Teaching Abroad: Coping with Culture Shock
Admin - Jan 28 2016
Teaching abroad is a great opportunity to broaden your horizons and experience new cultures. These are compelling reasons for every teacher that has accepted a position overseas but many educators fail to account for the impact of culture shock when they started out on their journeys.
The excitement of going abroad may keep the culture shock at bay for a while but make no mistake it will start affecting everyone no matter how much they claim otherwise. The first day that a teacher feels homesick or overwhelmed in a foreign local without any friends or family to help is a crushing feeling.
What is culture shock? Many expats describe it as feeling of unease and a deep aversion to doing anything in a new environment. It was first introduced in 1958 and describes the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration. A person experiencing culture shock can express some of these symptoms: irritability, loneliness, hopelessness, withdrawal from other people, excruciating homesickness, and listlessness at work, loss of identity, lack of confidence or even physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches.
The written word — as expressed in newspapers, television commercials and books — represents one of the key “culture shockers” expats encounter as they attempt to settle into an entirely new geographical context. The picture above are South Korean dailies. Give yourself 10 points if you can make sense of the photo aside from the websites which use the Latin alphabet.
Culture shock is not a debilitating and life threatening disease and is actually a normal part of the adjustment process. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t a number of mean to alleviate the symptoms of culture shock. Here are some of the simple steps you can take before you jet off to your new post and during your stay in a foreign land.
Tips to counter culture shock
The first thing one can do before setting out for an overseas position is to be prepared. Know exactly what to expect in the country you are going to be living in for months or years. Research the location or go online to talk to other expats who are already living in the country you are going to about working conditions or cultural difference. Preparation is key to get over any shock you might have once you step foot of the plane.
Don’t push yourself to adjust immediately to your new surroundings. It takes time and not everyone has the same reaction to culture shock. Take an afternoon and discover new places. Explore and make new locations more familiar, which will make things seem less foreign. Don’t think about how long you’re staying abroad but stay focused on getting through one day at a time.
Make new friends that will lend you a shoulder to lean on when you’re feeling overwhelmed. However, don’t forget to stay in touch with your loved ones from home. Bring a little reminder from home whether it’s a little trinket or even your old ratty teddy bear. These things will keep the loneliness at bay. Learn the local language. The language barrier can alienate you while you’re abroad so it’s useful to take some classes in the language.
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