Understanding Culture Shock

While you’re doing extensive travel and working, you might realize that there are things that you miss about home – maybe it’s your favorite coffee shop, your dog, or your parents. But for almost everyone overseas volunteer, there comes a time when homesickness just sets in. It’s completely natural to feel homesick, and sometimes culture shock can also exacerbate your feelings.

Culture shock is a reaction to a change in environment, usually caused by a move to a community that is markedly different from the one where you grew up, or where you currently love. Culture shock can be brought on by moving from the city to the country, or to any place where the most commonly spoken language is different from your own.

And culture shock can have physical effects like headache, insomnia, sleeping too much, even upset stomach.

All overseas volunteers feel a little bit of culture shock, and it usually goes away as you embrace culture and start to feel comfortable in your new surroundings. If you are having trouble adjusting, you can seek out people and places that remind you of home – find a bar that plays American football or baseball games, see a movie without subtitles, cook a traditional family meal for your host family – do anything that helps you draw connections between your new surroundings and you old ones, and you’ll find that the shock starts to wear off considerably.

As each region is explored in more depth in the following pages, customs and traditions will be addressed, but it is highly recommended to consult with a native of your potential host country before traveling for tips and advice about how to best integrate into the culture.

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