Coping with Culture Shock: A Guide to Psychological Preparation and Adaptation

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Before traveling abroad, it is essential to conduct extensive research. Learning everything about the country you’re planning to visit, from its economic situation to its famous dishes, can be highly beneficial in preparing for international travel. Additionally, there is a psychological preparation phase and an adaptation phase in the process. In this article, I will discuss the psychological challenges caused by culture shock and methods for coping with these challenges.

Culture shock is the feeling of not being able to adapt, missing the rhythm of life, and feeling out of place when you start living in a foreign country. This situation has emotional, cognitive, and behavioral consequences.

Emotional Reactions

Individuals living outside their homeland often experience intense feelings of homesickness and nostalgia. Those who experience it more intensely may even suffer from mild depression symptoms.

Cognitive Reactions

People in this situation may not fully grasp the cultural differences between their home country and the new one. This cultural gap and failure to adapt can influence their thoughts, and thoughts related to returning home may become more prominent. They might question their decision to move to the new country and may associate going back as a sign of failure, which can exacerbate the problem.

Physical Reactions

Increased stress and uncertainty can lead to physical symptoms in well-qualified immigrants. These psychosomatic symptoms may include excessive fatigue, persistent headaches, and stomach-related problems because the body and mind are interconnected.

Behavioral Reactions

Research suggests that well-qualified immigrants in the adaptation process are more likely to become introverted. They may avoid engaging in activities with unfamiliar people and prefer spending time alone. Simultaneously, they may desire social interaction but hesitate to take the first step, creating a dilemma of wanting both solitude and socialization.

These reactions outline the possible psychological consequences of culture shock.

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How Can You Deal With These Challenges?


Scientific research indicates that knowing about and being aware of the symptoms of culture shock in advance is good preparation. Individuals who anticipate experiencing these symptoms can develop better coping skills.

Understanding New Cultural Values

According to research, understanding and deeply analyzing new cultural values accelerates your adaptation to the country you’ve moved to. This knowledge allows you to better interpret the cultural differences between your new home and your home country. Learning about the new culture broadens your perspective and fosters a more flexible mindset.

Keep Busy Actively

Participating in activities in your host country and interacting with local people will help reduce culture shock. Successful adaptation relies on social interaction. You may face some challenges in this regard, but expecting everything to go smoothly is unrealistic. If you’re experiencing depressive symptoms and they hinder your ability to take action, the solution is to act despite your feelings. Even if you don’t feel like engaging in social interactions, doing so can help alleviate these depressive feelings. If you’re feeling excessively depressed, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

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Focus on the Positive Aspects of the Culture

Just as we need to view an object from all angles to see it fully, we must examine both the differences and positive aspects of the culture we are immersed in. Writing these down on paper allows for a more concrete and objective assessment. Unfortunately, negative aspects can cloud our judgment and deter us from taking action. When emotions are overwhelming, our perception becomes blurry, and we may see the truth in a foggy light. Therefore, continually thinking about the positive aspects and, most importantly, acting on them will motivate us to take action. Action is what we need, and the rest will follow naturally.

Keep a Journal

Whether written, recorded as audio, or in the form of videos, keeping a journal can be very helpful. Let your emotions not stay confined within you, as their negative energy can consume you. Allow these feelings to surface and be expressed. If you have a close friend, you can talk to them about your emotions. As you express your emotions, their intensity will decrease, and their negative impact on your life will diminish. It’s worth a try. Furthermore, you can also express your emotions through artistic works, such as painting, composing music, or playing musical instruments. These activities can help you express your emotions and reduce the intensity of your overwhelming feelings.

The Expathy team is with you at every step of your adaptation process, available anytime and offering flexible time slots. Through our mobile app, you can have confidential online sessions with experts in various fields. You can start with a free session right away.

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