This week, we have a fantastic guest post from Agness and Cez of eTramping. They love to travel the world and seek out unique adventures. And much like us, they have been living as expats around the globe. Here are some of their thoughts on living abroad.
As two travel bloggers who have lived all over the place, we know what it feels like to experience that dreaded culture shock. The strain can be a lot to handle, especially if you haven’t done it before.
Luckily, moving around isn’t all doom and gloom – otherwise, why would anyone do it? In fact, the first stage is usually overwhelmingly good. We’ve put together a part guide/ part biography of our experiences moving around, to help you understand what you can expect.
Prepare to take a journey through the four stages of culture shock, including what you can expect, when you should expect it, and how to cope.
Falling in Love with a Strange Land
The first stage of culture shock is almost always the Honeymoon Stage (unless you’ve eaten something bad). This is where you’re absolutely besotted with the country and everything about it. You love the kooky drivers, the new food, and you’re pretty happy to tell people back home about the problems you’ve come up against and triumphed over.
The honeymoon stage can last for several months. For some, it even lasts as long as a year. We’ve met plenty of people during our travels who have said that they’ve never experienced culture shock. We reckon they’ve just not moved on to the second stage yet. Of course, for some, this is what traveling is all about. Unfortunately, everything has to end, and the Honeymoon Stage is no exception. Some people just decide to move somewhere else once stage 2 sets in.
The Familiar Isn’t So Great
You’ve started to get a bit more familiar with the world around you. You might even be learning the language. Cez actually picked up Chinese whilst we were in China. This might actually have been one of the cruxes of his stage 2 culture shock. Once you start understanding what people are whispering behind your back, it just doesn’t feel as magical anymore.
You might also start missing things from home. Your favorite food, your favorite shops. If you’re really far away from home, you might be missing that fact that you have no one to speak your first language with. When Cez was in Cambodia, this was sometimes a problem. Of course, you can minimize the effects of stage 2. I tended to cook a lot of my own food when I was in China. This meant Polish dishes from home every once in a while.
We also find that going out and exploring new places whilst you’re trying to adjust is a good idea. We’re planning on moving to Mexico and we’ve already thought of ways to cope when it gets to the frustration stage in the form of Special Offers from Beloved Hotels. Research where you’re going and find yourself a luxurious getaway for when it gets too tough.
Luckily, the frustration stage also doesn’t last. Usually, it’s shorter than the first stage. So, overall, you have had more of a positive experience than a negative one… so far.
Every Day Is the Same
You’ve been in your new location long enough that the days have started to melt together. This is stage 3: adjustment. You realize that if you want to live your life here, then you’re going to have to start adjusting to the culture. You’ve done some of this already, but now it’s time to really get your butt in gear.
The adjustment phase is usually marked by ups and downs. It’s not always bad, but it’s not always good either. You’re learning to live like a normal person and not an outsider. Of course, it’s a good idea to keep up with some of your favorite things from home.
We’ve found that this stage doesn’t just happen when you’re living in another country. We recently moved back to Poland and found ourselves in the adjustment stage all over again. Despite Poland being where we were from, we’ve spent so much time living overseas that our cultural norms and expectations have changed. Expect this when you return home after having lived away for so long. It’s called reverse culture shock.
Stage 4 is acceptance. You’ve lived in the country long enough that all the problems you’re going to face, you’ve probably faced before. You no longer feel like an outsider. Language, culture, and the food is now your new normal. Noodles for breakfast? Yes, please. Hot water throughout the day? Why, thank you!
For us, this is usually where we decide to move on. Part of the reason we travel is to experience new things and see new ways of doing things. It doesn’t matter how different the place you visit it compared to where you started, you’ll always adjust and accept. We recently moved out base back to Poland for a while and have felt that acceptance and routine are starting to settle in, which is why we’re preparing to move once again to Mexico.
Acceptance will usually role around during your third year in another country. We know what you’re thinking: “3 years?!?!”. Well, that’s just how long it usually takes. If you want to try speeding the process up, we’ve found that it helps a lot to not compare the differences between different places, and just accept from the get-go that it’s a different place with different qualities.
The Big Differences
The biggest differences – and most meaningful – we’ve faced, have been language, food, cultural mannerisms, and expectations. Language is obviously tricky and takes some time to adapt to. It took Cez several years to become proficient in Chinese. Cultural mannerisms are similar, with it really being about time.
When it comes to expectations, you can always read a lot about these before you even arrive in a new country. The problem is that you can never fully be prepared for them when they come up. We’ve read a lot into Mexico and what we can expect when we arrive, but we’re still open-minded as to what the possibilities are – especially when it comes to food.
And that’s the trick, we’ve found. Keep your mind open and your thoughts accepting and you’ll be feeling culture shock free in no time.
Big thanks to Agness and Cez for this guest post! To find out more about these two travel bloggers and all of their travel adventures, check out their site eTramping, or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.