Understand Culture Shock and Master Traveling
Even the most experienced travelers can feel a little bit out of place when they come across a completely new culture.
Maybe they’ve been to countries that speak the same language as their home country, or have similar cultural elements, but they haven’t been to a country that is so far outside of their reality yet.
In order to defeat culture shock, you first have to understand it’s different phases.
This phase of culture shock is probably the most familiar to most travelers. As soon as travelers arrive in a new country, there immediately taken aback by the differences between it and their home country. They usually see it in a positive light, and are absolutely enraptured by all of the new things to experience. The food, the language, and the people are all so interesting and the country is seen as impossibly attractive. Eventually, this comes to a close.
After a few months, all of the new experiences start to become more mundane. The cultural elements of home are missing, and many travelers start to miss them. Things that used to seem charming or fascinating become irritating and sometimes intolerable.
A benefit of this phase is that the country seems a bit more familiar. For instance, travelers might be able to read the printed banners outside of storefronts. They may even know enough of the language to get by on basic communication, but it is still not enough to have deep conversations and form lasting friendships. This is the most troubling part of the negotiation phase – the communication breakdown.
After half a year or more, the culture becomes almost normal to a traveler. Most new experiences have simply become routine, and communication starts to improve. In addition, most people understand all of the basics of interacting with different people in different situations, simply because they have experienced most of it in the past. The adjustment phase is one of the most pleasant faces, simply because most travelers are coming out of the frustrations of the negotiation phase and feel as if they are “entering into the light.”
If the adjustment phase feels like entering the light, the mastery phase is approaching culture nirvana. Travelers no longer feel like travelers. Instead, they feel like native to the country. While they will never be a true native, because they grew up in a completely different culture, they are able to interact full comfort and converse and communicate in a way that enables them to form lasting friendships. The mastery phase is better known as multiculturalism, because travelers keep aspects of their old culture. The most common examples would be there accent and their ability to speak their mother tongue.
Coming Back Home
The most ironic part about the entire culture shock experience is the fact that a traveler might experience it all over again as soon as they come back to their home country. If they’ve reached the mastery phase, chances are that they are very used to their routine in a foreign country and will experience what is known as “reverse culture shock” as soon as they come home. All of the once-familiar activities that they participated in at home will seem alien to them. They might even experience the four stages of culture shock all over again, except for the fact that it will go a little bit quicker because they are much more used to their home culture that a foreign culture.
Wherever you go, realize that you’re going to experience the four stages of culture shock no matter what happens. It’s impossible to avoid it completely, unless you are ready been to that country. So, embrace the process and understand that no matter how bad or good you feel, you will come out of it in the end a competent and capable traveler. If you travel long enough, you might become a true traveling master, at home in any environment or situation. This is the end goal for many people, but some people do not wish to go this far. Take it as far as you like and enjoy the journey as you go.