“The world is a book. Someone who does not travel reads only one side of it.” This is what St. Augustine used to say. Today we travel more often and further, for business, for leisure, alone or in a group, full of enthusiasm, and perhaps afraid of the unknown.
Some people dream of a job that will give them the opportunity to travel frequently. Others are ready to settle down in the other side of the world. There are also those who decide to take a break in their career – to go meditating at an ashram, to take a trip around the world, to go digging wells in Sudan, or to go to Argentina to learn tango. Finally there are those who shudder at the thought of separation from loved ones, to go beyond the so-called “comfort zone” and change.
Nevertheless, numerous studies have shown that employees who travel to other countries are more flexible, think more creatively and comprehensively and cope with difficult situations in a much easier manner. However, just being abroad is not enough. The key to success is to immerse oneself in multiculturalism, and to keep an active participation in the local culture. There is one priceless value in travelling; it increases ones confidence and faith in humanity.
The ticket is bought, you have packed a suitcase, and “ahoy, adventure.” At the beginning we experience euphoria. We are captivated by a new palette of flavors, a range of fragrances and a riot of colors. People seem so friendly to us, always smiling. You perceive all your contacts in the new location as exciting, positive and stimulating. No wonder that this is called the “honeymoon phase.”
But when it ends (some after a few weeks, others after a month or two, but personally I think it’s a very individual thing) the “culture shock” time comes. That shock is defined as a shock that we experience when we are up against something unknown. Contact with a new culture, yet exciting, causes a surprise or shock, especially when our expectations exceed reality.
Six major aspects of culture shock:
- The tension caused by the efforts made in the adaptation.
- The feeling of losing friends, professional status or possessions.
- The feeling of rejection or rejection of the representatives of other cultures.
- Inconsistent social roles, values, and a sense of identity disturbance.
- Anxiety and even anger or even disgust in relation to foreign practices or customs.
- The feeling of helplessness due to inability to cope in the conditions of the new environment.
Sometimes the “culture shock” is accompanied by a sense of isolation, anxiety, worry, low labor productivity, helplessness, decrease of energy, insomnia or hypersomnia, and sometimes even psychosomatic disorders.
Rather than give up and look for a way to escape – realize that the “culture shock” is something absolutely natural. Be aware that it can appear anywhere, regardless of the location of the country to which you go.
There are a number of ways to minimize the negative, often distressing for us, effects of “culture shock”. Here they are:
- Prepare to leave. Learn as much about the history of the country to which you go, especially its customs and culture. Try to find out if the communication is clear and direct, and perhaps, to understand its inhabitants – you need to know not only the words, but certain gestures and behavior. Try to learn from other managers working abroad, which situations and problems can be expected.
- After arriving in a new country – try to take advantage of all opportunities to build a network of contacts with other managers: foreigners and locals. Subscribe to several clubs, where you will meet people with the same hobbies as you, for example, cinema or hiking. Do not be afraid to start some new activities, which previously you did not have the time or opportunity for.
- Do not judge, do not criticize, and do not compare your culture to the culture of the country in which you are. Be aware that your native customs, may also raise a laugh, and maybe even disgust in foreign countries.
- Do not give in to stress, but try to fight it. Do not hesitate to also seek professional help if the symptoms of culture shock persist, despite the efforts that you made to overcome them.
- Think about the positive aspects of culture shock. People who experience it better adapt to the new environment.
- Give yourself time to adapt and do not throw yourself into work at the very beginning of your stay abroad.
And regardless of what situations you encounter, try to keep the serenity and sense of humor.
Therefore, let’s go on a journey, because “twenty years from now you will be more disappointed about what you did not do, than what you did. So throw off, leave the safe haven. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Travel, dream, discover” (Mark Twain).