Having lived in 4 different countries and planning to move to another one, I don’t seem to suffer too much from culture shock. However, there are still things that put me out of my comfort zone. Rule number one is to arrive in a new destination with an open mind and ready to integrate. Remember to inform yourself prior to arrival about cultural differences, especially if you are moving from one continent to another. If you expect to find the same habits and opinions as at home, you may be disappointed and confused. Plus, if that’s the case, you may has well have just stayed at home right?
If we look at culture shock from the theoretical point of view; it can be described by four distinct phases: honeymoon, negotiation, adjustment and adaptation. It can be caused by homesickness, language barrier, technology gap or information overload. After the honeymoon period where everything seems new and interesting comes the negotiation stage. This is less pleasant, generally coming after around 3 months and everyone should be prepared for it. When I lived in France and Spain where it was impossible to go food or clothes shopping on Sundays I found it quite annoying, as did the never-ending traffic jams in London and the biting winter weather in Russia. Having said that, I was well aware of all these issues before my arrival so I kind of accepted and embraced it!
Real culture shock, which is the hardest to surmount, is the mentality of your new city. It takes time to find friends and a big part of one’s integration depends on it. I probably spent my best moments in France and Russia where I was a university student so stayed there for longer periods of time. In Spain and in London where I only worked for 3 months it was considerably harder to create true quality friendships.
There have certainly been moments when I have felt lonely or frustrated. There were moments when I was asking myself what am I doing here or why I am the only one who seems depressed? Looking back, I should have known that it happens to everyone. You’ll miss your mum’s full time cooking, washing, cleaning service and warm hugs when things go wrong, but those moments you should remind you why you’re there. Would you rather be sitting somewhere back home doing nothing or living a perfectly planned life? Or would you prefer to live in a foreign country full of new adventures waiting around every corner? If your answer is the latter, you know you are doing a right thing fighting against homesickness and gathering momentum and excitement for the next adventure.
What culture shock will teach you in the end is that there is no such thing as a better or worse culture, they are all just different. One good example of this is the convenience of Russian 24 hour shops compared to free Sundays in France. It makes you think about workers’ rights and placing importance on having one day per week to actually relax, as opposed to selling kebabs at 4 o’clock in the morning to drunk party makers including yourself.
Another amazing thing is that these days is quite easy to stay in touch with your family and you friends back at home. The food choice is also becoming much wider, so you can at least find replacement equivalents of your favourite snacks. Lots of things seem much bigger issues when abroad, but it is just about perception. The result of your whole stay in a new country is based on your own will. It can be better than expected or worse than expected, you are the one making your life decisions. Think positive, make new friends, walk through all the hidden spots of the city, try some amazing dishes and come back home full of countless memories which you’ll one day tell your grandchildren about. In case you’ve decided to stay, believe that you can build homes everywhere, because home is not just a place to live, but what you’re surrounded by.
Want to get the chance to learn about a new culture and live in the heart of a thriving European city? Study Abroad Apartments offers some great options for students planning to live abroad. Just get in touch with us if you need any help finding somewhere to stay and we’ll make sure you have one of the best options out there!