Moving abroad is a great experience. Some of you may have been dreaming about it for a long time and some of you already accomplished it – and this post is dedicated to all of you. Today, it is about a cultural shock. I mean THE cultural shock, the state of mind you have to go through when you move abroad. It is very important to know that it actually does exist and how to deal with it.
I assume that every one of you have already been on a vacation in a different country, so you can agree with a fact that you have already dealt with a first phase of cultural shock, so called “honeymoon”. When you got “there” (any other country than your homeland), you though “oh how beautiful it is in here”. Everything seemed funnier, prettier, better and just more interesting compared to how it is back home. There was a lot of amazing people you wanted to meet, everyone was smiling at you and you just had the energy to do more than you normally would. In this phase, you are eager to buy something extra every time you go into a shop, because you have to try that weirdly looking package! This is what you enjoy! “Oh god, I am at the best place in the world right now?”
And boom, here it comes…
After a week or two, month or two (everyone is different), everything just starts to upset you. It is winter, you get in the bus and not by bike for the first time and you don’t know that you have to push the “stop” button when you want to get out. Or you have already tried it before and it seemed so cool, but now you just couldn’t get out when you wanted to, because you are not used to it, everyone around talks in that weird language and instead of the name of the stop that you assumed to hear from the speaker, the sound was something like “bahblah”.
You are upset to everyone and everything. Every sign in the city and every person who talks in a language you barely understand. You feel lost (or you might actually be lost) and so alone. None of your family or friends is here and everyone is just so different. You don’t understand them and you don’t understand yourself either.
The phase of “anxiety” is in my opinion the most important from the whole process. Because it is negative (and dangerous) and in particular because of the fact that you might not know that you are actually going through a natural state of mind. If you think you are the only one who feels lost and who can’t handle the situation and should go back home, think about the fact that others might experience the same feelings. When I went through this part of the cultural shock, I went to the school and we had a lecture about a personal development. In this lecture, the professor mentioned something about cultural shock. All of us started listening more and more, because almost none of us knew such a thing exists. And almost everyone of us felt the same – lost in a different country. (And trust me, it did not seem like that according to Facebook pictures). The fact that I am not the only one just gave me confidence, and learning how to work with the cultural shock just kicked me up off the bottom. I was finally able to say “enough” to myself.
If you are aware of what we are going through, you are able to take your feeling in our hands, because you know it is a natural state of mind and there is nothing bad about it. Finally, you are able to do something about it!
And so I got to the phase of “adjustment”. That is the time you already “enjoyed” both of the extremes. You stop to be upset and you feel like you are back at your skin. Now you start to realize all those things and you accept the differences you go through, some of them even start to seem logic and natural as well. You are getting used to all what is happening around you and it is making you feel more confident. You start to enjoy yourself being back on track and you appreciate where you are. You begin to feel little bit like at home and you are turning into a multicultural person, who feels that things and people around you are sometimes kind of more sympathetic than those back home.
If you felt like I am talking about you during reading this article or if you got interested, I would like to give you advices on how to fight the cultural shock in the next post. You can learn how to control it, deal with it in peace and a smile on your face. It would be a shame to give up in the phase of anxiety when the best is still waiting for you out there, don’t you think? Remember, even “falling is always a step further”!
Aneta, Scandinavian study