How to navigate culture shock

Global relocation can be thrilling – once you get past the initial acclimation period. Culture shock is a real thing and it can take the excitement out of immigration. Not every international assignment comes with a completely foreign culture, but there is almost always at least some degree of acculturation. In some cases it’s but a minor change – like traveling between the U.S. and the U.K. or Australia. In others, there is a massive cultural and social change – like migrating from the U.S. or U.K. to China or the Middle East. But in both cases, culture shock can occur, according to Communicaid.

Learning how to deal with culture shock is something every global traveler should be capable of and organizations that send employees on global reassignment must be able to help. Read on for some of the key measures to take to ensure a smooth corporate relocation.

“Even the most laid-back of cool customers can succumb to culture shock.”

1. Don’t just wing it
Even the most laid-back of cool customers can succumb to culture shock. It might not even happen right away – that’s why ‘shock’ might be a misleading term. For some, it’s apparent as soon as they step out of the airport that they’re in over their heads. For others, it’s a slow build that can take months before they notice it.

No matter which version you are, the best cure is prevention. Culture shock is either caused or exacerbated by a failure of preparation. If you don’t know what you’re getting into, you’ll be blindsided. Simply knowing what to expect might not be enough on its own to avoid culture shock altogether, but it can go a long way if not completely alleviating the symptoms.

2. Have an open mind
If you haven’t traveled extensively, you might be surprised at just how different other cultures can be. This doesn’t just apply to practices, languages and driving on the other side of the road – it’s evident even in the way people think. In one culture, it might be expected that you greet a person with a kiss on the cheek, while in another, that might be completely offensive. So how do you learn what to do and how to do it? By being open, willing to listen and willing to admit you don’t know anything.

The worst thing to have is suspicion and distrust of other cultures. Not only will that mindset prevent you from doing any good business or building meaningful relationships, it will make it nearly impossible to stay there for any prolonged period of time. You’ll grow isolated and unproductive – conditions that can develop into anxiety and even depression.

Will you be ready to embrace a new culture?Will you be ready to embrace a new culture?

3. Learn the language
You don’t need to be a polyglot to learn a few phrases and bits of conversation. The more you can manage, the better, but it isn’t only about communication. In many regions, simply the attempt to speak the native tongue will draw appreciation from the locals.

Australian expat Ellie Ryan lives and works for a TEFL institute in Peru and recommends non-native Spanish speakers give it a try.

“Not only are Peruvians very receptive to you attempting to communicate in their language,” Ryan wrote in Peru This Week, “it is also the key to connecting to and becoming a part of the local community.”

4. Make time for yourself
Sure, you’re there on a global reassignment, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. In fact, if you want to beat culture shock, it is essential that you clear out your schedule for downtime – not only rest but activities, travel and leisure.

On top of these, global relocation companies can assist an organization or individual with transitioning from one country to another and greatly ease the symptoms of culture shock. The best method to do so is by taking all of these steps into account and working with international assignment services. If you do that, you’ll make the most out of any trip abroad.