You did it. You closed the gap, and are making a home in a new country! Everything seems to be going well, but after a sweet honeymoon phase, you begin to feel irritable, sick and tired. You begin to feel lonely, and may even begin to resent locals and wish to stay away from them. You become frustrated and even depressed and anxious; perhaps moving wasn’t a great idea at all.
If you are feeling this way, chances are, you are dealing with culture shock. Culture shock is a completely normal stage of adapting to life in another country. When the newness of a new place and life begins to wears off, you become stressed and even develop physical symptoms such as headaches and insomnia.
The stress of the new changes in your life, as well as missing the thing you left behind can be the cause of all this physical anxiety. Culture shock takes what should be a new and exciting experience and turns it upside down. Thankfully, it is a temporary problem that you can cope with by following the foolproof tips below.
1. Be kind to yourself.
You are not a failure or a bad person for feeling this way. These things take time; be patient and you will adapt. Do not push yourself too hard and allow yourself alone time or indulgences that comfort you; if that means once a week watching comedies and eating ice cream, why not?
2. Do not isolate yourself.
Your partner can be a great source of help here. It may also be helpful to reach out to immigrant services and groups in your area, who can help you integrate more easily and help you through this.
3. Connect with the locals.
Take a class, find a hobby group, or volunteer. Without finding a connection with locals, it can become easy to resent them and project your frustrations upon them. Your partner may already be such a connection, and can also help you make connections. If you are in a military family, other military couples who have been stationed in your new country for some time can also help you, show you around and introduce you to new friends.
4. Enjoy being a tourist.
You may be here to stay, but it is still worthwhile to do all the normal tourist things; check out museums, restaurants, local attractions and even tours. Tourist attractions are a great way to help you understand your new home, its history and its customs in a way that is friendly to newcomers.
5. Do not idealize your home country.
It is great to be proud of where you came from, but it is not constructive to build your country up to the detriment of your new country. All cultures are different and all have their problems. Instead of focusing on what you don’t like about your new home, focus on what you do enjoy. Find things you enjoy that you would not be able to experience at home. It is fine to dislike aspects of a culture, but focusing on them will not help you get past this stage.
6. Have faith that this is just a stage.
Culture shock is a phase that we go through before we integrate and enjoy our new homes. Remember, this too shall pass. Every day, you will become more adjusted, more fluent, and more comfortable, bit by bit.