Tips for Dealing with Culture Shock

In many ways, Spain and Australia are relatively similar. You wouldn’t expect that I’d endured my fair share of culture shock, but I have. In other countries, say India, you expect culture shock so when it does happen you kinda think to yourself “OK, yeah, I had a feeling it would be like that.” However, in Spain I didn’t think I’d experience any, so I’ve found it pretty strange to deal with. From seeing people almost reproducing in parks, in broad day light, to issues with my lack of Spanish skills, culture shock seems to be hidden around every corner. Here are my tips for dealing with culture shock, no matter where in the world you are:

1) Learn to smile:
Stuff’s going to be different, things are going to annoy you, things will get lost in communication; you might ask for a burger with no tomato and wind up with a burger that only seems to be made of tomato – whatever. You’ll get frustrated, annoyed, you’ll miss home and the easiness of everything there, but you travel and live overseas to have new experiences and that’s exactly what this is. Just learn to smile and laugh things off, it’ll make everything a lot easier.

2) Learn to look the other way:
Because of Spain’s economy, people tend to live at home with their parents for a lot longer, like until they’re 30 plus. Basically, you don’t move out unless you’re married or you’ve moved cities away from your parents. This means young people in Spain don’t tend to get as much privacy as people in Australia as we tend to move out at a significantly younger age. This means people will take to parks, bus stations, even on the metro to show their affection. You’ll see people grinding in parks, others sucking faces on the metros… it’s all a bit much sometimes. Just learn to look the other way because you’ll certainly see things you didn’t need to see.

3) Learn how to say “I don’t understand”:
Even though it wont change the situation, being able to communicate that you can’t understand will go a long way in making it clear that you can’t understand. Numerous times I’ve been in situations where I’ve tried to tell the person that I don’t understand (in English) and they smile and nod, but it isn’t until I say it in the local language that they take me seriously.

4) Be realistic:
If you want everything to be the same as it is back home and as easy as it is back home, you’re probably best not leaving home! Things will be different, some things will be harder, others will be easier, but this is the joy of traveling and having new experiences. You need to set clear expectations of what you’ll be exposed to in your new country. The more realistic you are, the easier everything will be to deal with.

5) Do your research:
Talk to people that have been where you’ve headed and ask how they found the people. I visited Morocco and found that I experienced a lot more culture shock than I expected and it kinda threw me off guard. The more you research the place you’re going, the more of an idea you’ll get for what it’ll be like and the better prepared you will be.

Travel is both fun and life changing. You’ll experience things that you could never have enjoyed without leaving home, but there will be many things you miss from home, too. It generally takes at least a few weeks to get used to the place you’re visiting, so keep that in mind and just make the most of any speed bumps along the way.