Moving anywhere is stressful, and when you are planning to relocate internationally—it’s a whole new story! You are excited about the plethora of experiences that await you and equally enthused about exploring unfamiliar terrains.
As you ponder about your new life, you can’t help but feel overwhelmed. Your daily routine, the people you interact with, how you travel, and what you eat are all bound to change, in some way or the other.
This makes you constantly wonder: Will I fit into the new culture? Am I ready to embrace the new life with open arms?
After all, don’t we tend to gravitate towards things that we are familiar with? So, it is quite natural to feel different, or even out of place, after having traveled thousands of miles away from home and immersing yourself into
a brand-new cultural setting.
Understanding culture shock
Whether you have moved overseas recently or are soon to be an NRI, you may have been familiar with the term “culture shock.” Simply explained, culture shock is the initial feeling of disorientation as you settle in a new territory.
It is the bewilderment, anxiety, and confusion you feel as you recognize and process new ways of life, attitudes, and beliefs.
There are four common stages of culture shock:
• Initially, you are in a state of euphoria—this is akin to a “honeymoon” period where you are excited about all the newness around you. The food options, transport, infrastructure, how people dress,
apartments—everything seems endearing!
• Next, you start feeling slightly confused, anxious, and even irritable. As the novelty wears off, you begin noticing the slightest of differences and tend to feel homesick more often.
• Then, you gradually begin to see things in a different light; you adapt to your new routine and start accepting the differences.
• Finally, there is a breakthrough—you feel comfortable and start enjoying the new lifestyle. By this time, you have overcome the barriers of newness and made a network you can rely upon!
Whether you are relocating for academics, better job opportunities, or to join your family, embracing culture shock is integral to making sure you thrive in your new home country.
Here are some practical tips to make your overseas adventure a joy ride:
1) Go with an open mind
Know that what you will experience are merely differences–not good or bad, just different! So, pack with yourself an attitude of willingness to help you adapt and appreciate the differences.
2) Stop comparing
Constant comparisons with your life back in India won’t help you to settle in. Yes, the lack of domestic help will pinch you, and groceries may seem expensive. You must learn to accept the new ways of life.
3) Never stop learning
It is best if you learn about the new culture before you move, so you know what to expect. Besides, increased awareness will make you more sensitive toward the attitudes, values, and behaviors of different cultures.
4) Expand your network
Go out often and meet new people. Build a support network of like-minded people that you can rely upon.
5) Stay connected with your roots
While you expand your circle in the new country, it is important that you touch base with your friends and family back home. These are the people who understand you best and will always have your back!
6) Explore the new country
Join a club, take up a hobby, explore new places, try out new cuisines—the idea is to keep yourself occupied and have fun while you are at it!
Your friends in the new country may also be equally curious to know more about your culture. Doesn’t this sound like an exciting opportunity to share (and reminisce!) about your life back in India?
Understand that you will take time to acclimatize to your new host country; the process can get emotionally overwhelming! But, with the right support and a positive attitude, you can navigate those emotions and settle in with ease.