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Culture Shock: The long and winding road - Part 3

Additionally, friends and family back home do not fully understand the broad range of emotions and that added to the whole roller-coaster. This became a type of battle for me inside on my rough days. None of them seriously understood what it felt like to survive in a new culture.

Living in Europe, as it was often referred, would be cool, they thought. Some wondered why I wasn't just relaxing and enjoying it, sitting every day out on some terrace sipping a cup of coffee while watching the locals ride their bicycles past me. Then there were others who thought I was down-right crazy for leaving New York.

And as for the homesickness that I felt, they could only compare with vacations or a few months living abroad for work-related assignments, but they always knew they were coming back to their home country afterwards. So they could not relate with me. And I had to accept that they wouldn't fully understand until them one day might find themselves in the same situation, which is a long shot.

There is a bright side to culture shock; it is temporary for the most part. I mean you will learn to accept the differences and maybe even find humour in those differences. Humour is a very important thing to keep and to acquire. To be able to find humour in a situation is one of the best coping devices.

No one is immune to culture shock, even if you’re open-minded or full of good-will. Okay, those qualities help with a speedy recovery, but you will experience discomfort from culture shock. So, look at it as an opportunity for learning and acquiring new perspectives. Culture shock can help develop a greater understanding of self, but rest assured, it’s a long and winding road with a path of life that you cannot predict what will come round the corner.

Key strategies to manage culture shock

 Learn Dutch; it will make your life and the integration process much easier.
 Don’t put it off, start immediately.
 Participate in social activities, join a local gym.
 Ask your doctor for help if you start to feel lost or homesick. These are valid symptoms and must be taken seriously.
 Try not wallow in your own culture, and claim it as better, it is just different.
 When you communicate with others, ask if you’re not sure what is being said to you. Don’t base reactions on your own cultural background. Understand and be understood!
 Reach out to career coaching and determine how and what you did for business in your home country can be adapted to your new home.

Tips on culture shock

Here are some tips to prevent and have the upper-hand on culture shock:

 Preparation

Be well prepared and learn as much about the country. Focus on everyday life aspects such as customs, language, the political situation, currency and climate, real estate possibilities, tax matters, international schools, food and last but not least cultural activities.

 Knowledge is power!

Be prepared for your move abroad. Be one step ahead of culture shock! You are about to boldly go where many have gone before, so being aware of the phases of culture shock. This knowledge will serve as a forecast of the rough weather ahead. You will still have to weather out the storm but you be equipped with the tools.

 Goals

Create goals (no matter how small) and aims to look forward to and eventually achieve successfully. Be positive, objective and look ahead and choose the perspective that works for you.

Final note

It's important to remain yourself - just a new version of yourself. Try not to force yourself to change too fast or to change too many things at the same time. You will have your own pace of adjusting. Everyone goes through changes in their life, and it may seem that you are going through more changes than the average person - but as long as you hold on to what's important to you and find a good combination between old and new, you'll be fine.
 

Previous in the series
 Culture Shock: The long & winding road - Part 1
 Culture Shock: The long & winding road - Part 2

Maria

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Maria Habets

Maria is a Communications Consultant//Life Coach. She has a Master's degree in Psychology and International Business from New York University and Columbia University in New York. After relocating from the...

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