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Culture Shock is a Real Thing – What Can You Expect in Different Countries

Gemma Collins October 7, 2021
Posted October 7, 2021 In Living Abroad, Moving Tips&Tricks,
Gemma Collins

Gemma is an NJ local that has explored all the US states, making her the perfect person to write about moving.

No matter where you move, you’re bound to experience a culture shock. Some traditions will feel completely different from everything you’re used to, but it’s essential to learn how to deal with those differences. Read about some of the more interesting global customs and what to do in those situations.

What Is Culture Shock? Dealing With Changes When Moving Internationally

Culture shock is a difficulty to adjust to a new country and its customs. The symptoms of culture shock hit us hard when we’re separated from what we’re familiar with. If you’re living in a nation quite different from the US, the process of adjusting could be longer.

Living as an expat during the coronavirus adds to the stresses of cultural adaptation. This big change has started to happen, and there’s nothing we can do about it, except follow the rules and regulations of the local authorities. Having that in mind, survival could seem more complicated than it was initially thought.

Stages of Cultural Adjustment (That Are Often Inevitable)

Cultural adjustment comes in stages. Learning how to deal with culture shock is vital, even if you move to some of the best places to live abroad. There are four phases:

  • Initial euphoria – the initial feeling of excitement about being in a different country; it’s similar to a “honeymoon phase” in romantic relationships,
  • Irritability and hostility – after the initial euphoria fades away, the comedown is becoming hostile towards the local customs. It comes after you’ve been participating in the community for a while and tends to break people the most often,
  • Gradual adjustment – the traditions and customs you’ve been a part of will now seem more and more like natural things. You will also adopt behaviors and interpret cultural cues easier,
  • Adaptation – becoming immersed.

Adaptation – the Final Stage of Culture Shock

Adaptation is the part you desire the most and wish to achieve when you arrive at a new place. However, it’s something you’ll have to wait for. Emotional adaptation to things always comes in stages. Since relocation marks a certain kind of loss, it’s normal to go through those five stages of grief beside the phases of a cultural scare.

While you’re feeling irritable and hostile, keep in touch with friends. Ask them to help you adapt and encourage you to go through with the adaptation stage. Once it arrives, you’ll be grateful you stuck it out.

Global Cultural Differences Make the World Beautiful, But Sometimes Scary, Too

Culture is defined as characteristics and knowledge of particular groups of people, which reflect on language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music, and arts. It represents a group’s identity but allows individuals to form their own patterns of beliefs beyond that. To put it plainly, you were raised in a specific environment and traditions, but you don’t have to love each part of it.

For example, many Asian countries have superstitious beliefs that would be hard to remove from their daily life. In Japan and Thailand, some believe taking a nap in the afternoon brings misfortunes. This could often mean residents there work without taking a break so as not to fight the superstitions.

Even the friendliest countries in the world have traditions that could be deemed strange. What’s important is not always looking at them as unacceptable but respecting the person you’re with and their beliefs. Adopting etiquette when you’re in public and breaking the language barrier will also be very helpful.

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The Most Similar Countries to the USA

Countries similar to the US, which are high in individualism, are Canada and the UK. Relocating to Canada, similarly to relocating to the UK, means there wouldn’t be too many expectations to act a certain way. Everyone’s safe in knowing their individual rights are theirs to practice.

These countries also have numerous expat communities, but communication wouldn’t be difficult since their native language is English. The only things to learn are the small, daily customs. Folks in the UK love to spend a lot of their time in pubs and apologizing to each other. In Canada, you’ll be invited to a Thanksgiving dinner on the 2nd Monday of October.

The Most Different Countries from the USA

We’d say that the countries most different from the US don’t rank so highly in individualism. This doesn’t mean the citizens of collective-oriented societies don’t have the freedom to do what they want – just that work, culture, and traditions are focused on the collective spirit.

For example, relocating to Dubai won’t ask you to do everything within a group, but they value hierarchy and ranks a lot. The same goes if you plan on relocating to India, where you can see noticeable differences between those on top and those at the bottom.

Relocating across the world isn’t easy, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Moreover, when you’ve been living abroad for a long time and you come back to the US, you will experience something called a “reverse culture shock.” The girl from the video below explains this phenomenon well.

People Will Want to Take Your Picture and Pose For One With You In China

Relocating to China is bound to bring you some of the most challenging adjustment periods. The Chinese culture is unique, and some things they do may not make a lot of sense. A couple of examples would be people napping in public and drinking bottles of hot water during a heatwave.

However, the biggest shock might be the indescribable Chinese wish to take photos with foreigners. Beijing, as the capital, has visitors from all over, but China is so big and heavily populated that a large part of tourists come from rural areas. If they see a black or a white person, they’ll likely ask for a picture. Being tall will get you some looks, as well as having light eyes or hair.

This doesn’t mean mockery, though. Chinese people, especially young adults, are taught to glorify pale skin and avoid tanning at all costs. The West has influenced their beauty trends, so it’s not exactly personal – try not to get offended, but be respectful if you wish to decline.

Never Ask Your Egyptian Host to Pass the Salt

Relocating to Egypt means relocating to a predominantly Muslim country. The general rule for living in a nation like that is not to wear revealing clothes – covering your legs and arms will be enough for some. Women should wear a headscarf wherever recommended. That means you’ll have to watch what to pack when you start ticking items off your checklist for moving overseas.

A very normal thing for Egyptians is inviting you to their home for a meal. You’ll soon learn that hospitality is their second nature and carries deep meaning for them. However, sharing a meal with an Egyptian in their home means respecting their cooking. If you ask someone to pass the salt, that would be considered rude and disrespectful.

It doesn’t matter if the meal isn’t to your taste. You asking for seasoning would offend the person that’s worked hard to make it like you find their cooking lacking in some way. Remember this for a time when you sit at a restaurant or visit someone’s home. Bonus knowledge – don’t offer to split the bill. The person offering a meal is the one paying for it.

Icelanders Leave Their Kids Alone Outside, All the Time

Relocating to Iceland could challenge the way you see parenting, socializing, and adapting to the cold weather and conditions. Learning how to live abroad in Iceland will also be the perfect insight into Scandinavian customs and traditions. For example, if someone offers you the undeniably delicious Icelandic black licorice – take two pieces because taking one will mean you’ll stay single.

Small superstitions like that are a walk in the park compared to the age-old custom of leaving babies to nap outside in the cold, as well as simply letting children play outside unattended. Icelanders believe that fresh air is good for babies. The really shocking part is that strollers are often left unattended. Iceland has 360,000 residents, and violent and heavy crimes rarely happen (if ever.)

Icelanders have no fear of leaving their children unattended because their land is very safe. It’s entirely the opposite of some parts of the US, a nation where a mobile alert for missing children was developed. It’s normal for you to feel concerned and nervous when you see an unattended kid, but whatever happens, don’t tell Icelandic parents how to raise their offspring.

If You’re Over 25 and Single In Denmark, Expect Your Friends to Throw Heaps of Cinnamon at You

Denmark is considered the best European country to live in because of its fantastic socio-economic conditions. High wages, a superb living standard, and opportunities for students to grow. However, they’re also full of traditions that only make sense to them.

When high school students graduate, they wear sailor caps and get ridiculously drunk in celebration. That’s not so bad, right? However, the custom that would constitute assault for some, but is the most usual occurrence for Danes, doesn’t really have a name, but we’ll call it “cinnamon attack.” You may spare an unfortunate Dane of this custom if you’re moving abroad for love.

A “cinnamon attack” is done on a Danish person’s 25th birthday if they’re still single. It’s not just a small spoonful of cinnamon, though – it’s pounds of it. Some go out of their way to tie down a single 25-year-old friend and then shower them with spice, while others go easy and just do it without restraining. It worsens if they stay single at 30 – the treatment is the same, except the spice becomes pepper. If you witness this, just go with it, and be happy you’re not Danish. Or single.

You Will Be Thrown in Jail If You Insult or Defame the King of Thailand

Relocating to Bangkok is an excellent opportunity to learn about living overseas. Their customs and etiquette are unique and sometimes downright odd. You shouldn’t pass anything with your left hand to locals. Using the left hand in public is considered rude because it’s traditionally considered “the wiping hand.” Your toilet habits aren’t of public concern, but etiquette is more important for Thai residents than that.

Maybe the only thing on this list that isn’t a tradition but the law is to check the way you publicly speak about the Thai King. This law is called Lese-Majeste, and it’s considered one of the strictest laws in the world. Article 112 of Lese-Majeste states that anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent” will be jailed and given a sentence of three to fifteen years. This law dates back to 1908, so it’s a tradition in some ways.

Really be careful about ever addressing the Thai Royal Family in front of the locals. It’s best to just leave the topic out of your mind and move on by doing so many other things that could make the trip to Thailand worth relocating.

Learn How to Behave In Your Destination and Relocate With an Overseas Moving Company

If you feel ready for relocating and shipping overseas, it’s best to contact an international moving company for their relocation services. Relocating overseas can be a little scary, especially knowing how many customs you have to know about.

However, an overseas shipping company can assist you with the more tedious parts by providing packing services, insurance on all the packed items, storage services for safe-keeping items that you don’t need just yet, and overseas car shipping for the countries where it’s easier to drive than to use public transport. This gives you more than enough to adjust to the new life you’re about to experience.

As much as you’d wish for someone to honor your traditions and customs, that’s how much you should honor others for theirs. Showing respect in a foreign nation means you’re willing to make an effort and learn more about them, and we hope your efforts will be enough to fit in fast.



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