Cultural Adaptation

Culture Shock

There are bound to be inevitable moments of frustration whenever you are visiting a new place for the first time, especially someplace with a culture that's different from your own.

“Culture shock” is the term which refers to the sense of displacement many travellers face when adjusting to a culture that has different beliefs, values, and practices. Canada is a unique and diverse country, and you may be confronted with different manners, family organization, social customs, religious beliefs and practices, traditional values, political beliefs, and other cultural differences.

Experiencing culture shock is a perfectly normal part of living in a new country. You may feel confused, uncomfortable, irritated, or depressed by the lack of familiar patterns of social behaviour. Feeling homesick or discouraged is common. Here are some tips to help you cope with the effects of culture shock:

  • Research Canadian culture prior to arriving here. Having some idea of what to expect will help ease your transition.
  • Have an open mind. Be willing to learn about new traditions, customs, and beliefs and be respectful of them even if they differ from your own.
  • Try to learn to embrace change and celebrate differences. Record or share your experiences with others, and take time to reflect on them.
  • Rely on the support of friends, family, and advisors. Don’t be afraid to tell someone if you are feeling lonely or overwhelmed by the differences you are facing. Remember: it's completely normal.
  • Expect that you will have good days and bad days. Don’t stress about small mistakes and errors. Adapting to a new culture is a learning process. Have patience and don’t let fear and anxiety stop you from trying new things. Overcoming your fears will give you confidence.
  • Take care of your physical and mental health. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, stay hydrated, and choose healthy foods to eat.
  • Have a good sense of humour. An incident that you felt embarrassed or frustrated about today might make for a funny story later.
  • Bring some things with you to remind you of home, such as photographs, music, clothes, or family recipes.

Culture shock will affect every individual differently. There is no universal way to overcome the challenges associated with adjusting to a different country and culture. But as you come to an understanding (and hopefully an appreciation) of Canadian culture and lifestyle, your newfound cross-cultural proficiency will serve as a valuable and rewarding skill.