Coping with a new culture has never been the easiest job of one’s life, for, not only that you miss your friends and family in the new place, you also miss your very own culture. And culture, as the social anthropologists say, is exactly what we do in our life. Going by this definition, you tend to miss everything, everything that you have done since the time you have taken birth, everything that you are used to … foods, customs, attitudes, languages … every little thing.
The problem multiplies if the new culture belongs to a different linguistic group than yours and if your knowledge in that language is not good enough for an efficient communication. Miscommunications and misunderstandings follow and if you are not of the outgoing type, like those shy ones who find it difficult to make quick friends in a new environment, the problem can even lead to depression.
If you have never been to a new culture, imagine yourself in an environment where you don’t speak the language, nor understand its customs and culture and vice versa and then making things worse, don’t even have somebody in front to share your feelings. As a matter of fact, our mind and body take time to adapt to new things and if life needs to move faster, depression is often the next thing to follow.
We have wonderful ways to fight these kinds of situations today. Internet is playing a vital role (and often the only source) to find and meet new people … and even one can meet people of their own culture and country, if a proper search is made. We can find out information about clubs and organisations of our own country and most of them will welcome you gladly in their organisation. Another place to search for is the website of your embassy. If you do not have the web address of your embassy, go to yahoo or Google and search for ‘your nationality’+’embassy’+’new city’. Say a search like American embassy Paris will do the job. Most embassy websites have a list of organisations of their country present in the concerned foreign land.
Some websites, like [http://www.kigoobe.com/meetup:] English speaking Paris [http://www.kigoobe.com/meetup], is not only offering the expats the opportunity to meet and discuss with others through forums and chat, but also various english television channels and other stuffs, everything someone tends to miss in the new culture – attempting a total solution to make your stay a pleasing one in your foreign land.
Besides meeting with others from your own culture, there are some other things as well that one could observe to cope with this kind of culture shock.
• Learn their language as fast possible:
An understanding with someone is only possible where there is a communication, and learning the language is essential for an effective communication. Learning their language is important as it also helps us to understand them and them to understand us … which inturn helps a better integration and helps increase the chance of making good friends
• Try to understand their culture:
Trying to understand their culture is another big challenge, specially understanding the differences. Since every culture is different, it’s quite common to misjudge others and take others as inferior (or superior, for instance) and develop complexity inside one’s self. This is something one need to handle specially, try to understand others culture, and respect the differences, and to think a difference doesn’t necessarily mean that one is inferior and the other one is superior.
• Be careful when you speak:
Since the cultures are different, it happens often, that an expression that is good in your culture may be taken absolutely bad in others and vice versa. This is worse when you start speaking their language, as then, the other person thinks that since you can speak and understand their language, you must be able to understand their culture as well, and if you do a mistake, that is often taken as intentional.
• Don’t irritate them because of anything:
You may have trememdous esteem for your own culture, and the other one may be different than yours, but don’t start ridiculing them or put them down by showing how your’s is better than their’s. Don’t speak only about your culture all the time as well, even if you miss your culture a lot. That can be irritating for the person in front.
• Get involved:
Get involved with them. Integrating and getting involved in activities of the other culture is the best way to shed off the ‘we are different’ mask. And once this mask is no more there, if you become like one of them, or say, they become like people of your own culture, culture shocks can much easily be removed.
Fortunately though, not all expats feel alike. For a lot, a change in cultural atmosphere is exciting, challenging, and a way to meet and understand new people and culture. A proper ‘how to’ for winning over culture shocks can make everybody enjoy a greater experience in the new culture, thereby making their stay more positive and rewarding in the host country.
One last tip: Meet others, look for like minded people, make friendship.
Note: The term ‘Culture Shock’ was coined in the year 1954 by one Kalvero Oberg to describe the negative effect in one’s body and mind during the period of cultural adjustment in a different socio-cultural environment.
The author, Sourav Choudhury is a Master of Science in Biological Anthropology and by profession, a web designer and owner of kigoobe.com, a Paris based web designing firm.