Deciding to live in a country as vastly different as China, whether it’s for 2 weeks, 3 months or a year is a big step for anyone and should not be underestimated. No matter how long you intend to stay, you will undoubtedly experience “culture shock” as you step into a new environment and are surrounded by unfamiliar faces, different norms and values and alternative ways of doing things.
Culture shock, typically split into four different stages, is extremely personal and is something that people may experience at different times and varying intensities. Though it is unavoidable, it is possible to take steps to reduce its impact and to cope with it better. Below is a list of techniques our teachers recommend using to deal with culture shock:
- Do research! Though this will not prevent you from experiencing culture shock, having an idea of what cultural traits and characteristics to expect will certainly reduce the impact and help you head to your new city feeling prepared.
- Maintaining regular contact with people at home can help maintain a sense of familiarity and help put things into perspective.
- Take personal items, hobbies or even your favourite box of chocolates with you to help maintain a sense of familiarity.
- Make Chinese friends. Nothing will help you adapt to your surroundings more than making local friends who can help you to understand and appreciate aspects of their culture.
- Make foreign friends. These are the people who will best understand how you are feeling and making friends with them can help you feel less alone.
- Keep busy! By filling your schedule with both familiar and new activities you will experience more of the culture, maximise your time and forget those feelings of frustration or homesickness.
It’s important to remember that adapting to unfamiliar surroundings is no easy feat and though it can be tough at times, by no means does it signal that you are not cut out for living abroad. Culture shock is part and parcel of the experience and is something that will help you develop new skills, see things from a new perspective and gain a deeper understanding of Chinese culture.
By using the advice above and embracing the experience, you will soon realise you are familiar with your surroundings and the thought of returning home will be an odd one!