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Adjusting To A New Culture

Overcoming Culture Shock

Volunteering abroad  can be a very stressful experience so how would you handle the emotional challenges that might stem down from it? Ever heard of culture shock?

Here are the  “symptoms” or outward signs:

  • “Honeymoon” period: Initially, many people are fascinated and excited by everything new.  The visitor is elated to be in a new culture.

  • “Culture shock”: The individual is immersed in new problems: housing, transportation, shopping, and language.  Mental fatigue results from continuous straining to comprehend the new language.

  • Initial Adjustment: Everyday activities such as housing and shopping are no longer major problems.  Although the visitor may not yet be fluent in the language spoken, basic ideas and feelings in the second language can be expressed.

  • Mental Isolation: Individuals have been away from their family and good friends for a long period of time and may feel lonely.

  • Acceptance and Integration: A routine has been established. Accepting the habits, customs, foods, and characteristics of the people in the new culture.

Just remember: it’s more than possible, and it’s extremely rewarding.

Remember Who You Are. We remain who we are, but the cultural references that we have always used to order our lives are missing. Thus there is a need to adjust to and accept the ways in which things are done in the country you volunteer in! Don’t forget your ways, of course, and don’t ever pretend to be someone or something you’re not, but by adapting your normal routines to those that are accepted in your host country, you will ease the transition tremendously.

Ways to slowly adjust:

  • Look for logical reasons for things in the host culture that seem different.  Relax your grip on your own culture.

  • Immerse yourself in the culture.

  • Talk about your feelings with a sympathetic and understanding friend.

  • When you hear yourself making negative judgments or generalisations, stop and try to view the situation objectively—without value judgments.]

  • Take care of your physical health.  Eat nutritious foods, get enough sleep, and, most importantly, get some exercise every day (take a regular walk if nothing else).

Although the experience of volunteering abroad is a challenging one, I also believe it can help people grow and develop beyond what they may have been if they had not participated in a worthy cause such as Dreams to reality offers.

 

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