How to deal with culture shock

Confused tourist

Handling culture shock

Depending on where you travel, you might end up feeling overwhelmed by a sensory overload of new sights and experiences. Rather than retreat from the differences, here are some tips on how to embrace them and use them to help enhance your trip.

Read up on where you’re going

Be prepared for what to expect by reading up on your destination before you leave. The more you know about where you’re going, the less you’ll be surprised by when you get there. Find out about customs, religion, food and history to have a better handle on what type of experiences you might have. The more you know about where you’re going is generally a great way to enrich your travel experience.

Take it slow

You don’t need to love where you are right away. Falling immediately in love with a destination is great, but some places need to grow on you, especially if they’re very different from vacation spots you’re used to. For example, if you’re used to major cities, recognizable food and efficient transportation systems, you might have to work harder to get to know a place that doesn’t necessarily match up. Slow down, accept that you might be challenged by the trip and use the challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow as a traveler.

Talk to people who have been there

Going somewhere you’re a little apprehensive about? Seek out someone who has been there, whether this person is a friend of a friend, co-worker or an old acquaintance you still see pop up on Facebook. He or she can answer your questions, appease your fears and help you to prepare for what to expect.

Befriend a local

Much like talking to someone who has been there before can be helpful, so can getting to know a local, whether this is someone you meet at your hotel or the person working at the restaurant you’ve been having breakfast at. Locals can show you another side of a city and help you understand a new culture better than if you were on your own. Not to mention, locals can also introduce you to hidden gems you might not have discovered, which can further increase your comfort level and enjoyment.

Find one thing every day that you like

If you’re having trouble adjusting, don’t focus on what you don’t like about the place. Each day make it your goal to find one thing you like — a new food you tried, a great picture you were able to snap or a unique attraction you’d be unlikely to see anywhere else. The more you look for the good things, the less you’ll feel compelled to focus on what you aren’t sure about, what you don’t like or what you’d rather not deal with.

Be curious

The best way to move past culture shock is to be curious. After all, travel is about learning new things about other people and other cultures, so embrace that aspect of the journey. If there’s something you don’t understand, ask about it. Talk to locals, read up online and explore rather than sticking to the things you know. The more curious you are, the more fun you’ll have, and you'll get more out of your trip.

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