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How to Overcome Culture Shock

Picture Credit: Akanksha Arya

Moving to a new country can be filled with mixed feelings for most of us. I remember when I first moved to Korea, I had mixed emotions of excitement and sadness that I was going to miss my family. As I have lived most of my life away from home, I thought that I would get over it quickly. Well. I was wrong. My first few months in Korea were so hard that I felt like going back home.

Culture shock is defined as a feeling of confusion felt by someone visiting a country or place that they do not know. Researchers have identified 4 different stages of culture shock.

1.      The Honeymoon

2.      Negotiation

3.      Adjustment

4.      Adaptation

The honeymoon stage is when entering a new culture is exciting and new. Following the Honeymoon stage, the Negotiation Stage usually occurs after 3 months into the new culture where feelings of anxiety and frustration occur; this includes language barrier, disconnection from the environment etc. The next stage Adjustment usually occurs between 6 to 12 months when the culture becomes accepted. The final stage is the process of Adaptation where one becomes completely comfortable in the host culture.

Going through the four stages of culture can be overwhelming for many new students. However, here are some tips that can help you transition through culture shock.

Tip #1: Learn the language

One of the quickest ways to get over the culture shock and feel a sense of belonging is learning the host country’s language. I know it can be very hard especially for people like me who are not good with linguistics but this is very essential.  Learning the language helps to ease communication and it helps you to integrate with the local community. It also demonstrates your interest in the new country.

Tip #2: Make local friends

You will learn more about the country if you make friends with the local people. They can help you adjust to the culture, show you around the city, recommend places for you to travel and have fun, and also answer your questions.  They may be hesitant to talk to an international student because of the language barrier and nervous just like you. Take the first step and start a conversation with new people.

Tip #3: Talk to other people

Don’t be shy to share your challenges with other international students. Talk to them about how you feel about Korea. Ask them how they feel, strategies they have used to cope with the cultural differences. Ask them about places, restaurants, and shops you can visit that are more foreigner-friendly. However, do not try to compare yourself with them. Keep in mind that different people adjust to places differently and their own time and pace.

 Tip #4: Be active

Korea offers so many great opportunities for international students. Take part in events and functions that will expose you to the culture and new people. Do physical exercise or take a walk around campus to relax. Also, explore new hobbies or join a student club on campus. Especially those that encourage socializing and meeting new people can help you overcome culture shock.

 Tip #5: Be open-minded

Learn as much as possible about Korea. Do not automatically perceive different things are wrong, understand that the culture and the way of life are not the same. The more you learn the more you will understand. Look at things with a positive eye.

 Tip #6: Explore

It might not be a very good idea in this current pandemic era but take short trips and visit less crowded places. Korea has so many beautiful places and sceneries that you can explore to learn more about the country.

I hope that these tips will help you overcome culture shock and adapt to life as an international student in Korea.

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