Culture Shock

What is culture shock?

When moving to a different country, it’s common for many to experience culture shock at the beginning of their stay. Culture shock can be a feeling of isolation, anxiety, disorientation, and insecurity when staying in a country with unfamiliar surroundings for an extended period.

Different countries have different values, and different ways and methods to communicate. Some of these differences might be hard to consciously notice, and after a short while, you might start to feel alienated.

Boat in Bangkok

The stages of culture shock

Culture shock has three primary stages that depend on how long you are going away for, and how different your culture is to the destination’s culture. Culture Shock varies in strength and length based on many factors like the differences between cultures and the individual’s personality.

Thai Monk and Moneys

1) THE HONEYMOON PHASE

You have just arrived in Thailand, and everything is new, exciting, and exotic. You’re excited to try new food, explore your new home, or start university/work. The Honeymoon stage can last for a few days to a few months.

2) THE NEGOTIATION

The second stage could be make-or-break for some people. You will start to notice the small and big differences in an often negative way. You begin to miss the little things about your home like the way people spoke, the way people acted, and the way things just made sense. You will start to dislike the attitude of the locals and miss your friends back home. You will decide if you are going to give in to your negative feelings, or if you will get past this and start enjoying Thailand again.

3) THE ADJUSTMENT

The third stage usually happens between 6 and 12 months of your stay. You will start to accept the bad with a positive “can-do” attitude. You will begin to understand the culture, the way of life, and have a less negative attitude to cultural problems. You will start to develop a routine and life will begin to feel normal.

4) THE REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK

Finally, you may also experience The Reverse Culture Shock. This is when you arrive back to your home country after spending months or years adapting to the country you had lived in. The feelings produced can be similar to what was explained above. Also, we tend to think that our home country will stay the same as when we left it, so we find it hard to accept that things have changed and life has gone on without us.

The best ways to limit or avoid culture shock

While you may feel lonely and sometimes unmotivated, this is quite common with many expats and foreign students. Here are some tips to help this phase come and go a little quicker.

FIND OUT HOW TO BE POLITE IN THAILAND

Every culture has a different social etiquette. Even countries that are side-by-side will have different ways to show respect. Try to research a little about proper social conduct, but don’t worry too much about making mistakes. Thais are easy going and will understand that you are trying and they will appreciate your effort.

GET OUT AND GO TO SOME EVENTS

Thailand is buzzing with different events including religious festivals, music concerts, car racing, and film festivals. Ask your friends about some of the events happening in the future and get a group together to explore.

FIND SOME BALANCE IN YOUR LIFE

Thailand can be a wild place, so have fun, but be careful about going overboard. After a few weeks of enjoying yourself, try to find a routine that suits you. This can be daily exercises, going to bed at a particular time, cleaning your room, finding a time to do your homework, or practice a hobby. The stability of a routine can make you feel safe and secure.

DON’T BE AFRIAD TO HAVE A LAUGH AT YOURSELF

You are bound to make mistakes through saying the wrong Thai word or misunderstanding someone. Try not to be too hard on yourself and have a little laugh. Keep your spirits up and enjoy the ride!

RESEARCH SOME GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THAILAND

Part of feeling isolated comes from your lack of understanding of the country you have arrived in. Research general information about the Thai people, festivals, culture, and latest trends. The country will feel less strange and it will be easier to integrate yourself.

MAKE FRIENDS WITH INTERNATIONAL AND LOCAL PEOPLE

A lot of students who study abroad will frequently look to make friends with other foreigners. This is understandable as they have a common connection with being alone in a foreign country. Becoming friends with someone in the same situation as you is great for sharing problems and exploring this new country together, but it’s also important to make friends with the local people. Making friends with Thais will give you a great start on learning appropriate and inappropriate ways to act, where to go out on the weekend, and general tips for living in Thailand that only locals know.