Four Ways to Handle Culture Shock
Posted On: August 29, 2011
I just moved back to the US after nearly five years in India. I am surprised to admit that I am experiencing a slight degree of culture shock, despite having been born in the US myself. However, it is nothing compared to what I went through when arriving in India in 2006.
The first time I visited India was in the summer of 2005, for my wedding. Although I was pretty determined never to live in India–or even to return back–I found myself joining my husband there the following year. I had found a job at an NGO in Bangalore, which I had heard was progressive and women-friendly. Nonetheless, I severely struggled with many aspects of life and work there, which even moving to the smaller, calmer city of Jaipur could not cure.
It was not until I took the Inner Engineering program in September 2008 that I began to learn how to cope with, and even enjoy, life in India. After attending this program, my perspective on life hugely shifted; the small things that used to bother me simply did not get to me in the same way. I became much calmer, happier and balanced.
Based on these experiences, here are the following tips I can offer about adjusting to life abroad:
1. Take time for yourself
For me, this came through the form of a daily yoga and meditation practice. It may also mean doing some sort of exercise. Previously, I had relied on dance, but I found that for many reasons (like harsh climate and lack of accessibility) I could not follow the same kind of coping mechanisms that I had in the past.
2. Find what resonates
This follows from the first point, that you should pursue your interests. Some people are drawn to India because of its rich cultural heritage and learn music or dance from the experts, or they are there for business in textile, fashion, jewelry, etc. Seek out that which exhilarates you and ignore the rest!
3. Write in a journal or blog
This form of travel writing is not just about cataloging your sightseeing tour, but rather your inner journey. Explore your thoughts and emotions in the safe form of a journal, without running the risk of insulting your hosts. Or share your adventure with those back home in a semi- or fully-public blog. It can be hugely rewarding.
4. Connect online & offline with locals & expats
Carrying on from number three, the ability to stay connected can help keep you grounded. Expat groups can be a great source of support, but connecting with locals can be an even richer experience. Don’t just keep yourself at a distance from those around you; dive in and begin to learn what the place is really about through the people who live there.
What tactics have helped you to adjust to a new setting? Let me know in the comments below!