is rewarding. Arming yourself with the knowledge necessary to properly adapt to your new home can make all the difference. Every country has its own set of rules, customs, ways of getting around, styles of food, and communication; it would serve a prospective student well to be aware of the small idiosyncrasies of the country that they’ll be visiting. At Karan Gupta Consulting, we conduct a pre-departure workshop that will prepare you for your new life abroad.

One of the first things that you’ll have to adjust to is transportation. Each and every city has its own forms of transit and depending on which country and city you choose, adjusting to the new methods of getting around can be a difficult learning experience. Ideally you’ll be in a city with a good public transit system, such as the subways of New York or the tube in London. However, not all cities will have such a convenient mass transit system. If you end up in Los Angeles, for example, using mass transit to get around can be a bit trickier, and you may be more dependent on taxis and ride sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft. Regardless of where you end up, having a solid understanding of the local bus or metro system is something that you should try to do early on during your time abroad, you’ll definitely appreciate it later.

The local food in a new location can be one of the most difficult things that a study abroad student will have to adapt to. Each country can has a vastly different idea of what is considered to be a proper meal or delicacy, and these new flavours can sometimes be tough to get used to. This adjustment is highly dependent on your location, as many major metropolitan cities will feature foods from all around the world, although you will often have to pay quite a bit more for a familiar dish in a faraway land. For this reason it’s a good idea to cook your own meals as often as possible. If you’re not a great cook, try and get some practice before you leave. Cooking your own meals will not only save you money, but it will allow you to cook things that you’re more familiar with and that you may be more likely to enjoy. It’s also a great way to introduce the new friends that you make to the flavours of your home, which will always be appreciated.

Familiarizing yourself with the local customs of a prospective study abroad location is also a great way to help you become adjusted more quickly. What’s normal behaviour in one country or city may be rude or unheard of in another. Being aware of these things will not only help you adjust, but it will also help to avoid potentially embarrassing situations such as causing someone to be offended. For example, in the United States it’s is customary to leave a 15 to 20 percent tip after a meal in a restaurant. Not leaving a tip is considered to be incredibly rude, and will definitely upset the serving staff, so it is important to be conscious of this custom.

Communicating in a new country can be another very difficult adjustment. Even if you speak the native language of a place, it still may be challenging to understand people at times. Each country has its own accent, slang, and way of talking that can make it nearly impossible to understand people early on. If you don’t speak the native tongue, then it pays to become familiar with essential questions and phrases that will help to navigate your new home. Non-verbal communication, such as body language and hand gestures, is often universal, and an easy way to communicate without using words. Just remember that some gestures can be considered very rude in certain cultures, so, going back to the last paragraph, it’s a good idea to be aware of what is and what isn’t an acceptable gesture in a specific culture. Also, remember that your time abroad is an invaluable opportunity to sharpen your skills in a specific language. Immersing yourself in a place that forces you to speak a language regularly is an amazing learning opportunity, so take advantage of it. With a bit of work, you can be fluent in your new tongue by the time you return home!

Following these simple tips is an excellent start to lessening the culture shock that you may experience while living abroad. Since every country or city is vastly different, things that you may experience may vary greatly, so pay attention to your surroundings, and absorb as much culture as you can. While getting used to a new place can be trying at times, it can also be one of the most rewarding and educational experiences of your life, so try not to get overwhelmed and, most importantly, enjoy the ride!



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