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Culture shock after moving to another country

Moving to another country can be as thrilling as much as it is overwhelming. It’s a completely new experience from a fresh perspective that may come as a shock to newcomers. Even if you’ve already moved within your home town before, at some point you will realize that it’s nothing like organizing an interstate move, let alone an international one.

Passport and large suitcase

There’s more to it than just packing your bags and taking your passport

Culture shock is an inevitable and expected experience for the people who have moved to another country or state. Whether you are moving across the country or overseas, you are likely to face the effect of the transition in the form of a culture shock. Surprisingly enough, it can happen even if you are moving within your own country. Either way, culture shock is mostly related to anxiety, stress, disorientation, confusion, feeling of loneliness… Extreme homesickness and fear of unfamiliar circumstances may be so overwhelming that you might even want to go back to your home.

Moving to another country is an exciting yet challenging prospect that will undoubtedly expand your horizons. However, you may have a hard time adjusting to new surroundings.  Adapting to an unfamiliar culture may take a while, depending on your personality. Typically, people tend to gravitate towards stability and consistency and moving to another country may cause a major disruption. Chances are you won’t be ready to embrace the change and a number of new experiences you will be facing along the way. Moving away from everything that’s making you feel comfortable can sometimes generate negative effects in your attitude and behavior.

Dealing with culture shock

Once you move to the new country you will realize that your old patterns are no longer applicable and that everything is changed including language, food, habits, social roles, expectations, values… Some of the most common reactions to culture shock are:

  • health issues like headaches, allergies
  • physical pain
  • insomnia or oversleeping
  • mood swings, depression, lack of comfort, confusion
  • urge to leave your new home and get back home
  • feelings of loneliness or sadness
  • irritability and anger

It is fairly unpredictable which of these states will show up, whether it will be just one or a mixture of feelings. Being out of your comfort zone and facing the unfamiliar most probably will cause you a lot of insecurity. However, culture shock is not necessarily a negative thing. Try to identify a positive aspect of it and it may occur to you that it is actually a warning for you to take action and explore the new environment. Don’t waste time pitying yourself. Be a fully aware and present participant of your own life instead and fight the depression.

Girl at an airport

You should do your research before moving to another country

The truth is that every person may have a different reaction to moving abroad. Being exposed to a foreign culture may trigger a great deal of stress. However, if you are familiar with possible emotional reactions, you won’t be caught off guard once they appear.

Culture shock phases that may occur when moving to another country

Culture shock is an emotional roller-coaster you are likely to experience when moving to another country. It’s one of the most complex transitions you can face in a lifetime. Originally the term culture shock was used to describe the physical and emotional distress generated by a move to a different cultural background. There are several stages you can expect to go through while experiencing culture shock effects.

The honeymoon stage – seeing life through rose-colored glasses

a happy girl in front of the yellow wall

Excitement and happiness could be the first reaction to moving to another country

During this overly positive and enthusiastic stage, the newcomers are typically excited about their new surroundings. They are looking forward to everything about moving to another country and the unfamiliar environment doesn’t bother them at all. At this phase, the move itself usually seems like a smart decision and a step forward in their lives. It’s an exhilarating experience that encourages opening up new perspectives, exploring different contexts and unfamiliar environments. Unfortunately, those feelings are likely to fade away after a while and make way for the next stage of this common phenomenon.

The frustration stage – also known as a rejection stage

Once the initial excitement wears off, you are likely to experience an overwhelming mix of nervousness, irritability, anxiety, confusion, and homesickness. The original enthusiasm usually turns into discomfort and dissatisfaction and cultural differences suddenly become too annoying and frustrating. Although it may seem like a never-ending stage, it may last up to a couple of months, depending on how flexible and open-minded you are.

The adjustment stage – things are looking up

You are starting to make your way in a new community and finally feeling more comfortable. Moving to another country has triggered both positive and disturbing emotions. Thankfully, now it seems that things are falling into place slowly but surely. At this stage, you may be eager to establish balance and take control of your life again.

The acceptance stage – embracing a new role

It’s no secret that you will spend some time struggling with various emotional stages associated with culture shock after moving to another country. The final stage is about embracing differences and incorporating them into your day-to-day life. After all, you don’t need to fully understand them as long as you are comfortable living in your new environment. During this stage, you will finally feel at ease and settle into your new home.

Guidelines for adjusting to a new home

Embracing the change that comes with moving to another country is never easy. Sooner rather than later you will find out that settling into a new home is more than just unpacking and getting rid of the packing leftovers. Hopefully, the following tips will help you feel at home in no time.

Create a homey and welcoming atmosphere

living room decorations

Add a personal touch to your new home as soon as you move in

Make your new apartment feel like home as soon as possible. Arrange the new place and decorate it with the items that remind you of your old home. The details like candles, photo frames and other decorative objects will make your new home warm and comfortable. Have photos of your family and friends displayed on the shelves. Cheerful curtains or blankets will also warm-up space. Arranging and decorating takes time, so try to prioritize the room where you and your family spend the most time. After all, you need a place where you can retreat after a long day of unpacking and cleaning.

Prepare lunch or dinner as soon as you settle in and have some pleasant, stress-free time with your family. Also, stick to the family routine and have some activities like watching a movie, reading a book, listening to music together, playing some social games… If you have moved with kids, you should prioritize their needs during the adjustment period. Make sure to soothe their need for attention and reassurance while tackling other post-move projects.

Become part of the community

Find out where your neighbors usually gather and join them. If there are some routines in your neighborhood, make yourself part of the team by introducing yourself properly. Explore the area and some local spots like shops, bars, restaurants and find out where the neighbors gather. Throw a housewarming party and invite both old and new friends and neighbors. You could use some distraction and relaxation after a challenging transition.

In order to strike up an acquaintance with your new neighbors join the local clubs according to your personal interests. If you are not familiar with the local language, you can also attend a language course, where you are likely to meet other newcomers with a similar life situation. If you have moved there permanently, you don’t want to lose ties with your homeland.

In case you are interested in volunteering, find some local organizations and offer help. Neighbors will certainly appreciate your kind gesture and you will get involved in the community affairs.

As soon as you accept your new culture and the fact that your lifestyle is changed you will feel relieved and comfortable in your new environment. Be open-minded and patient, because adapting to a foreign culture takes time. Be prepared to discover a totally new world, no matter how much it may seem frightening at first.

Hire professional moving assistance

One of the steps that you could take to ease your transition is definitely hiring international movers NYC. It seems like a logical choice when it comes to moving to another country. Taking all the responsibilities of organizing and executing a global relocation would be just reckless. So, whether you are moving to or from NYC, you should keep in mind that the most reputable Hell’s Kitchen movers have years of relevant experience.

map with pins when moving to another country

Culture shock comes as an expected consequence of a household move

Therefore, you can leave the logistics to them while making other important moving arrangements. Remember to take good care of yourself and your loved ones throughout the process. Support each other and maintain open communication all along. Boost the positive energy in your life in spite of all the uncertainty and fear you might be facing during the move.