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April 25, 2011

Three Tips for Overcoming Culture Shock

Culture Shock: From Giving to Receiving

If you’ve ever lived overseas for an extended period of time you will realize that culture shock is not a ‘slap you in the face’ one day event. It is a creeping process that grasps you like a slow, growing ivy. Before you know it, you are overcome.

An American friend of mine just shared with me that after a year in foreign culture, she is experiencing culture shock. You will hear young travels who visit a foreign culture for 3 weeks say “It was awesome! I didn’t experience culture shock at all!”

Of course they didn’t. No one experiences TRUE culture shock without authentic friendships with national people. Being able to experience true, genuine conversations and sharing human emotions with others as I did in India helped me to truly appreciate this.

I went to India to serve and to help. I thought of myself as the Giver. I had never learned to RELY on the people surrounding me. In order to really push through culture shock I had to move into deeper relationships with the people. I had to stop seeing myself as the GIVER, but also see myself as the RECEIVER.

In introspection, through creating authentic relationships such as I did as an American living in India while simultaneously learning to give and receive, I realized three tips that are useful in overcoming culture shock.

3 Tips for overcoming culture shock:

  • Push through that culture shock and BE PRESENT in the middle of it. You are in the right place by acknowledging that you are experiencing sadness and discomfort.
  • Be authentic– It is OK to tell your national friends that you are homesick.
  • Find support– Other foreigners in your position have been through the same thing! They will most likely tell you their horror stories of times when they broke down and bounced back.
Dealing with the slow creeping culture shock is essential to your survival overseas long term. This is what it takes to really experience a culture.

Read the rest of my story here.

Jessica Kumar grew up in an international business home in America. She always knew she would live and work outside of the US. With experience in the IT Industry and living in North India for a number of years, Jessica took a special liking to the professional and social environment of North India. She has a unique perspective as an American who speaks Hindi fluently and and has immersed herself in Indian culture both in India and in the NRI community abroad. Her interests lay in Digital Marketing (Web Design, Search Marketing, Social Media), Public Speaking (India/US Relations) and in organic food and gardening. She currently lives in Indiana with her husband Abhishek.

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.