It’s like a slow approaching tsunami. You can see it in the distance. It scares you, but it seems to be far, far away. You can’t imagine it ever hitting you or impacting you. It does when you least expect it. THE STRUGGLES OF CULTURE SHOCK
These are the thoughts and feelings that I’ve been having this last week in Germany. It might seem a bit overwhelming [or scary], but this is the visual that I imagine when I think of culture shock. It’s officially my one month mark in Europe, and I find myself reflecting on the last few weeks. I’ve written about culture shock before; however after many years of traveling, I had come to the conclusion that I was immune to culture shock. This was just plainly NOT true. This is how I have struggled with culture shock in Germany.
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For the last week, I’ve been dealing with the slow moving wave of culture shock. It came suddenly and unexpected. It happened when I least expected it. I only realized it was culture shock, when I took the time to sit and think about WHY I was feeling the way I was feeling. I was feeling anxious, a little scared and depressed. These are all normal signs of culture shock, but I had to recognize the signs and do something about it. These are a few thoughts that went through my head during these times.
I would wake in the morning and think about my day. It could be a beautiful sunny day, but I would talk myself out of going outside. Why? I had convinced myself that it was easier and safer to stay inside of my room, instead of venture out. By venturing out, I would have to speak German and struggle through a new city.
The simplest tasks such as going to the supermarket would be hard. The event would create anxiety. If you haven’t seen a German supermarket, I believe it’s one of the few places that is actually very stressful. The cashier rushes you through the line. To avoid this anxiety, I started eating less and not as healthy. I would buy food that would last me days instead of fresh produce.
My symptoms of culture shock were subtle, but they still happened. I wasn’t crying in a corner or booking a ticket back home. Culture shock affects all of us whether if we have traveled years or for the first time. The first step is recognizing that you have culture shock, then the next step is setting in motion little steps to defeat it. These are the things I did:
+ I forced myself to be social. I’d leave my room at a certain time to cook dinner, so that I would socialize with my flatmates.
+ I looked up Facebook meetup groups and groups on meetup.com then started connecting.
I thought of a simple phrase, and I told myself to “just go” every time I tried to convince myself to stay home. How have you dealt with culture shock? I want to hear your stories.