Wait! I just arrived, now what?
To wrap up our series of travel hacks, we are going to be talking about embracing a new culture and battling culture shock! Traveling can be scary. It’s a time in your life where you are outside of your comfort zone in a place you probably don’t know very well. There are new sights, smells, people and just a different way of life. I absolutely love traveling because the experience of being somewhere new is very exhilarating. I am all about blending in and finding where the locals hang out. Of course, doing all the tourist things are a must but I’m not a fan of standing out. Though, standing out isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I’ve met some of the most memorable people when I’ve been lost and confused.
Travel Hacks 105: How to embrace a new culture
Learning strategies on how to cope with culture shock and embracing a new culture can help make your trip an amazing one. According to InterNations, “Culture shock is a rather nerve-wrecking phenomenon, a sense of anxiety, nervousness and alienation caused by being exposed to an alien environment and culture. However, it’s an essential part of the transition process: A willingness to work through it is the first step towards integration.”
I remember when I first moved to London back in 2010, I was so nervous. Even though I spoke the same language, I felt like an outsider. I remember getting off the plane and two wheels on one of my suitcases broke while riding the Tube! To a young 20 year old woman, this was devastating. I remember feeling like I was going to throw up! Long story short, I made it to my flat and I didn’t get sick but the anxiety I felt is something I will never forget. It took about one month for me to feel like I understood how to do simple things. Another transition that I had to deal with was the fact that Brits drive on the opposite side of the road. I was so confused…all the time! I was paranoid when crossing the street because I wanted to make sure that I didn’t get hit by a car since I was looking the wrong way.
These transitional experiences taught me that not everything is going to go the way that you plan when you travel but that’s okay! Embracing new cultures is what traveling is all about. It’s okay to be scared but being open to asking for help will get you through it. I went to Poland to visit a friend and didn’t speak any Polish. I was so nervous about that trip because I had no idea what anyone was saying to me. This is where I stood out. Instead of totally freaking out, I told myself that it was okay to not understand everyone but to do my best in following customs and understanding body expressions/facial cues. Surprisingly, it went really well and I had no troubles while I was there.
There are a few tricks that I use to battle culture shock. The first one is preparation! I know that it may seem self explanatory to prepare for any trip, however, you’d be surprised by how little some people prepare to travel. Before the big move to London back in 2010, I pretty much researched every day. I bought myself a map of London, I googled their customs and values, learned tips and tricks from travel guides and did my best to understand how public transportation worked. (Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for Bold & Free to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.)
The second thing I did that helped with culture shock was being observant once I arrived. I was quiet the first month or so that I lived in London because I wanted to take it all in. If you know me, being quiet is not in my personality! I observed native Londoners in how they did things. I would sit in coffee shops and just listen to people. This helped me so much since I learned the ways that Londoners did things which helped me integrate quickly.
The third thing that I did was become involved in the school activities. I threw myself into the University of London’s archery team and joined a bible study. This was one of the best decisions I made when I moved there because I made a ton of British friends by getting involved. If you are not in school anymore or you are just on a short trip, you can still get involved by researching any sort of free activities to do around the city that you are visiting. If there are cultural events or free activities while you are visiting, sign up for them! Those kinds of things will help you meet locals, which will help you transition and make your trip even better!
If you are the kind of person that needs a guide in your hands to assist with culture shock, I recommend that you take a look at “Culture Shock – A Practical Guide” by H.E. Rybol. H.E. Rybol does a great job giving tips to readers to assist with battling culture shock. She also has a book called “Reverse Culture Shock – A Practical Guide” which explains the transition back home after living abroad.
The biggest tip I can give you to embrace a new culture is to be self-aware! Communicaid Group puts this awareness into perspective. They state that “This self-awareness and reflection help in gaining a deeper perspective of what and why some things are different as well as knowing how we are viewed from the outside.”
I encourage you to travel! Be open to visiting new places and not let the fear of the unknown stop you from doing something that you love. Embracing a new culture and battling culture shock can take time but I encourage you to be open to new experiences. I have been to México, Canada, Honduras, Grand Cayman Islands, Iceland, England, Ireland, Sweden, Poland, France, Belgium and of course, the United States. I do not let fear dictate my aspiration to travel. I am beyond excited to keep traveling and look forward to my next adventure. I hope you embrace this as well. It will change your life!
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones that you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ” – Mark Twain
Be bold to live free, xo Aimée
P.S. I am totally psyched for the month of May as we are moving back into fitness! I joined the #StrongestSELFever challenge with SELF Magazine. This challenge is to become physically stronger throughout May. I will be documenting this challenge on my Instagram (@boldandfreeaimee) as well as weekly updates right here on my blog. If you are inspired to stay fit, join me in the challenge! Next week, I will be live from Chicago where I will talk about my first week doing the plan. I am slightly nervous but I can’t wait to get started!