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Dealing with culture shock while studying abroad

Who has never dreamed of packing their bags and affording a one-way ticket to a new life somewhere in the world? Expatriation is a dream that comes true for many, but which often turns out to be far from the hoped-for fairy tale.

It is easy these days to open your computer and come across thousands of stories ofexpats who share their daily lives. Nevertheless, as for the majority of subjects, we tend to share only the most beautiful facets of our lives and we thus give the impression of living a perpetual honeymoon.

Changing countries is obviously an enriching experience no matter what, but there is a facet that is easy to underestimate: the Culture shock.

What is culture shock?

the Culture shock is the feeling of disorientation that can be felt when someone is faced with a culture or one way of life different from his. Even if you were lucky enough to grow up in a multicultural environment as some countries or some cities can be, we are all influenced by our environment. Our traditions and our life habits are conditioned by our education and our societyparticularly in terms of values and of social behaviors. Thus, even being an open-minded person, with a thirst for discovery, it is very likely to undergo this famous Culture shock.

Without realizing it, we are shaped by where we were raised, until our Way of thinking and our valuesthat is why a expatriation can be just as harsh on the mind. The media shower us with information but the points of view chosen are often subjective and subject to interpretation, for example the series Emily in Paris had aroused astonishment among many French people who did not recognize the Paris they knew, whereas for American viewers, it represents reality.

Indeed, despite all the means of information and communication and although we believe we are correctly informed about the country culture who welcomes us, live the cultural differences personally and no longer behind our screens is very different. It is impossible to be perfectly prepared for what awaits us by changing countries, especially if theexpatriation takes place on another continent.

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Choose the International mobility, it means accepting to set aside everything we have been able to learn so far about a place and to be confronted with behaviors and thoughts that are radically different from ours. This is when the Culture shock.

Each person choosing to attempt theexpatriation adventureduring their schooling or in the context of their work, will be confronted with the culture shockI. Although for some the feeling will naturally regulate itself without leaving serious consequences, others may feel more affected. After the adrenaline of arriving in a new environmentit seems natural to experience a fallout of excitement which, in comparison with the effervescence of the honeymoon, seems all the more gloomy.

the Culture shock can be expressed in various ways: disorientation past the phase of excitement and fascination, irritability and a lack of patience on a daily basis in the face of cultural differences. For those most affected, it is possible to experience a real phase of depressiona change in appetite (both up and down) or even a lethargy often accompanied by a strong rise in stress.

If it is natural to feel these symptoms and feelingsit is obvious that we must not let the discomfort settle down for your own good and to fully experience your adventure. So what to do?

How to overcome culture shock during your expatriation?

the Culture shock often comes to break the bubble of unrealistic projections that we have, for many of us, before us expatriate. Indeed, if we did not project positive expectations onto our expatriation, we might not leave. However, there is no question of turning around and returning at the first signs of Culture shockso what are our tips to avoid or alleviate these symptoms?

1) Learn seriously about your host country.

Take the time to do your research on the country culture who will welcome you, its values ​​and its “faults”. There are no perfect countries and leaving knowingly will in no way spoil your experience but may save you too much disenchantment.

2) Learn the language, or at least start doing it.

You can never be perfectly integrated or understand the subtleties of a culture without learning their language. Speak the language of your place of life will also open up more dating opportunities for you and help locals think well of you. In countries that know little international mobilitythis can be beneficial.

3) Communicate about your doubts and low spirits.

Keep to yourself discomfort will in no way help to make it disappear. Rely on your relatives who remained in your country of origin, share with your classmates and in particular the others foreign students who may feel the same or other expats. Feeling understood and supported can be beneficial, but don’t fall into too much negativity and try not to focus too much on what’s bothering you about the country.

4) Be active.

Don’t stay locked up moping if you can do it. Sign up for activities, go on adventures, make new friends, why not get active? The expatriate groups on social networks will be of great help to you and will allow you to find companions for your explorations in your host country !

5) Recreate habits.

To feel at home and in control, rituals are important and comforting. To live abroad is challenging and adventurous but also stressful. Resuming lifestyle habits that remind you of the stability you had in your native country can help you reduce your anxiety.

To be a victim of Culture shockis not an end, it is simply a fairly natural stage in the life of a expatriate . In most cases, the negative feelings will subside as you become more comfortable with your daily life until, after spending enough time abroad, you might experience a reverse culture shockon your way home!

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