How to Immerse Yourself in a Culture Without the Shock

So you’ve decided on an adventure abroad. You may be a student who’s just signed off on a 4-month long exchange or an international traveler excited to backpack for 9 in Italy. Right now, you’re probably in a) a state of disbelief or b) indifferent because it hasn’t hit you yet. Whatever the case may be – you’re about to step foot into a completely different world and way of living across the globe. The fun starts now.

Preparation is key. We know how scary and inevitable culture shock is when travelling to a completely foreign country is on your own or with other travelers. Therefore, we made a list of tips and advice on How to Immerse Yourself in a Culture Without the Shock.

1) Do your research

Before writing an essay, you research so you know what you want to write about – the same applies before you embark on the adventure of a lifetime in a foreign country. Preparing yourself for what to expect and what you may encounter will ease you into the culture much smoother rather than arriving with zero knowledge. This research preparation will keep you more at ease and less likely to fear the unknown; which can lead you to fall into complete culture shock.

2) Try and learn some of the language before you arrive

You don’t have to become fluent in Italian – however learning the basics of the spoken language such as how to greet someone politely, ask them how they are, where the bathroom is or how much something is will make things a lot easier for you in the long run. It will also make you a lot more amicable in the eyes of the locals. There’s nothing cooler than a foreigner adapting and trying to communicate in the spoken language instead of immediately asking if anyone speaks English. Besides, learning another language is great and will set you apart from people back home.

3) Be open-minded

There will definitely be certain ways of life and cultural aspects that you haven’t ever seen before, aren’t accustomed to or simply just won’t understand. That’s alright – There are definitely ways of life others don’t understand about us either. However, this doesn’t make the country wrong, terrible or the locals horrible people. Try and put a positive spin on the new things you come across; stay open-minded by absorbing and learning about your surroundings instead of shutting them out because they’re different. You’ll thank us for it; no one wants to slump into the negativity of how different life is overseas.

4) Get to know the locals and your new surroundings

Picking up the local newspaper and attending festivals in the community is a great way to meet new people and fully experience what the country has to offer. With a few words locked down, don’t be shy to befriend locals and immerse yourself in your new surroundings. Making friends with locals is the key to successfully immersing yourself into a new culture and leaving the shock value behind you. While they can teach you about their ways of life, you can talk to them about home and share your personal experiences.

5) Take advantage – be a tourist!

Have fun and embrace the tourist that you are. So you’re on exchange… Take advantage and spend some quality time exploring the country’s famous landmarks, must-see spots and experience your trip to its’ fullest potential. Ask locals, international students and travelers what there is to see, what’s lying off the beaten path and where’s the next absolute can’t miss sightseeing opportunity. Take advantage that a regular walk or jog to the grocery store or your second class is nothing like back home, but yet another adventure in different surroundings.

6) Find a routine featuring something familiar

The vacation feelings will inevitably wear off after a while, therefore it’s important to find a routine that can feature something familiar you used to do back home. Maybe go for a walk, a morning jog or read outside. Having a routine can offer you a sense of safety and less uneasiness from missing home. Establishing a routine allows for your trip abroad to not only be a vacation but in retrospect your new everyday life.

7) Home-care package

Feeling home-sick is unavoidable and completely normal. A majority of the time, culture shock is rooted from the fears of missing out and longing for being back home surrounded by loved ones and familiar settings. Communicating with your friends and family is great, but asking for a package from home with your favorite snacks, products or even a picture of your loved ones that you can decorate your new room with can really go a long way in making you feel a little closer to home, even abroad.

8) Don’t take things too seriously – Remember to smile and laugh it off

There will be situations where you will shine as the out of toner and weird foreigner who just said something completely unheard of. Laugh it off. There’s no need to take everything so seriously, you’ve been the local and now you’re the foreigner. What’s so great about communicating with people from other cultures is the ability to share all of our different ways of living and finding out how we do things differently. It’s then you’ll realize how some things we do are so odd and strange too, making it hard not to giggle.

9) Find another exchange student

Finding another international student or traveler is definitely a high possibility. Befriending someone from home is a great way for you to share your common fears as well as still have a connection and reminder of home.

10) Make everyday an adventure – Step outside of your comfort zone

You can do something crazy big or small – Change your outlook of this new journey as a challenge to be more adventurous. Life starts at the end of your comfort zone, do it for yourself to grow as a person and bring back a story to your friends and family. You’ll definitely inspire someone to see that you can experience life outside the norm and our comfort zones.

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