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Dealing with culture shock

Moving to a new place is always difficult. It’s even more difficult when you don’t know anyone there, when your family isn’t with you, and where the weather is quite simply – horrid. In this article, I hope to share with you how one can deal with culture shock through my own experience of moving from Singapore to England for three years of undergraduate studies.

Studying brought me to London, and beyond
Studying brought me to London, and beyond

Firstly, ask for help. It’s difficult enough to move. But it’s more difficult when you try to deal with the difficulties alone, thinking that no one understands what you are going through. Yes, it’s true that no one can grasp your unique situation. However, people can walk with you through your journey. There are many organisations that offer help to expats, with Friends International being one of the most helpful ones I found. Be honest. No one can read your mind, or understand your difficulties with culture shock without you explaining it to them. More importantly, if things start getting difficult, get therapy. Counselling helped me greatly in making sense of the difficulties I faced and dealing with the initial culture shock. It’s no shame to ask for help. It only becomes a problem when you start running away from the problem, stuffing your emotions.

It’s no shame to ask for help. It only becomes a problem when you start running away from the problem, stuffing your emotions. Click to Tweet

Secondly, join something! Anything! Joining a regular club, society or community is one way to find like-minded people to have fun together. Finding something you love doing, and sharing that fun with others is a great way to find new friends to journey together on this new adventure. Don’t attempt it alone, it will be much more miserable.

Thirdly, be brave. Say hi. Make friends! After all, what can you lose? You are thousands of miles away from home. You’re on a new adventure! I remember that one of my closest friends from university came when I said ‘hi’ to her whilst queuing up to register for our university orientation. Wherever you are, smile, and make small talk. There’s no harm. What’s the worst that could happen? They might stop talking to you? So what?! There’s a whole world waiting for you to explore!

Next, be hospitable. Kindness starts with you. Others might not approach you with the same hospitality, but you can! What’s stopping you from inviting your newfound friends to your home, and whipping up a feast for them? Okay, so you can’t cook? What’s stopping you from getting a pizza and popping it into the oven then? Kindness breeds kindness. Don’t expect others to invite you out for dinner. Take the first step and invite them!

Lastly, accept that overcoming culture shock is going to take time. Be patient with yourself. Just as you didn’t get to run the moment you were born, don’t expect culture shock to be dealt with in the space of a week, or even a month. It’s okay to cry. Let those emotions flow. Whatever you do, just don’t keep them choked up.

As always, I hope this brief sharing helps. Please feel free to reach out at www.savethesocialworker.com if you need anything.


This is the second of a 5-part series on dealing with culture shock.

Part 1: Why does culture shock and reverse culture shock happen?
Part 3: Reverse culture shock stages
Part 4: What is reverse culture shock?
Part 5: Overcoming reverse culture shock

Keen on a career in social work? Read this!

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