“Culture Shock” can be described as a feeling which is experienced by a person, when he/she moves from a familiar culture to an unfamiliar one. It’s usually seen in a more negative light, but there are actually a few benefits of culture shock.
Most of the people, who travel abroad for higher studies, work, internships, volunteering, or just to explore, face some kind of culture shock or the other. It comprises of sudden events that come as surprises of a new way of life, in a new environment, with new people!
There’s a feeling of anxiety and discomfort, that occurs due to separation from the family and friends.
And it just doesn’t end there!
A new country will introduce you to new weather conditions, new cuisines, different language, manners, and behaviors – which all might take a toll on you! But you’ll slowly get used to it, and start enjoying the flavors and sights as and when they’ll unfold before you. You need not rush and force yourself to adapt anything – rather, go slow, absorb all that happens around you, and learn how to live happily outside your comfort zone.
When I traveled to Kenya for a volunteer trip, I was working with the locals and there were many times when I would have difficulty understanding them, but eventually, I realized that if we are open to accepting new things, we can easily bond over emotions.
What are the benefits of culture shock?
You must remember that culture shock is entirely normal, usually unavoidable, and doesn’t reflect badly on you. In fact, experiencing the benefits of culture shock will put your life into perspective and make you a much better person.
Experiencing culture shock will make you a stronger person.
Being in an unfamiliar environment might appear to be scary, uncomfortable, and confusing in the initial phase. However, those moments will slowly shape you as a person by helping you discover your capabilities and what you are made of. You’ll eventually develop a thicker skin since you’ll have to deal with a lot of stressful situations and long periods of loneliness and unfamiliarity. The best way to grow is to throw yourself out of your comfort zone, no matter what lies there ahead of you. It is during these times when you’ll truly understand your own potential.
Experiencing culture shock will make you more adjustable and adaptable.
When you travel to a distant land, you will constantly be faced with uncomfortable situations, which will teach you to calm your nerves and stop worrying about every second thing that’s happening around you. You will learn to rely on yourself a lot more than you used to and even laugh at yourself when you do something completely absurd, or better to put it as something ‘out of culture’! You might have difficulty in understanding what the natives are trying to tell you.
In case you are traveling for an internship or volunteering abroad and staying with a host family, you’ll have to mold yourself like them and adapt to their living style. Every country has a certain societal structure and adapting to those newly introduced things will make you feel more confident about yourself.
Experiencing culture shock by coming into contact with a new language will force you to learn the language.
It is often said that language and thought are interconnected – thus, by learning a new language, you’ll learn how to think differently as well. Being involved with the locals of a region and listening to them will definitely help you to learn a language faster, and it’ll be a far better learning method than the otherwise regular courses that you could have opted for in your homeland.
Set a project for yourself – and interact with at least one new person each day, whether that’s a shopkeeper or a bartender. You’ll learn a lot about that country in a way no book could ever tell you! Befriend a child and know what he thinks about this country, and also ask an old man the same question – you’ll probably have a lot of food for thought after those conversations.
You can always use an online app to start learning the language before you arrive to help reduce the culture shock when you arrive.
Experiencing culture shock will essentially make you a more open-minded person.
One of the best things about traveling abroad is that gives you a chance to broaden your social network. Once the culture shock starts to wear off, you’ll feel more at ease with everything and everyone around you. The relationships that you’ll gain from moving abroad can benefit you for the rest of your life – no matter where you go.
Getting to know people with different backgrounds and perspectives can help you develop a more open mind and may lead to better opportunities ahead. If you opt for an exchange program, you’ll meet others like you, who’ve also traveled across the borders. You’ll slowly open up and embrace everyone, knowing that in spite of all the differences, we all share similar dreams and experiences on this earth.
Experiencing culture shock will teach you some valuable lessons about life and give you another chance to start afresh.
In a foreign land, when everything is new and alien to you, where no one knows who you are – you’ll get a once in a lifetime chance to start everything afresh and erase all the previous chapters of your life. There will be difficult times when you’ll crave to see a known face or feel like having mom’s cooked food – but then, you’ll have a new family and friends in this faraway land. You’ll probably discover a creative side of yourself, about which you had no clue before.
A journey to another part of the world and your interactions with the natives will make you more humble as a person. Whether you volunteer for a social cause, do a part-time job at a cafe, or work at an MNC, your entire outlook towards life will be reshaped once you step out of your comfort zone. It’ll be a journey to self-rediscovery.
While it’s tempting to stay within your comfort zone, exposing yourself to new cultures and ways of seeing the world is vital for personal growth. Personal growth is one of the biggest benefits of culture shock, one that will benefit you for the rest of your life.
So, are you ready to travel abroad and experience the world waiting for you on the other side of the flight?