How to deal with culture shock

Experiencing culture shock is part of the international life package. It doesn't mean that one is weak or not an experienced expat: it can happen at any assignment, after every change and move, and after repatriation.

It is very normal and it happens when we realize how different our life is now compared to before.

Nobody is immune to it, not even the most "global nomad". There is a lot to process and we can feel disoriented, alienated, overwhelmed, like a fish out of water...

We might not sleep well, be short-tempered and "moody". 


Helen Rybol gives great advice about how to cope with culture shock. She leads through the different stages of culture shock: when we “crave for comfort”, “process new information”, “cope without autopilot”, “deal with difficult situations” or alienation.


What helps when you feel that the wave is hitting you is to take a step back, be kind to yourself, take a mental and physical break.

A time-out for a day or two can save you weeks of struggles.

Take care of yourself, treat yourself; eating healthy, reading a nice book, going for a walk (or a swim, a hike, whatever works for you), if you like writing, capture these moments and write about what you're going through.

Some take a short vacation but I would not advice to take one when you're in the middle of a culture shock as returning back can be more difficult... 

Allow yourself to process it all at your own pace and allow your dear ones to do the same.

If they are not in the same place like you, let them know what you need and share your experience.

What helps is to focus on yourself, with all your senses.

One can be out of the comfort zone on so many levels: sometimes a simple smell or a sound can make us feel disoriented.

If the smell, the colors, the climate overwhelms you, try to sooth these senses and take the time to process it all.

Make sure to take the time to realign your senses and find out what makes you feel the way you're feeling right now, and what can help you feel better. 

You can not control your surroundings, you can only control and influence the way you respond, and it is up to you how you do that.


Be sure not to isolate yourself for too long. If you feel that after a few days you still feel disoriented and overwhelmed, seek some help from friends or professionals.

I would love to know how you cope with this, what works for you. Please let me know in the comments here below.




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Culture Shock 

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