Cultural changes: How to deal with them?
When we travel to another country on vacation, the differences we see in everything around us attract our attention, It amazes us and leaves us breathless. But when we go for a longer time, in the case you travel to study or to work, and you stay for several months or even years, the cultural changes and the whole process of adaptation that this brings can lead to certain difficult moments.
You walk on the streets and the people around you are different from the ones in your country, the weather may be colder or warmer than you are used to, the units of measure for distances, temperature and others may be different. Eating can become something difficult too if we don’t value or like trying new things.
The way of being of the people can also be different. Sometimes it may be more affectionate and attentive compared to our normal culture, while in others, we can find strange how cold and respectful people may be. Perhaps you realize that your language level in the place is not what you expected. You may feel uncomfortable not only living with other people but also with your work or study colleagues. You may feel that the rhythm of study or work is too intense, or maybe you feel alone because you are away from your boyfriend, family and friends, but whatever you feel, don’t worry, it’s normal. You are in a different place, and that involves several situations that you are not used to.
Stay calm, it is normal, you just need a few days to adapt and to feel more comfortable. Sometimes you have a harder time getting used to it and others may not have troubles at all, but in general, we can divide the adaptation process into 4 parts, in which each person can be more or less controlled over each other.
1- The falling in love stage or initial stage. At the beginning, everything is new, everything attracts our attention and excites us, so you will be excited by knowing places, people. Unless you have left your boyfriend/girlfriend at home, you will hardly remember your home country at this level.
2- Tiredness and difficult stage. When time begins to pass and you realize that you are not on vacation and that you have to spend your time working or studying, it gradually makes you fall out of love with the place and you may even feel angry or irritated to be there. Sometimes you can feel annoyed by people, such as colleagues from work or college, neighbors or people in general. At this stage, nostalgia can be very intense, and that makes you remember your home a lot. The intention to speak frequently with family or friends may be common, and you may even cry over it.
- It is normal to miss your people, but if that prevents you from enjoying the experience, it is important to make efforts to encourage the experience. Looking to make friends through classes or work, perhaps you can join social media groups, people from your country in the country where you are, such as Germans in Australia, Argentines in the US, or whatever.
- Sometimes a bad moment can make us feel terrible, we can react with anger facing a difficult situation and thus will make you feel that the trip is not what you expected, but it is important to understand that it is part of the process, that anger is something that we have inside and that we must have the necessary patience to enjoy the trip.
3- Adaptation. After the previous stage, there is a process in which you begin to accept your condition. You start to appreciate the nice things in your daily routine, you start feeling used to being away, you already know people and you already feel comfortable and enjoy the experience. At this stage, it is important to make the most of the experience, which is why we recommend looking for friends of different nationalities or ways of being so that the experience is much more rewarding in the end.
4- Home sweet home. Sooner or later in the adaptation process, there comes a point where we feel the country or city where we live as our home. You already have a special affection for him. You will already feel accepted by the community and at the same time you will feel part of the place.
Common problems when interacting with different people.
Culture and values confrontation. We know that in different countries things are done differently. Perhaps it can be difficult for us to understand that a friend from some eastern country may find normal to eat a dog, or perhaps you are from India and it bothers you that people eat a cow everywhere. Perhaps if you go to Thailand it bothers you how the mahouts beat and mistreat the elephants. Perhaps you are not comfortable by the social position of men and women in a more liberal country if you come from a conservative country, or you come from a liberal country and you do not understand what happens in some Arab countries, for example, perhaps the political or religious positions of people from different nationalities can generate a moral impact.
All of this can make us feel very frustrated by the situation. We may feel that we are accepting morally wrong situations, and we may even suffer from simply not being able to understand certain situations. But beyond all we can see, the important thing is to always be respectful. Learn to accept that things are done differently in different parts of the world and to be open-minded in order to understand what is behind everything that doesn’t make sense to us. It may be the opportunity to learn about topics that are taboo in your country, or simply to understand and enjoy cultural exchange.
Tips on how to handle the tension caused by culture impact.
1- Do physical exercise and eat well. It may seem a different thing, but these practices will always help us. Exercise takes away anxiety and stress, which makes us more tolerant and calm in an unpleasant situation.
2- Have conversations with friends and family. With the purpose of sharing your feelings and somehow let off steam if you need it.
3- Walk and enjoy the surroundings. Walking is the secret of happiness according to an old wise man I met a few years ago. Walking relaxes you, it allows you to open your eyes and to enjoy your surroundings. Doing it frequently for sure will help you feel happier and fuller.
4- Listen to music, go to museums, paint or express through art. If you have any skill or hobby related to any art will lead you to have a balanced state of mind and be able to deal with any unpleasant situation.
5- Don’t forget to laugh. You are away from home, meeting different people, it’s a moment to enjoy. Find instances to smile.
6- Do not fall for stereotypes. You may have a school or job mate from Russia, Canada or Japan who is violent and with a disrespectful personality, but that only speaks of he or she, not her country, nor her city, nor even her family. It does not mean that all the people from those nations are like this. It’s common to hear comments from other nationalities such as that the Chinese are dirty, that the Americans are ignorant, that Latin Americans are thieves. It is part of human ignorance that gives characteristics to everything. The important thing is to understand that there is everything everywhere so you can find a good heart anywhere in the world, as well as horrible people.
Differences in terms of Customs
Depending on the country in which you are, manners and way of living can change radically. In some northern European countries, people hardly look at each other when greeting. In countries like Italy or Spain, it is common 2 or 3 kisses on the face to greet some people you haven’t even met before. In countries like Argentina, kisses and hugs are also common between two men, something that for a Danish man would probably be extremely uncomfortable. In Japan, you can see friends who haven’t seen each other for years, but when they meet, they only bow in respect.
- In Thailand people thank with both hands and a bow. In many Asian countries when they give you a paper people do it as if they were giving you a diploma, while in the West they hopefully look at you when they give you something with one hand. In Asia shoes are removed when entering a house or everywhere, which for Westerners may seem very strange.
- In China it is common to make noises while eating, as this means that the food is delicious, so sipping while having soup although it seems unpleasant to westerns is part of their tradition.
- Depending on the country where you are from, the number of names and surnames. It is common for Orientals to have a Western name when they go to one of those countries.
- If in Russia you give flowers, that is an odd number, since if you give an even number of flowers, this is associated with funerals and can be tremendously offensive.
- In Ghana, for example, looking at each other in the eye is a tremendous lack of education, despite the fact that in Western it is regarded as a sign of attention.
- Another issue that most differences are seen depending on the country, is personal hygiene. While in some countries human smells can be considered natural, in others they are considered unpleasant. In some countries it is common not to use deodorant or cleaning supplies, while in others it is of vital importance. In Chile, personal hygiene is quite important, but when you go on the subway in the afternoon, the smell is not so pleasant. I remember when I was in Milan, and we took the subway at 7 in the afternoon. It was completely full, people came from their jobs, but the smell of perfume was felt everywhere. A completely different experience. In Thailand and much of Asia, baths are different. The toilets are on the floor and although using it is a more natural position, and brings many benefits, it can seem very uncomfortable for westerns. On the other hand, they do not use paper, but there is a hose that they use to clean themselves, and it is part of their habit to walk with a towel to dry themselves. Strange isn’t it? They are all cultural differences.
The important thing is to know a little about the customs and ways of living of the people in the place we travel to, especially if you are going to interact a lot with people. If you are going to do business, you should know what the other person expects and how you should behave, since otherwise, they could judge you and perhaps they will not accept you. And on the other hand, being open to accept certain differences. That you consider better or worse behavior than what you know is a personal judgment, something from the mind of each one.
In these differences precisely, there is the wonder of the human being, the evolution of things in different places, and it’s exactly what one discovers when traveling, the differences between all of us, but at the end, you also realize that there are many more characteristics in which we are alike than in which we differ.