As with many other types of stress, culture shock manifests itself both physically and emotionally. It’s important to recognize these signs in yourself, in your traveling partner, and in those around you (perhaps co-volunteers) who have also been displaced into a new culture.
Here’s how to recognize the signs that you, or someone you care about, it experiencing culture shock.
Culture Shock displays much like Depression
The symptoms of culture shock are actually very similar to those of depression. They include:
- Feelings of loneliness or sadness
- Difficulty sleeping or severe sleepiness
- Loss of appetite or compulsive drinking
- Lack of confidence or feelings of insecurity
- Unwillingness to interact with others or feelings of isolation
- Exaggerated homesickness and/or overly critical of the local customs
Manifests as Changes in Temperament
This means that travelers who are experiencing culture shock may display changes in temperament, such as:
- Quickly becoming angry when faced with relatively minor frustrations
- Developing irrational concerns about their health and the cleanliness of their surroundings
- Becoming consistently irritable or critical of their new environment
- Displaying excessive fear of being cheated, robbed, or injured
Get help if you need it
Like many other processes of psychological adjustment, people tend to suffer alone, and travelers are no different.
In fact, a traveler may think he or she is the only one not coping well with their new surroundings and circumstances. It’s important to understand that culture shock is actually quite common and it’s important to get help if you need it.
- Students often have counselors available who can help
- Workers and volunteers also typically have access to others who’ve been through the experience
- Long-term visitors can work with a concierge service and tour guides to help them stabilize
- Expat retirees can find others in their community who have acclimated to the new culture
Next: Let’s review the stages of culture shock.
This page is part of our Culture Shock 101 guide.