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News article23 January 2024European Labour Authority, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion3 min read

How to cope with culture shock and homesickness: Advice for adjusting to a new environment

Moving to a new country can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it can also bring some challenges and difficulties.

When you move you may face different customs, languages, values, and expectations that can make you feel confused, frustrated, or isolated. You may also miss your family, friends, and familiar surroundings that you left behind. These feelings are normal and common, and they are part of what is known as culture shock and homesickness.

Culture shock is the psychological and emotional reaction to living in a new and unfamiliar culture. It can affect anyone, regardless of their age, background, or previous travel experience. Culture shock can manifest in different ways, such as:

  • feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed
  • having difficulty sleeping or eating
  • feeling bored, lonely, or alienated
  • having trouble communicating or making friends
  • feeling insecure or inadequate
  • experiencing physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, or fatigue.

Homesickness is the longing for the familiar and comfortable aspects of your home country. It can be triggered by various factors, such as missing your

  • loved ones and social support;
  • favourite foods, hobbies, or activities;
  • sense of identity and belonging;
  • routine and structure;
  • cultural norms and values.

Both culture shock and homesickness are natural and temporary responses to a major life change. They do not mean that you are weak or that you made a wrong decision. They are part of the process of adapting to a new environment and learning to appreciate its diversity and richness. However, if left unaddressed, they can affect your well-being, performance, and satisfaction. Therefore, it is important to find healthy and effective ways to cope with them and to make the most of your experience abroad.

Here are some tips and resources that can help you deal with culture shock and homesickness:

  • Prepare yourself before you go: Do some research on the country and culture that you are moving to. Learn about its history, geography, politics, economy, religion, art, and cuisine. Try to learn some basic words and phrases in the local language. Find out about the practical aspects of living there, such as the climate, transportation, health care, education, and legal system. This will help you to have realistic expectations and to avoid unpleasant surprises.
  • Keep an open mind and a positive attitude: Be curious and respectful of the differences that you encounter. Try to see them as opportunities to learn and grow, rather than as threats or obstacles. Avoid making judgments or comparisons based on your own culture. Instead, try to understand the reasons and meanings behind the behaviours and values of the people that you meet. Be flexible and adaptable to the new situations that you face. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to do things, just different ways.
  • Seek social support and interaction: One of the best ways to overcome culture shock and homesickness is to connect with other people who can offer you friendship, guidance, and comfort. Try to make friends with both locals and other expats. Join clubs, groups, or organisations that match your interests and hobbies. Participate in social events, activities, or festivals that celebrate the local culture. Reach out to your family and friends back home through phone calls, video chats, emails, or social media. However, do not rely too much on your old connections, as this can prevent you from forming new ones and integrating into your new environment.
  • Take care of yourself: Moving to a new country can be stressful and exhausting, so it is essential to maintain your physical and mental health. Eat well, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. Find ways to relax and unwind, such as listening to music, reading a book, or meditating. Seek professional help if you feel overwhelmed.

Remember to celebrate your achievements and enjoy your experience. Moving to a new country is not easy, but it is also an amazing and rewarding adventure. Be proud of yourself for taking this step and for overcoming the challenges that you face. Recognise your progress and achievements, no matter how small or big they are. Reward yourself for your efforts and accomplishments. Have fun and enjoy the beauty, diversity, and opportunities that the EU has to offer. Remember that you are not alone, and that you are part of a vibrant and dynamic community of people who share your dreams and aspirations.

While living abroad can bring unique challenges it also offers a wealth of opportunities. Check out the top 7 benefits of living and working abroad.


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