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12 Ways to Hack Culture Shock

12 Ways to Hack Culture Shock

Culture shock is an absolute waste of time. Time, which should be spent discovering the wonders and thrills of a new location; time that should be spent mispronouncing street names and getting lost; time that should be spent eating amazing street-food, discovering local art, observing culture; time that should be spent expanding your mind; time that should be spent meeting the locals, who then offer you illegal gifts.............we'll get to that in a moment.

Culture shock robs us of all that awesomeness and the next thing we know it's time to leave! It's even worse if it's a long-term stay, in which case, we just stay within our circles, adhere to the familiar and refuse to burst out to our full social potential! I have been very guilty of this and a part of me thinks ruefully of how much i could have learnt with all the country-hopping opportunities i have had.

True, culture shock is a natural human response to a change and the human mind has never been known to be unresponsive to change, but then again, it doesn't have to rule your relocation process. Right below are 12 ways to own culture shock! Enjoy!

Before you leave for your new destination....

Read! (1)

Wikipedia is my best friend before I travel. It prevents a good amount of culture shock. Reading and getting familiar with pop culture and cultural characteristics helps to figure the new environment. Be careful with media's portrayal though, believe just 25% of what you see on TV and don't make the mistake of classifying people based on a stereotype. 

Anticipate Homesickness (2)

While it's true that we're trying to get in on all the fun at our new location, nostalgia almost always creeps in. Homesickness makes culture shock a bit more unbearable, so before you get on your journey, get things that will help you manage home sickness. Get your favorite chips, teas, coffee blend, books, what makes it easier for you to get comfortable in your new space. 

Now you are here!.....

Be open (3)

If you've always had prejudice towards the locals, I'd suggest you let go. People are not what you see on TV. For example, the Russians are not always villains! One of my best friends is part Russian. The Germans don't all drink beer. Not all Americans work in the CIA and not all Nigerians have a babalawo on speed dial. Try new stuff and hang out with the locals. Get in on all the street food, ok maybe not all, but good street food that is reputed for not causing diarrhea. 

Set fire to your comfort zone (4)

Yup, set it ablaze. You have to get into the crazy street called "experience". It's fun getting to know new things and new cultures. I've come to realize that locals love to tell you about their culture and get you in on it. I remember this very friendly local who I met somewhere who wanted to give me a gift of marijuana! That was some friendly neighborhood. 

Be observant (5)

Watch how stuff is done. Ask questions and don't be ashamed of your ignorance. In fact that's a great way to be rid of it. They know just as little about your culture too, so tell them about your culture, don't think they don't care, unless they explicitly tell you they don't. If they don't care, ask them about theirs and then tell them about yours anyway.

Don't overwhelm with your own culture (6)

My tribe generally has no chill, we are loud, bubbly and just off-the-hat theatrical, so I usually have to keep that side of me under wraps in places more tranquil....until I know they can handle it. I am currently learning to appreciate foreign culture by respecting them enough to respond with just enough naija-ness.

Get a steady dose of your supplies (7)

Find ways to get your favorite supplies coming; food, movies, music, books. Listen to music from home. Watch movies and videos. Call family and friends in your home country.

Try one new thing every week (8)

The new thing i did last week and this week was to try new recipes. As a naija babe, i have struggled with eating broccoli and mushrooms. We all know vegetable without leaves would naturally be eyed suspiciously by Nigerians. Surprisingly, they are fast becoming a staple.Try something fun, new and of course, outside your comfort zone!

Don't be awkward because you are different (9)

Different is great! Everything about you just got 1000% unique, embrace everything you are, including your accent. You are a little sprinkle of diversity and everyone loves that. Well not everyone but some people, hopefully you run into "some people". 

Document experiences (10)

Write your memories down. Scribble them, tweet them, put them on instagram, blog about them. Social media is great for documenting experiences. Gone are the days we'd document using feather stalks and coarse paper or chisels and rocks. Think about it, if the early men and Eygptians took so much trouble to document their experiences and stories with supposedly primitive tools, what excuse do we have? Preserving experiences keeps a part of our memories alive.

Choose not to see only the negatives about your new location (11)

It's completely normal to see negatives, because subconsciously you might be comparing it to home but every place has its issues. Every place also has its beauty and the ability to evoke wonder. Embrace the privilege of seeing the other side of the pond and focus on the good.

Take it in your stride (12)

If you have huge strides and you like to jump head-first in new stuff, then do, by all means but if easy does it for you, then take in the changes in bits. 

If you ever have the opportunity to live among different people, cherish it, usually it might be you are supposed to learn stuff from them. For example, the British taught me to say thank you to bus drivers, danfoo or not. The Americans make me chatty. The Swiss made me observant and made me quite confused with the valuation of currency but that's another post. The Italians made me realize that pasta rocks and dressing up is non-negotiable.


Have you had culture shock experiences? Any new things you've learnt abroad?Please share with us below. 

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