Prescriptions for Culture Shock

Traveling somewhere completely different from what you are used to can be a jolt to the mind and emotions. Even if you are traveling somewhere where the people speak the same language as you, their way of life can be drastically different from anything you have ever known. Although culture shock is disorienting, it is important that you respond to it the right way. Americans in particular have gained a reputation around the world for being loud, arrogant, and demanding. Negative traits like being impatient and hurried can emerge when you feel uncomfortable or panicked. If you enter a new culture with preconceived ideas or certain expectations, you might try to impose your own culture on it in the hopes you will feel safe and comfortable again. This will only isolate you more and make you appear disrespectful.

Instead, Wonder Voyage challenges teams to learn as much as they can ahead of time about the location to which they are traveling. A little bit of research can save you a lot of confusion. Here are some tips to help you cope with culture shock:

  1. Anticipate the Environment. Mentally prepare yourself for some of the emotional, social, physical, and environmental challenges you may encounter at your destination. Rejoice in the exploration of a new culture rather than critiquing it.
  2. Carefully Choose Your Words. Watch your words around others. Some of your normal phrases may greatly offend the people where you are traveling. Kind, quiet words always work best.
  3. Create Great First Impressions. You only get one chance with a first impression. A great first impression often leaves much room for grace afterwards.
  4. Abandon Superior Attitudes. Behaving in a manner that suggests you are superior to the host culture will make you appear arrogant. Look at it this way: No one is superior, we are all just different from one another.
  5. Recognize Accents. In a foreign country, you have the accent!
  6. Mirror the Culture. When visiting a foreign location, you can learn a lot by observing people. You know the saying, “In Rome do as the Romans do?” It’s true! By behaving like the locals you will not only learn from them but you will also blend in with them. Feeling like a local is far better than feeling like you stand out like a sore thumb.

Following these steps, as well as doing a little research about the culture beforehand, will help you smoothly transition into the new culture. It might even allow for great experiences that you weren’t expecting. You’ll always experience some level of discomfort when visiting somewhere new but it is nothing to fear. It is a chance to see life from someone else’s perspective and to open yourself up to new ideas. At Wonder Voyage we hope to give you an opportunity to see and experience the world in a whole new way. All it takes is an open mind and heart.

Coeli Lawhead is the daughter of Shawn Small, founder of Wonder Voyage. Traveling as a child is gave her an insatiable desire to continuing exploring the world. She loves to read and write and currently works as a freelance editor in Dallas, TX.

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