Covid-19 in South Africa: The National State of Disaster has been lifted as from 5 April 2022.

Coping with Culture Shock

Coping with culture shock is often easier said than done. But if you follow our recommendations you should be prepared for your new life.

How to survive Culture Shock? What did I do?

What did I say wrong? What did I do wrong? What should I have said or done instead? Will I ever understand these people? These are common questions, you will ask yourself when settling in a new country or living within a new community. You will have to adjust to new rules, regulations, ways of doing things and learn new customs and etiquette and find a new routine. Culture shock is a completely normal reaction when moving to a new country. Your problems, even when dealing with immigration matters and red tape, will be solved... even if it may seem impossible to you in the beginning. Be patient!

How to Survive Culture Shock?

You know the English saying 'Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill'? This is how we should approach the unknown when stepping onto foreign territory when everything seems so strange, crazy and foreign that even little differences and insecurities create huge problems. Our worries often grow to become 'mountains' when encountering new cultures, new ways of seeing and doing routine tasks and so even tiny worries might end up creating massive problems which seem to be insurmountable. You might begin to struggle with daily life and ask yourself: How will I ever cope with this? Can I ever survive in this new country?

Coping with Culture Shock: 10 Tried and Tested Strategies

Coping with Culture Shock

EFFORT in getting informed about your new home pays big time! Read up a storm! Start with our expat guide and other recommended resource.

NETWORKING is essential! To find a new support system get out and meet and mingle with locals and other expats. Join our Facebook group or wherever you are in the world to meet like-minded people

JOURNAL writing or even just jotting down your feelings is always a good idea. Try not to worry to much. Get your worries out of your system and vent your anger and frustration on paper or on Facebook. You are not alone!

ORGANISE your life, do not avoid things and try not to procrastinate. Get active and DO IT NOW!

YOU and the others. Treat yourself to some nice outing and make the effort to meet new people, open up and learn about yourself. Get pampered to relieve stress or join an expat dinner group where sharing your experiences will be appreciated by like-minded people and expats who can relate to your situation.

LISTEN to the locals. Ask lots of questions in forums or whenever you meet a local and listen. Try not to be prejudiced and listen actively what others have to say!

IMMERSE yourself in the community, join any of the charitable organisations and get out of the house. Being confronted with other people's needs, will put things into perspective.

FOCUS on your strength and what you already know about the new culture. Sharing your expertise with others will help you build confidence in who you are and what you can achieve.

ENERGISE and concentrate on finding a new routine. Give sports a chance and run, cycle, swim, do yoga, pilates... to find balance in your life.

Yes, it's easy to remember: ENJOY LIFE And never forget: SMILE as much as you can! We all know that smiles are infectious and always come back! :-)

The best tip for coping with culture shock is really to get informed, to learn as much as you can about yourself and your own culture and also about the new country even before you go abroad. The best is always to come prepared! Read, read, read, ask questions and get informed! Every new experience will open your eyes. You will become aware of cultural differences and will expect to encounter problems. And that is already the first step in coping with culture shock. 

And even if you are a seasoned expat, don't be surprised if culture shock hits nevertheless when moving to Cape Town. We have been there... Thought we knew all the tricks, but we were so wrong, we had never lived in South Africa! The biggest tip we can give is, when you know in which disguises your acculturation might come, it is easier to know what to do when culture shock hits home. Useful resources for coping with culture shock can be found in our expat resources and if you want to start with the culture shock theory: Culture Shock Studies by K. Oberg. And make sure you get our new e-book, which is the only true expat guide on South Africa out there. Read up and learn from our experiences!

Living in South Africa - Expat Guide Book by Regina Graeff and Derryn Campbell

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