Culture Shock

Culture shock is that beast hiding in our suitcases. Even experienced travelers can resolve to keep it tightly leashed but find it, panting and whining, on their pillow some sleepless night. I’ve certainly spent my fair share of them wrestling with culture shock and pretending I couldn’t hear is gnawing and pawing inside my head.

As beastly as culture shock can be, it’s also a measuring stick to your progress adjusting in your new place. Don’t disdain it. Never kick it. Refuse to feel guilt. Get out a nice juicy steak, lure it out into the open, turn on some lights, and take a good look at it.

It might not look as scary as you think.

Give yourself time to examine what you’re feeling. Acknowledge things you miss from your previous place. Keep an accounting of things you love in your new place. Allow yourself to grieve for what you’ve lost. Each new beginning is also a death. Pretending otherwise is setting yourself up for pain and regret. Face it fully and accept.

If you need to stew and steam about something for a few hours, very well, do it. Set a time for when you will break the mood and get on with living. Don’t stay in the dark huddled under your covers. Things rarely change between the bottom sheet and the top sheet of your bed. Pick something, a new store, a park, just riding a subway line and find one thing with which to be pleased. Remember, slow steps. You don’t have to do everything today.

If all else fails find a friend to pull you out into the open. They can be an acquaintance, coworker, hopefully someone who is at least partially an extrovert or at least in love with the place you’re living. It usually doesn’t take very much once you tell this kind of person you’re at their mercy. Enjoy!

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