Whenever you move to a new city, state or overseas to another country, you'll probably feel the effects of change. When moving overseas, to a place where nothing around you is familiar and you feel completely disoriented, you'll experience culture shock. Culture shock often sets in gradually, and sometimes, can result in depression and withdrawal. It can feel like you'll never be happy again and you may want to pack up and head back home. But before you do, see how you can help ease the stress that often accompanies moving to another country and culture.
Create a Home Away From Home
The first thing you should do after you've unpacked your last bag is to settle into your new space. But don't just settle, make your space feel truly like home with things that remind you of home – things that make you feel comforted. If you weren't able to bring things from home, find things that will make your new house feel more like home. Candles, blankets, plants – all are fairly inexpensive yet provide some necessary warmth and comfort.
Hang photos of home, friends, and family in your space. Not only will they remind you of all you love, but will help you feel secure when you're still trying to settle in.
If you're on a budget and don't want to spend too much, the best thing to do is to concentrate on the room where you spend most of your time. If you love to cook, make the kitchen the priority. Purchase some cookware, nice plates and glasses so you can feel good cooking in your space. If you're a reader who spends a lot of time on the couch, then concentrate on creating a cozy space in the living room. Create one main area where you feel good and more at home.
Spend Time in Your New Neighborhood
Get to know your neighborhood by finding all the local spots where you can buy groceries, get your hair cut, do your laundry and spend some time doing what the locals do. Spend a few mornings a week exploring the cafes and breakfast spots, taking a book or notebook with you to jot down your thoughts and feelings which can help you identify what's most disconcerting about your move.
If you don't speak the local language, try. Take a translation book with you. It's amazing how far you can get with just a few words. Let people know you've just moved and they'll be more than happy to welcome you.
Be a Tourist
Even though you're now a resident, it's a good idea to strike out on your own and do the touristy things. Go sightseeing. Stroll the streets. Find out what it is about your city that makes it so special. And while you're taking photos and absorbing the local vibe, you'll also overhear what outsiders are saying about where you now live.
To keep culture shock at bay you need to meet some locals and develop new friendships. There are lots of ways to do this depending on your interests. Finding local clubs and organizations can provide the perfect environment to get to know people who have a similar focus. Whether it's a particular sport, hobby or cultural affiliation, most cities have local clubs or meet-up groups that you can join.
Take a Class
Taking a course, either out of interest or to learn something new like the local language, is a really easy way to meet new people. Again, like clubs, classes bring people together for a common interest. Plus, you'll meet people of varying ages and from different areas. If you take a language course, you'll also meet other foreigners who may or may not share your culture but who share your experience.
Volunteering is another great way to get to know new people and develop strong relationships and is a great option for people who really want to get involved and feel part of their new community. Volunteer positions can be found online, through local ads or postings, or just by asking. Look for some neighborhood organizations that are of interest and introduce yourself, letting them know what you can offer.
If language is a barrier, start simple. Volunteer for a mail-out or by boxing canned goods for a local food bank. Depending on your native language, you may find the local community center or school needs a language instructor. Teaching is one of the best ways to not only share your culture and language, but to also to learn the native language. Students are always the best teachers.
Join an Expat Community
While joining an expat community is often the first place a foreign worker or traveler turns to when culture shock sets in, it can promote a more isolationist environment where you find yourself with people who share a common language and culture, preventing you from becoming more integrated into the local scene. However, if you are having a hard time adapting, meeting people from your home country is not a bad thing at all – do whatever is best to help you through this difficult transition.
Expat communities can also help you maintain your culture, in particular if you've made a permanent move and you want to ensure ties to home are maintained.
Remember, find those things that make you feel more at home in your new country and soon, before you know it, you'll be giving tourists directions and telling other travelers the best places to find take-out and good coffee.