Five Steps To Coping With and Overcoming Culture Shock

Posted On: March 17, 2011

After moving to a new country or place, we may encounter differences that surprise or delight us or confuse us and cause culture shock. At such times, we need tools or strategies that will help us in managing, mitigating, and coping with and overcoming culture shock. At any given moment something may cause anxiety in us that we never expected. How do we deal with that anxiety?

This is what I hope to describe in this article and it’s follow up. 


Five Steps To Coping With and Overcoming Culture Shock

Step 1: What’s On Your Mind? What Are You Thinking About?

Many times thoughts we have about past experiences or things we read in books or anything else could affect us. Some of us have an easier time identifying our thoughts.
Identify the situation and your thoughts about it.


Step 2: Be willing to admit your emotions and feelings.

Are you able to identify and admit your feelings?


What kinds of feelings are you having? (List Your Feelings. If you are having a hard time, refer to this site.)


It is important to label your feelings with feeling words, not judgments. This is crucial to emotional intelligence (EQ). Feelings are not good or bad, they are what they are. If we label them, it may cause us to avoid the feelings for fear of admitting we are ‘feeling something negative’. It’s ok. Don’t bury it. Feel it fully. It may be scary, but it’s ok. If you are in a safe place and with someone you trust, talk about it.


Step 3: What Physical Symptoms Are You Experiencing?

If you can’t identify your feelings, can you sense what is going on inside your body? Do you have any physical symptoms? What cues does your body give you to tell you that you are feeling different feelings?


Step 4: Think About Any Past Similar Experiences

We often feel things based on impending events or events that have already happened. What lessons did you learn from these experiences? Can they be applied to this situation? How? Can you create any plan to help you overcome that? Write your plan here:


Step 5: Identify Ways to Alleviate These Feelings. (Create a Culture Shock Relief Plan.)

Try to create a plan here on ways to deal with your situation to relieve your culture shock, anxiety, stress and fear to bring peace and new coping skills.

After your experience, come back to this and journal your experience. Did your plan work? What was successful? Can you use any lessons from this plan in the future?


As an important note: If the feelings are indeed preventing you from doing something that is not dangerous or preventing you from living your life and achieving your dreams in your new residence, it’s important to identify what you can do to alleviate these feelings so that they don’t stop you from living the life you deserve. Talk to your spouse, family, friends, or even a cross-cultural coach (me!). Talk to someone who gives you comfort and can help you assess your situation and create solutions. These solutions can be part of your ‘culture shock safety plan’- a plan you can utilize anytime when you are experiencing culture shock and want to overcome it. This plan is not static and will change as you adapt and adjust to things throughout your life in your new home or other places you may move to. 

Other reasons to hire a cross-cultural coach. 
When to use the question “How are you holding up?” 

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Thank you for reading.

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