Culture Shock

Travelling to a new country can be a stressful experience. Culture shock is a term used to describe the impact of moving from a familiar culture to one which is unfamiliar. It can affect anyone and can happen if you travel abroad to work, live or study and even when abroad on holiday. You miss important people in your life, maybe family, friends and colleagues, who would normally give you support and guidance. You may find areas of your new life very different to what you are used to such as the weather or food. It can be tiring to constantly hear and speak in a foreign language. You may find that people speak to you too quickly or with a strong regional accent so that you have difficulty understanding them. These differences to your home life, and many others, will contribute to your sense of culture shock. Some of the symptoms of culture shock can be worrying. For example, you may find your health is affected and you may get headaches or stomach aches. You may find it difficult to concentrate and find it harder to focus on your course work. Or you may find that you become more irritable or tearful.

Although culture shock is normally a temporary phase, it is important to know there are things you can do to help so that some of these worrying effects can be minimised: Accepting that this is a normal experience may in itself be helpful and keeping in touch with home - by phone, fax, letter or email will help. Have familiar things around you that have personal meaning such as photographs and try and find a supplier of familiar food. It is also important to eat a healthy diet and take regular exercise. Perhaps join one of the Students' Union Societies where you can take up a new sport or activity or continue an interest from home. This will also help you make new friends. Try to find someone to talk to who will listen uncritically and with understanding rather than isolating yourself.

Remember that culture shock is entirely normal, unavoidable and not a sign that you can't manage.

The best way to stay healthy is to eat good food, exercise, sleep well and to spend time with others. Most British supermarkets stock foods from other countries and there are specialist shops in towns. It’s not so terrible to try English food either! 

Make sure you spend time out of your room. It is very easy to become isolated when you are in a foreign country. Although you might be nervous trying something new – joining a society or sports club – you’ll soon find that you didn’t need to worry! Students are generally a very happy bunch who are friendly and easy to approach. Telling people you’re from another country will always spark some interest around you. There are lots of things to do – you just have to find them. From going to concerts or the theatre to simply meeting friends for a drink in one of the Students’ Union venues can make you feel happy and more relaxed. 

University is not only about studying (although that is very important) – it’s a whole new way of life to experience.