So, you’re studying abroad!
Next to the fact that you’ll be studying in a foreign country, nothing’s more exciting than getting the ~feels~ of a different culture. The new faces you’ll meet, the new places you’ll see and the list goes on. Excited already? Yup, we heard you! While the anticipation to make the big leap is undeniable, here’s a friendly reminder: not everything will go as you imagined it to be.
When expectations meet reality, culture shock happens. And the student traveler you are almost instantly feels a pang of homesickness right in your stomach. And it’s okay! It’s totally normal. Different people experience different #shookt moments the second they arrive in their host country. It’s like stepping on unchartered territories so as early as now, you better watch out for possible lines you might cross or mines you might step on, literally and figuratively.
Ever wonder what culture shocks you might encounter when you study abroad? We’ve wrapped up five possible scenarios that can happen to you:
Culture Shock Scenario #1: When you get lost in translation
Traveling to another country means you have to pack your bags with a hand carry of local words and phrases, especially when it’s a non-English speaking country AND you plan to study there (read: stay for a longer time).
When online translation apps don’t help (at all), language culture shock can turn your trip into a disaster real quick that even no-brainer tasks like ordering food or riding a bus can feel like a complicated math problem. Do your homework and research basic words and phrases. Plus everyday lingos local use to get through the day! Idk, maybe write it in a handy notebook? Lest you forget, you got plan B ready!
Culture Shock Scenario #2: When you don’t eat what they eat
It’s been said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, somehow it’s also the way to a country’s culture. Since different country means a totally different kitchen, expect. food. to. be. different.
But since different isn’t always a good kind of different, prepare yourself to try cuisines beyond what you’re used to growing up (hint: if it moves, it’s food!). If you’re a foodie, then good news for you. But if not, don’t ya worry! At worst, your idea of delicious will be #shookt and put to the test.
Culture Shock Scenario #3: When you do things differently
For the first few days of your stay, there will be A LOT of people-watching. Specifically, observing people’s actions and reading faces. How do they greet people? Is it okay to point a finger? Do they remove shoes before entering rooms? These are just some common habits and customs that differ across cultures. Be culturally aware! Being used to certain practices growing up doesn’t mean you can just go do it your way when you get there.
The last thing you want is to be regarded as rude in a foreign country. Ask a trusted local about their habits and customs. There are things better learned through a native than read up online. #factsonly
Culture Shock Scenario #4: When you dress up and stand out (unwantedly)
It’s totally possible to dress up in your best modest attire and still get stares, lots of it. Tbh, what may be considered acceptable in your home country may be outright inappropriate in your host country. Though there is a lot of talk on self-expression nowadays when it comes to what people wear, trust that you’ll never go wrong with respect.
Research on what you can and cannot wear, as well as when to wear which one. It’s going to be a huge adjustment at first but as time goes by, you’ll understand why you have to follow some dress codes. After all, couture greatly reflects culture too.
Culture Shock Scenario #5: When you don’t meet eye to eye
When you’re brought up a certain way, it’s going to be really tough when all of a sudden everyone around you moves in a different direction—different lifestyle, pacing, beliefs and values. It’s like a whole new world! To some extent, it can leave you feeling off balance too. And while that ain’t new even within local communities, it’s going to be a big shocker when lines are drawn abroad.
Know that it’s possible to widen your perspective without losing your focus. Learn from what other people’s saying. After all, you can still respect someone and not agree with what he/she said.
There’s no doubt you’ll experience more than just these 5 culture shocks moments when you study abroad. Some you’ll deal in a breeze, some you’ll have to think through and process. But regardless of how these #shookt moments find you, remember to seize every opportunity to learn! We’re pretty sure you’ll have a blast.