Ohio University

How to Deal With Culture Shock

How to Deal With Culture Shock

You drive through a  village that collects, sorts and sells Cairo’s garbage. Cairo, Egypt has at least 20 million living in the city and that is where most of the garbage goes. To get there is a journey because you must drive through garbage. My friend took me—usually you can get an uber to take you—but you would have to negotiate a fair price. 

When you arrive in the county you are going to live in, you are in the “honeymoon” stage were everything you see and do is exciting, new and positive. Next, the culture shock comes and hits you. You start to  feel a sense of dislocation and general unease. You start to see that this country has different morals, rules and values than your home country. Then,  you finally start to adjust and accept your new surroundings and culture.  

Here are some coping strategies on how to deal with culture shock: 

  • It’s okay to admit that you are feeling uncomfortable or confused. You will meet other travelers who are also experiencing a culture shock.  
  • Learn the rules of your host country and understand why locals act the way they do. Your study abroad is a learning experience.  
  • Get involved with new culture. Absorb yourself with the new language, food, people, and music. The locals will appreciate that you are interested in learning about them. 
  • Take care of yourself. Sleep if you need to, take a breath, and exercise. Your mind and body are also experiencing a new culture. 
  • Feeling homesick? Do a familiar hobby that reminds you of home. 
  • Make new friends and develop relationships. Getting to know new people makes you culturally aware, understanding your host country, and overcome your culture shock. 
  • Avoid idealizing life back home. Sometimes you wish you could be back home with your friends and family, but they know this is something you wanted and worked hard for. Go live your life, have fun, and keep an open mind! 

During my experience living in Egypt, I had a culture shock after about 3 weeks. The honeymoon was over, classes started, and everyday Egyptian life hit me. It was a shock for me to see a male dominated society that works everywhere, when you are used to seeing women work. Egyptians smoke indoors, which I was not use to I had to accept my new reality and adjust to everyone speaking Arabic not English. I remained respectful, mindful, and kept an open mind. Having patience was also key. Then when I got home, I experienced “reverse culture shock.” I had to re-adjust when I returned to the United States. Nonetheless, treasure the memories and friends you made.