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  • A traveler’s guide to dealing with culture shock

    photo by fdecomite

    Unless you staying at an isolated resort and you do your best to avoid going outside the resort’s premises, you can’t avoid experiencing a different culture when traveling, and why would you? Culture shock can be exhausting and downright scary, but it happens to every traveler who visits a country that is fundamentally different from their own for the first time.

    And after you get over the initial phase, you being discovering the nuts and bolts of the place you are visiting, and you start enjoying the bits of culture that you see and learn. A different culture will always have parts that you’ll find interesting, amusing and sometimes strange or disturbing, but these are all things that will make your trip worthwhile. Here is a traveler’s guide to dealing with culture shock, in case you’re trying to minimize the impact.

    Do your research

    As simple as it sounds, there is nothing more helpful than knowing what you’re up against when you are planning on traveling somewhere. Read guidebooks, and check out some local blogs in your language to get a feel of the general atmosphere of your destination. If you can talk to a local or someone who has traveled to your destination of choice before, you can drill them on essential information like cultural faux pas, or customs that you should be aware of.

    Make friends

    photo by Bruno Girin

    You might feel the need to seek comfort in familiar things, friends or family when you’re in a really unfamiliar situation, but on the long term,the best way to get used to a new place is to make friends. If you are traveling long term, you might want to find some traveling companions, and if yo are staying in one place for longer, either seek out expat communities who can sympathize and give you tips on how to cope.

    But finding friends among the locals is by far the best strategy to deal with culture shock, because you will always have someone who can patiently explain things to you and help with practical tips.

    Try new things

    You might feel like eating some strange food or stepping out of your comfort zone is the last thing you want to do when you’re in a new place, but having different cultural experiences will soon develop your taste for adventure. Eat food from street stalls, try even the dishes that you’d never taste if you were at home. Even simple things like asking for directions can seem scary at first, but not so much after you tried them once.

    Learn some useful phrases

    photo by Wonderlane on Flickr

    You can’t learn a whole new language for the sole purpose of being able to communicate with everyone while abroad (unless you are a linguistic genius), but you can learn a few useful words and phrases, such as greetings or very simple sentences. It will make it easier to adjust, as well as to buy food or hail a taxi.

    English might be pretty much a lingua franca in many countries, and German, Spanish and Chinese are also spoken in many parts of the world, but it never hurts to learn a little bit of the local language too – plus, it will be much appreciated!

     

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