Traveling to a foreign country is a life-changing experience for adventurers of any age or experience level. And part of being a good traveler is being prepared for the twists and turns that you may encounter along the way. While most of the time the new things that you experience will be fun and exciting, it’s also very common to experience culture shock when you go abroad.
Culture shock can affect anyone at any age. Even experienced travelers can experience it when visiting a new place. Teens particularly are susceptible to culture shock while traveling if it’s their first time abroad. However, if you know how to prepare for culture shock, you’ll have a much better chance of quickly acclimating to your surroundings and enjoying your time abroad.
Keep reading to learn more about the symptoms of culture shock and what you can do to prevent it from taking over your trip.
What is Culture Shock?
Culture shock is characterized by feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, and confusion that many people can experience when visiting or living in a society that is different from their own. It’s no secret that social norms vary greatly across different countries and regions, and sometimes immersion in a new culture can be daunting because of this.
Typically, culture shock arises from the unfamiliarity of language, local customs, and which behaviors are acceptable or unacceptable in different areas. Some distinct stages of culture shock include euphoria, discomfort, adjustment and finally, acceptance. While time is ultimately the best remedy for those experiencing these common symptoms, there are steps teen travelers can take to help prevent culture shock.
How to Deal with Culture Shock
One of the biggest ways to help curb many of the feelings associated with culture shock is to work hard to better understand the culture before leaving home. And understanding another culture takes more than just a knowledge of which phrases or hand gestures may be seen as inappropriate by the locals. Some helpful areas to research include:
- Learning how to order food
- Dining etiquette
- Is tipping necessary or frowned upon?
- Use of restrooms
- What type of clothing to wear as to not offend
- Local social rules
- Language basics like formal and informal greetings,
- How to say “please” and “thank you,”
- How to ask for directions, etc.
What is “The Dip”?
For many international travelers, navigating mundane tasks can be very interesting and exciting when the first begin their journey abroad. But after a while, it’s common to find yourself in the midst of culture shock or a general low mental period, once the excitement dies down. This dip in feelings can be helped in a few different ways:
1. Develop Social Groups
The ability to rely on a social network is key to creating stability when traveling or living overseas. While it’s helpful to maintain social networks from back home, you’ll also want to look for new ways to make friends in the places that you’re visiting as well.
2. Stay Active
Whether you spend your days on foot, exploring your new city or you dedicate time each day to working out, physical activity is a great way to keep your mind and body healthy while traveling internationally. Additionally, working out can help you to fight back against jet lag when you first arrive at your destination and is an ideal stress reliever.
3. Create a New Routine
Humans are creatures of habit and when you feel like you’ve been thrown into an entirely different world, it can help to create a new daily routine that will keep you grounded. Something as simple as setting a wake-up and bedtime during the week or making your breakfast at home each day may be just what you need to establish a solid foundation in your new surroundings.
4. Learn the Lingo
If you’re unable to express yourself to others while you’re abroad, you may deal with increasing feelings of isolation. Taking the time to learn a few essential phrases that make it easier to get around town will make it much easier to acclimate. And the locals will love the fact that you’re putting in the effort to learn more about their language and culture.
Prepare for Your Trip Abroad with Travel for Teens
While it’s not always possible to completely avoid feelings of culture shock when you visit new places, there are certain things you can do to help acclimate more quickly and enjoy your time away from home. Going into an international trip with an open mind and doing what you can to learn more about the culture you’re entering into can also make it easier to explore the world around you and create unique experiences that you’ll remember for a lifetime.
Interested in learning more about the many benefits of traveling abroad as a teen? At Travel for Teens, we are proud to offer a wide variety of international travel experiences that are designed to instill a love for travel, learning, and curiosity about different cultures from around the world. Contact us today to learn more about our upcoming travel opportunities or find a program that’s right for you.