Updated: Oct 9, 2018


Most of us will experience culture shock and it’s nothing to be ashamed of because it’s completely normal. Some experienced travelers aren’t even aware of it when it happens to them, and some newbies just don’t think it will ever happen to them. Lucky for me, I have to deal with it every time I move to a new country. Every. Single. Time. If you’ve moved abroad already, you’ll most likely have experienced some form of culture shock. If you haven’t taken flight yet, well some of the following may be included in your near future once you do decide to ditch your hometown.

So what is culture shock?

It's a mix of emotions that you feel as a result of entering into an environment that's completely different from what you're used to back home. When you move abroad, you'll quickly realize that most of what you do on a daily basis will be totally different from your normal routine. You'll likely feel completely out of your comfort zone and that feeling will take some adjustment if you want to get used to it or if you want to shake free of it.

Psychological Symptoms of Culture Shock:

  • Sudden (or more frequent) feelings of depression and sadness.

  • Feeling lonely or isolated due to very small or non-existent social circle.

  • Homesickness and idealization of your home culture.

  • Negatively stereotyping your new culture and resenting local behavior.

  • Feeling inadequate or insecure due to misunderstandings (getting lost, not understanding the language or social cues).

Physical Symptoms of Culture Shock:

  • Feeling tired, even after getting adequate rest or sleep.

  • Increase in illness, accidents.

  • Change in sleep patterns - sleeping too much or too little.

  • Change in diet - overeating or little to no appetite.

  • Dependency on any vices to stabilize mood (drugs, alcohol, food, sleep, TV, excessive exercise, etc.).

Having a combination of these symptoms right after moving abroad means it's likely that you're experiencing some form of culture shock, but sometimes these symptoms are an indicator of a much bigger problem. If you’ve had any of the symptoms mentioned above for an extended period of time or before you moved abroad, you might want to speak to a professional. Check out for online therapy services.

How bad will it be?

Honestly, culture shock is more inconvenient than it is detrimental to your physical or emotional well-being. Like most things, everyone will likely experience it differently or maybe not at all (lucky you!). The intensity of your culture shock will usually depend on several factors, including: age, travel experience, and how different your home culture is from that of your new country. I know all of this probably sounds pretty scary, but don’t worry! Culture shock is only temporary. The sooner you understand the signs and symptoms, the more likely you’ll be motivated you to stick it out instead of throwing in the towel and heading back home.


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