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Culture Shock When Traveling

What is culture shock and how does it feel?

Maybe this has happened to you before: Full of joy, you are off on your long-awaited vacation. For a long time you were looking forward to experiencing something completely new and getting to know the foreign culture. Finally arrived, the joy is of course great. You are curious, want to experience something and get to know the country and its people. But then you suddenly feel uncomfortable. Fear, overwhelm, a feeling of powerlessness. Immersing yourself in a whole new culture can trigger what is known as culture shock.

But don't worry, this is quite normal. Also, you won't go into total shock all of a sudden. On the contrary, bad feelings are slowly building up. If you didn't expect it, it's probably quite surprising. But let me tell you one thing: it will get better again!

You are only showing a reaction to a new situation and that is absolutely natural. The customs in a foreign country can initially irritate what your psyche reacts to. But we humans are extremely adaptable and can get used to new circumstances fairly quickly, even if it takes some time. And you can take this time!

In this article we want to explain to you what the phenomenon of culture shock is all about. We give you a comprehensive insight from the development through the phases to handling and prevention, so that you are not "attacked" by this psychological reaction and can deal with it confidently. Did you know that culture shock can even happen at home? We will tell you more about this at the end.

Culture Shock When Traveling

Why is there culture shock?

If you have been mostly used to a certain culture throughout your life, then you have internalized certain values, ways of thinking and acting with which you "fit" into the society around you. You feel like you belong, and that feeling is important to your well-being. Your culture is a part of you, you can't just take it off like a piece of clothing.

However, there is not just one culture in the world, but many, some of which are extremely different from each other. When you travel, you suddenly find yourself in the middle of a different world. Many behaviors that work well and are recognized at home suddenly no longer help you in a foreign country. Different rules apply here, different values. You may not be able to understand some things at all. You first have to perceive and process all the new impressions so that you can act confidently again.

Stages of culture shock

There are different stages of culture shock that you are likely to go through after being immersed in a foreign culture for a while. In the first of the five phases, you will feel a sense of euphoria. You have finally arrived at your holiday destination and want to discover everything! You look forward to new experiences full of anticipation. You feel ready for special experiences and just want to plunge straight into the adventure.

Then comes the second phase, when you look at everything soberly or feel somehow alienated. In the unfamiliar environment you encounter some difficulties that dampen the initial euphoria. Orientation is difficult, everything is so new. You will become aware of the differences between your culture and the foreign culture and will affect your mood.

Then the culture shock reached the tip of the iceberg. Stress reactions and a series of negative feelings hit you because you lack orientation in the new culture. This can vary in degree from person to person. You realize that the knowledge from your home country will not get you anywhere and you feel helpless.

But no worry! After every low, there is an upward trend again – this is also the case in the fourth phase of the culture shock. You start by getting to know and adapting to the new culture. The unfamiliar world gradually becomes less alien. You get involved and you learn.

In the last phase, the new culture then becomes “a part of you” in a certain way. You become aware of the advantages and disadvantages of the stranger without being particularly overwhelmed by it. You will slowly become more familiar with your surroundings, you can feel comfortable again and enjoy your stay abroad.

How do I deal with a culture shock?

Culture shock is a completely natural thing. Take the time you need and be patient. Get to know everything at your leisure - the culture, the people, the food, the language and the way of expressing politeness . Instead of just seeing the different and bad in everything, you should approach the foreign culture with respect and curiosity.

It may also help you to write down your experiences. Reflect on past events. Also, try to see the positive and see what opportunities are available to you. You yourself have all sorts of skills that can help to give you a great trip.

Culture shock is something that happens in your head. If you engage in the new, you will experience an unforgettable journey. But don't put yourself under pressure. It's okay to be overwhelmed and stressed. You are not the first person to experience something like this and certainly not the last.

And last but not least, you should just do things that are good for you. For example, make a lot of calls to your family and friends or keep in touch in other ways to feel a little bit like home. Some stress management methods, such as meditation, may also work well for you.

How do I avoid culture shock?

To avoid the unpleasant feeling of culture shock in the first place, you can take a few preventive measures. For example, you could learn the language of your vacation destination. If you can communicate, you will certainly feel more integrated and less helpless.

Also, you should just embrace the new and the unknown. Get out of the comfort zone! It seems cozy and safe at first sight, but at the same time keeps you away from all the adventures you wanted to experience! After all, the new culture is an incredibly exciting experience that you can draw on for a long time. It's best to just orientate yourself on what the locals do.

Be positive on the inside, but keep in mind that there could be lows, too. Then you won't be so surprised if the culture shock cannot be avoided after all.

Culture shock at home?

After a long journey you finally come back home. Somehow not much has changed, but your home still feels so different. This strange feeling comes from being used to the culture you encountered on your trip. You have new values ​​and behaviors in mind. The people in your home country did not necessarily have these experiences. They think and act as before, which may seem strange at first.

But here, too, you will integrate yourself again and your home will quickly feel like home again. The experiences you made stay with you and enrich your life in the long term. You have learned new ways of thinking and behaving. You might keep some things, let go of some things.


Culture shock is not uncommon and not serious. Of course, it's better that it doesn't get that far in the first place.

You can try to prevent or mitigate the culture shock, but even if you can't, that's not a problem. Sometimes a culture shock is part of a trip and helps you grow!

The important thing is: keep calm. Reflect, learn and give yourself the time you need. Accept your feelings and do things that are good for you.

Rudolfus Kikkert
Rudolfus Kikkert Interest In City Tourism

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