The mere thought of leaving the known and launching oneself into the unknown congers up strong feelings. When one is exposed to a new, strange or foreign social and cultural environment, they experience a state of bewilderment and distress. This is culture shock.
Travel to another culture and you will find yourself out of your comfort zone. It can be tiring, even depressing at times. Can this perplexity and suffering be good for you? Here are some benefits you will gain by embracing a new culture and the shock that comes with it:
Conquering our fears has merit. Dale Carnegie has been quoted as saying, “If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” Moving to a new culture has value to get you up and out into the world. Ralph Waldo Emerson said that you learn the secret of life by conquering your fears.
You will be liberated. As new foods hit your palate or you experience the rumble and freshness of a secluded waterfall; as you walk on hand lain cobblestone streets or listen to the music and celebrate with local people; you will find a part of you that can bust out of the monotony of your home and be free.
Multi-lingual means multi-cultural. You can learn phrases in an “out of context” environment like a classroom, but once you are thrust into a mono-lingual environment you can truly experience the thought processes of the new culture. You will be changed through the thoughts of this culture and language.
Friendships expand our perspective of life. People with close friendships are happy. After the topsy-turvy initial stages of culture adaptation, find a friend in the new culture and you will discover yourself and you will see the world through new eyes.
We are similar. Even though the new culture and language is different we find that all human beings share similar ambitions. Whether you live in a fancy house or high rise apartment or in a mud hut with a thatch roof, we all seek love and enjoyment. We all want to take care of our family. When we experience a new culture, we find that we all share the human experience and respect that should be given to all.
During the initial months in a new culture, it is important to take the time to observe and reflect. Then breath-in the new culture – the sights, sounds, foods and general newness. Allow yourself time and the margin in your day to experience fully the stages of transition. While you wait for your initial expectations to come into alignment with the reality of the new situation, remember that these changes are good for you. Besides, if you think about it, we have all experienced different cycles of adjusting expectations with reality. For example newlyweds experience adjustment and each time we start a new job we experience a mini-change in culture.
When you are part of a new culture, you are better for it.